Category: Internet


This past week has been unreal, but, not much more unreal than, say, the last 100 or so weeks since November 9, 2016.

That is when a good portion of this country lost their collective minds.  We all know what happened, so, there is no point in rehashing all of that.  One of the lasting effects of this “loss of mind” as it were, has been the redefinition of the word “reality”

What is “reality” anyway?  If you ask your average person, they will tell you that reality is way the world is right now.  It is how things are.  What is reality to me?  Reality is, that I have a job I am responsible for, kids, a house, a car, and I have bills to pay. I have friends who are going through tough times, I am getting older, my health is changing, and not totally for the better.  My kids are growing up, I am not going to be on this planet too many more years, and, the world moves along, things happen, and life does what life does.

For many people “reality” is what they want it to be.  Too many people out there want a “Trump-free” reality, or a “Forever Trump” reality.  If you follow the stories in the “news”, or, if you are like me, and follow, and read multiple stories on the same issue, or event, lump them together, sort the details, and then, decide what is really going on.  Too many people seem to have a “personal reality” that goes along with their “personal truth”.  I see it all of the time on Social Media.  If anyone has been following the major stories this week, they are replete with examples of people seeing things the way they want to see them, despite having facts, and evidence in front of them.  Take the story that broke today about the curtains in the residence for Nikki Haley, Ambassador to the United Nations.  Twitter was alive with people going on and on about the Trump admin spending so much money on curtains (52,000.00) and rent (135,000 a month) so Mrs. Haley can live in New York.  Throughout the day, as more facts came to light, it turns out that Mrs. Haley had nothing to do with the purchase of the curtains.  Because the residence is used for official entertaining, it has to be at a certain level of luxury, because that is how diplomacy is done.  It just is. Been that way for a couple of hundred years.  The main fact is, that the curtains, and etc. were ordered under the Obama Administration.  Now, before you go getting all lathered up about that, it turns out that ordering expensive curtains, furniture, place settings, what have you, is kind of a standard thing that the State Department does for our ambassador’s residences all over the world.  There is even a budget for it. Imagine that.

Jake Tapper, of CNN, posted this thread to Twitter regarding the expensive window treatments. Read it here

That still didn’t stop people from going on and on about it.  Even the following from the New York Times, who broke the story, did little to end the pile on.  @NYTimesPR

The facts are there. Nikki Haley had nothing to do with it, and yet, garbage politicians like Rep. Ted Lieu (D) of California insist on calling for an investigation. It’s no better on the Pro-Trump right either. Pro-Trumpers were out in force decrying the supposed excesses of the Obama Administration.   Both sides live in their own bubbles, and it is because of that facts that do not fit their narrative are discounted out of hand.  It goes something like this:

Person:  (shouting up the stairs from the basement) Hey man what’s the weather like out there?.

Me: Sunny and warm. 

Person: I heard it was raining really bad out there. 

Me; Nope, warm and sunny.  take a look. 

Person:  I was told it was raining.  You are saying it’s sunny. why are you lying?

Me; Not lying, look, see out the window, sun, and blue sky.  

Person: It is rain. I was told it was raining really hard, and that it wasn’t going to stop for a while. It may even flood.  

Me:: Look, man, it sunshine and blue skies.  Look outside. 

Person: Don’t give me that, I am not looking outside, be cause you are lying. Look man, the fact is someone down here said it was raining real hard.  Just because you want it to be sunny doesn’t mean it is.  I don’t need to look outside to know it is raining.  You know, you people need to get out of your echo chamber and join the rest of us in reality.  I know it is raining, and you need to understand it is raining, everyone down here agrees it is raining real bad out there. 

Me:  Do you hear any rain, or any thunder?

Person: No, that doesn’t matter. You don’t have to hear it to know, and besides, it doesn’t always thunder when it rains, so the lack of thunder isn’t proof that its not raining.  One of the people down here heard last week that today was going to be a rainy day. 

Me; Yes, but weather changes. 

Person: That is exactly what an insulated and ignorant resident of an echo chamber would say. Weather doesn’t change that much, and you are stupid,…. 

