Whispering in the Wind

I enjoy reading and writing. Pretty obvious, when you consider that I have undertaken a blog. One of my favorite activities is to read the news feeds from all over, but even more interesting to me is reading the responses in the comment threads. The threads are where you can gauge how people are perceiving the information that they are reading, what they are taking away from the article or video. I also thought that it was productive to join in the discussions and share my take on the information presented. Unfortunately, it would appear that the exchange of ideas is not the reason that most folks participate in these threads. Judging from the general ugliness, it would appear that most people participate in these "discussions" for reasons that have nothing to do with the exchange of ideas. Regardless of the information contained in the news feed itself, their minds are made up, completely closed to new data. If the item does not support their viewpoint, it is automatically biased, tainted, and designed to oppress the masses. It never occurs to these folks that the same logic might apply to the news items that support their particular viewpoint. Let's face it, none of us view things in the exact same way, and that is why they make 31 flavors of ice cream at Baskin Robbins. But the news feed threads are probably the breeding ground of intolerance. Participants demand quantitative proof of a conflicting opinion, and then when it is presented, the sources are discounted as unfair and biased. For a while, I have struggled with the question of why, and I think that I have discovered the answer.

Despite all the bravado, bluster, and bragging, it would appear that the more entrenched the respondent, the less they feel that they have any control over anything in their lives. Clinging to their viewpoint is the way to reaffirm their worth, establish their identity, and validate their world view. Exchanging ideas has nothing to do with this, because to acknowledge validity or truth in any conflicting idea is to diminish their importance, call their mindset into question, and potentially, even cause them to revise their position. Nobody wants to be wrong, because they have personalized their polarized viewpoints and stacked their entire sense of self identity and worth on opinion. And of course, if they were to acknowledge that somebody has presented information that is new, or presented known data in a different light, they are called upon to respond, to react, and potentially to alter their own comfortable world. What is ironic is that these folks post daily and multiple times per article. They seem to have endless time to scan these feeds and jump on any opinion that doesn't match their own. They do not refute the opinion with factual information, but in the majority of cases, insults and vague accusations. You can be classified as the 1%, just for pointing out that the people in government are part of that classification and probably have no interest in changing their comfortable existence. Common sense would seem to indicate that few of us are willing to give up our suburban comforts to go live in a cave somewhere, because that is good for women, children, the elderly, and the ecosystems of the planet. Most of us would like to find a middle ground that helps without destroying our existence. In the threads; however, it is an all or nothing proposition. As the threads progress, the insults become more virulent and personal, and the language deteriorates into a series of expletives deleted. By the bottom of the page, it is hard to determine what started the conversation in the first place, because after about a dozen comments, the same people degenerate into the same accusations and insults, regardless of topic material. These people seem incapable of making the statement: "Gee, I never heard/knew that!" or "I never looked at it from that side!" They must be right at all costs and they must attack, not refute, all conflicting viewpoints. Where I was hoping for serious debate, substantive research, interesting juxtaposition of past events with current events, instead, I get beaten up on a regular basis.

As most of these threads are anonymous, most of us choosing screen names with identities protected, one of the intimidation tactics is to assume. We all know what happens when somebody assumes anything. Well, everyone seems to know that except the folks that I have encountered in the threads, or should I say threats? I have had people assume that I must be a 1%, white supremacist male who has no concern for women, children, and the elderly. Well, I am so far removed from the 1%, that is is laughable. And I am certainly not male. If I am waging war on women and children, then I am waging war on myself and my children. I have been accused of being a hypocritical Bible belt Christian. How does one determine the religious origins of anyone in discussions of economics? While I am most certainly a Christian, I am savvy enough to understand that my freedom to practice my beliefs, by implication and inference, means that those with alternate religious perspective have the same rights and freedoms. If I wish my freedom respected, then I must respect their freedom. However, in respecting their freedom, I am not stripped of my opinions. Being Christian does not mean that I cannot state that I disagree, and give valid reasons for my disagreement. But respect for the freedom of others is not a prerequisite for participation in news threads. It is all about bludgeoning the conflicting viewpoints into submission and burying any information, from any source, that does not support your premise.

I have heard others in threads surmising that these are the violent responses of paid bloggers. Those whose occupation consists of beating us all into submissiom. I seriously hope that this is not true, as then the reality of the "thought police" is proven. Media is no longer a force to educate and enlighten, but indoctrination. Even participating in forums for the unemployed, places where we are supposed to profit from and support the efforts of others in the search for work and income, the insults and accusations abound. If a person has not experienced discrimination in their job search, then discrimination cannot possibly exist for anyone else. Those of us who feel we have encountered discrimination in hiring practices are not legitimate examples of injustices, but rather, we are lazy, whining, not really trying, or when all else fails.....just plain losers getting exactly what we deserve. All of their frustrations in the job search seem to get channeled at those of us trying to find ways to cope with the inequities and irregularities in the system. They are not in control of their work life, and it would appear that until they are, nobody else is entitled to a leg up or encouragement. Lack of civility would seem to be directed by a definite "me first" attitude, every man for themselves. People are drowning out there, and are more than willing to take their rescuers down with them. They are more than willing to step on the bodies of others to get out of the hole. But at the same time, they do not want to be viewed as self serving, so they have to make a case for those that they step on being undeserving. Their tools in this enterprise are broad generalizations, random assumptions, and stereotypes.

And then there are some that simply will not leave well enough alone. They cannot let a comment stand. It would appear that certain posters have taken exception to my onscreen identity, and their main focus is to find my posts or comments in order to stomp all over me personally. Often their objections have nothing to do with anything that I might have posted, but are yet another attempt to convince others, reading and visiting the thread for the first time, that I am some sort of nut job, ignorant, mentally defective, lest anyone see merit in anything I might post. They become so accustomed to attacking me, that they continue to do so, even in the face of my agreement with their premise or statement. I have actually been verbally beat up for agreeing with them.

Anyway, the upshot of my observation is that there is nothing to be gained from participation in the news threads, unless of course you are doing some sort of weird penance where being verbally assaulted has merit. And because I no longer see fit to offer comments, I have even noted comments in the threads about my not putting my flawed theories out there any more. Other posters actually gloat about driving people away from the conversation by whatever means necessary. One wonders if they have notches on their keyboards to represent those that they feel they have driven out of Dodge. Being absent is cause for ridicule. So, you can't disagree, nor can you agree. And if you express no opinion at all, you are some sort of a coward, unable to admit that you were wrong and they were right. This reinforces my original premise that participation in these opinion feeds are motivated primarily by ego and ego preservation. As a society, we have completely lost the ability to read and critically assess anything any longer. Most are not going to accept the onslaught of negativism that is occasioned by looking for logical answers, factual information, and a forum where every viewpoint is allowed expression. As I refuse to be politically correct, I guess that my time is more productively used reading greater amounts of information, instead of responding to the items. Nobody is going to pay any attention to my thoughts on the matter anyway. Nobody is going to even acknowledge my right to have a differing opinion. I may as well be whispering in the wind, for all the difference my freedom of opinion makes.

Filed under: The Job Search

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