And that is how it goes.  All of the time.  Every day.  There is not getting through, and it is people from both sides, not just one.  Along with the Russian Collusion business that is going on, we also have the investigation by the intelligence committee on what happened with the infamous “Steele Dossier”.  The narrative keeps shifting with each and every new bit of news comes out. On the left, and the Never Trumpers, they will tell you it’s smoke and mirrors, and that it is a, to coin a popular phrase, “nothing burger” . On the right, and the “Trumpists” they are saying that this is going to be “Bigger than Watergate” and that people are going to jail, and that Sessions is getting closer to unsealing the indictments, and that Trump is going to de-classify the FISA applications, and then everyone will know just how dastardly the cabal was that tried to prevent Trump from winning.   The stories, theories, and suppositions have gotten so convoluted, that the logic is turning in on itself.  Try pointing that out to either side, and that maybe what they are going on about is probably not what they think it is., and you get a variation on the conversation above.

The problem with people living in their own bubbles, or echo chambers, is that they give no other theories, facts, or anything else any consideration.  Information contradictory to their views is ignored, and worse, they react with anger to anything that challenges their beliefs, which is problematic, because anger can lead to violence.  So many people out there consume news only from one side.  Very few of them are willing to even consider another viewpoint.  They believe what they believe to be true,  because they want it to be true. Facing what is really going on is difficult for many people.  There is a big difference between what is true, and what you want to be true.  Children live in this kind of world, small children will tell you that there is unicorns in the sky, and rainbows, and clouds of cotton candy.  As an adult, you know it not to be true, and in time, little children learn that as well.  It is quite apparent that some adults have not gotten past that phase, and that is part of the problem.  Reasonable people take information in, analyze it, and come to a conclusion.  Unreasonable people, immature people do not do that.   It also leads to the same people wishing violence on those who share different beliefs, or wanting to commit violence on others of different beliefs.

We have gotten here from many directions.  The insulation of the American mind in my opinion started about twenty five or so years ago.  If you go back in history, the “mainstream media” has always been biased to the right, or left  to some degree.  It has only been over the last twenty-five to thirty years that a left-leaning bias became more apparent.  It wasn’t only the news though.  With the rise of computers and the internet in the early ’90’s people began to gravitate to online communities that shared their views.  First it was websites, and message boards, with CompuServe and AOL online communities became easier to form and publicize.  As electronic media grew, so did it’s influence, and it’s hold on the American mind. What really led the isolation was the advent of the smart phone.  People are tied to their “bubble” all day, every day. Having such a device allows easier rejection of anything that doesn’t conform to their world view.

As further proof, take the upcoming midterms.  All signs point to these mid-term elections being even more contentious than the 2016 Presidential race.  Democrats are convinced of a “Blue Wave” that will give them Congress, and they will be able to impeach Trump, and somehow, install Hilary as President. On the other side, Trump supporters are touting a “Red Wave” and Congress has GOP super majorities, and they are going to lock up Hilary, and the rest.   The thing is, the “reality” if you will, is the midterms are going to be somewhere between the two.  Reasonable people expect this, reasonable people understand, that given the current climate,  GOP majorities may take a hit, and they may either lose one house of Congress, or barely hang on with a slim majority in the House.  Try offering that compromise on Twitter, and see what happens.  I have seen many a person get savaged by both sides.

Another element of this has been the rise of, for lack of a better term, “Tweet-bloggers” people who, instead of writing a blog, (like this)  post long threads about what they think to Twitter, quite often they are thirty of forty entries. Many of these folks position themselves as knowledgeable people, and basically write opinions that they pass of as fact. A couple of them in a short period of time, have gained in excess of 100,000 followers.  The reason is, they say things people want to hear.  Because of that, their followers will rise up and defend anyone who has the slightest disagreement with any element of their latest thread.  They can (and do) post absolute pony-pucks, but their followers believe it to be the absolute truth, and they insulate themselves further.

Reality is indeed up for grabs.  Unfortunately, there seem to be multiple realities, depending on one’s political bent.  The fact is, there is only one reality, and it is the one we live in.  Reality, like truth, is not “personal” it is universal.  One doesn’t get to shape the world to what they perceive as reality.  Children do that.  Adults know better.  What is real, is real.  It’s not open for debate.  Like the conversation above, a sunny day is not a rainy day just because someone heard it is.  Evidence that it is a sunny day is proof that it is not a rainy day.  In other words, just because someone wants to believe that something is a certain way, doesn’t mean the world is going to conform to that belief.  Unfortunately too many people cannot let that go.  Many people need to.  Otherwise, both sides are on a collision course, and it’s not going to end well.

 

 

 

Advertisements

I rarely interact on Social Media, especially on Facebook.  I hang out on Twitter, comment from time to time, but I avoid arguments, and disagreements at all costs.

Why?

I am tired of it.  Since November of 2016, I do little more than read others people’s FB posts, I almost never post to my timeline.  For me, there is precious little that is worth reading any longer, and, add to that, there is nothing worth responding to.   All I ever see is the latest “I hate Trump” or “MAGA” type post. Or the latest “Anti gun” or “Pro 2A” post.  The problem with the posts are not the content, but, rather the attitude with which they are served up.  It’s a “this is what I believe, and f*** you and go to hell if you don’t agree”  No one has rational discussions any longer, and I do mean no one.

I am also tired of the conspiracy theories surrounding, well, you name it; Las Vegas, Parkland, Newtown, etc. etc.  The worst part about all of this, is these posts are coming from people that I know to be intelligent, and, I thought, reasonable.  Many of them old classmates, and others that I have known for 30 years.  Politics, and one’s political views have become the yardstick, (and with some people the only yardstick used to measure someone’s worth.) .  I have witnessed lifelong friendships come to an end, over a vote, or a political stance.  There is no “opinion” any more, there is “My post is irrefutable fact, and f*** you if you don’t think it’s true”.  People post things that they find, somewhere in the deep, dark bowels of the internet, as truth.  Not only truth, but incontrovertible, irrefutable, truth, because their favorite website, blogger, or pundit said it.  In this day and age, it’s not “for” or “against”, no.  It’s “you must believe or you are a heretic, and must be destroyed”.  It happens on both sides.

If you are pro 2nd Amendment, you are branded a “baby killer”, an “NRA Terrorist” or you “Support the murder of children” and the ownership of “weapons of war”.  If you want support Gun Control, then you area “gun grabbing communist” or a “traitor”, or an “anti-freedom leftist”.  No quarter is given in these arguments.  There is no discourse, only insults, and if it’s a woman posting her support of  2A, it’s the most vile sexual type of insults I have ever seen.  There are threats, and more insults.  Hashtags are thrown around like so many bean bags.  Frequently posts are in all caps, as people become more and more unhinged.  Eventually the donnybrook loses steam, and everyone is on to something else, but not before feelings are hurt, anger flairs and relationships are strained, if not broken.  I am amazed at the hurtful things people, especially family members, say to one another over a discussion of politics.  Isn’t family supposed to be better than that?  It is the disagreement that severe that some stop talking to siblings or parents?  How crappy is that?  I don’t always agree with my brothers, or my sister, but I would never, ever stop talking to them over their stance on something.  My dad, if he were still among us, would not stand for it.  I feel bad for those people who feel that a relationship, especially a long-term one, be it familial or romantic, has to end, because of a political opinion.

I hate all of the stupid fighting, and when one side presents the other with facts, then the arguing switches to whose “facts” are more factual.  We get our news and information from many sources these days, unfortunately, we all know about “fake news”, and in many cases, the “facts” as presented, depending on which “side” is presenting them can vary.  In more than a few cases, news sites will post a story, and include facts that only support their side of the argument, then other people quote that source as being proof that they are right, while the other side of the argument cites a story about the same issue from a news site, or blogger, or pundit, that includes information that supports what they have to say.  It’s exhausting.  Woe to the person who enters into the fray, in an attempt to be reasonable, cites a balanced story on the issue, then they get torn into from both sides.  The worst part about all of it, are the vile insults that people hurl at one another, either strangers they don’t know, or people that they do.  It’s unreal, and it almost hurts to watch it.

An example of what I describe above, goes like this:  I will use the latest raging debate over guns, that is burning up social media.

Friend A; (a long time friend of mine) Posted a story about a study done by two criminologists, citing the number of times a gun is used to defend life and property, and stops a crime in progress.  He posted his comments, as well as a link to the study, so anyone reading his post can avail themselves of the information, and read the study in it’s entirety.   Several people posted comments after reading the story, and the study.  The comments are all positive.

Stranger A:  this person pops up in a comment, after a news story that this person believes “debunks” the study by the two criminologists.  The news story takes the study to task, and selectively cites facts that support the gun control side of the argument.  So Stranger A, goes off on a paragraph long screed about the NRA, and evil corporations funding gun companies, buying politicians, and etc, etc, etc.  Friend A politely asks Stranger A to read the study.  Stranger A replies he doesn’t need to because the article he read speaks for itself, and he knows the study was funded by the NRA and the gun makers (it wasn’t) so, of course it is going to back up their claims.

It’s this kind of attitude, the “If you are against gun control, you are for the deaths of children” is really rather tiresome, and it is a tactic used by many in an argument to deflect from their arguments shaky ground.  It is also used as a way to end the argument, because the tactic forces the other person to argue that they are not “for the killing of children”, which then puts the anti-gun person on the offensive.  Or, it forces the other person to walk away from the argument, because it just got stupid.  The tactic is designed to shut down debate, and silence opposition.  People on both sides use it.  It’s not a “left” or “right” thing.  So, the above exchange over the study went back and  forth, but the problem is, everyone wound up arguing with Stranger A about how they are not for the killing of children.  It was several comments before someone else got the argument back on track.

The point of the anecdote above is an example of what typically happens on social media.  The other phenomenon is the habit among many to read the headline of a posted story, and then comment on the inaccuracy of the story   It is embarrassing when someone I know, and always figured was intelligent, decides to go off on an article they did not even read, and puts their intellectual laziness on display.  It is amazing to me how little there is in the way of critical thinking.  What ever happened to analysis, reading comprehension, and logical thought?

It is indeed sad, that the current level of debate on Twitter, and Facebook resembles an argument between a bunch of 12 year old kids on the school playground.  It really is.  The crises that face this nation are not going to get solved by emotional outbursts, name calling or finger-pointing.  The problem is, no one wants to hear the other side out.  It is as if we all want our side to be the only one that prevails.  When you get right down to it, the truth to just about any of the issues is much more nuanced, it hardly black and white.  In the studies mentioned in my anecdote, each one can, when facts and passages in the study are cherry-picked and taken out of context, support either the pro-gun, or the anti-gun side of the argument.  However, that kind of cherry picking does little to shed light on the problem of violence in this country, and what effective steps can be taken to curb the violence.   The same could be said of any study, on any of the issues that face the nation.  The sad fact is, that any side in an any argument wants to be the “only” side that is right.  It’s as if being right, and defeating one’s enemies is more important than solving, or working towards solving an issue.  “All or nothing” rarely works.  When one takes a position that the only way to solve an issue is an “all or nothing” solution, then people on the other side of the issue, are going to be unwilling to talk, much less compromise, or reach an agreement.  This is also how fights start, because once an argument gets to the point where one side feels compelled to use force to convince the other side, then all is lost.

All I know is, and I urge my kids to do this all of the time;  If you are going to debate a question, come to the table with facts, and research, and also come to the table with an understanding demeanor.  Disagreement is not a personal attack.  One can understand the other side’s point of view, without resorting to personal attacks, name calling, and the like.  If you have made your point, and the other person, or group, still disagrees, then, move on.  You have made your point, you stood by your argument, and that’s it.  One cannot change another’s mind, well, can rarely change it.  The most that can be done is “agree to disagree” and move on.  There is nothing wrong with that, either.  Everyone has different beliefs on everything, from the big issues of the day, to the question of whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich. (it’s not.  Stating my position right now) or whether or not ketchup belongs on that same hot dog (It doesn’t, at least if you bought it from a hot dog stand.  If you made it at home, then, ketchup is permissible).  It is those differences that make us who we are, and one is not “less” because one believes differently than someone else on any given subject.  We sometimes forget we are human, and we should never dehumanize someone else over a disagreement  Ever.  It’s wrong, and leads to all kinds of scary things on a larger scale.

For those interested.  The link posted by my friend is below.  Read it and decide.  The article cites at least 3 studies and has links to them.  Read it.  Thank you.  Article my friend posted  I offer no opinions here.