Hating on the Internet

So George R.R. Martin has spent quite a bit of time over the last week, and even a more energy, on responding to this thing called Puppygate. Which not directly related got some commonalities with last years gamergate story.

Yet, what strikes me skimming through a plethora of online discussions is that we seemed to have perfected name calling as an argumentation technique on the Internet. And since the terminology jungle can be a bit confusing I thought I should break it down by putting together this list of common names, so that you know which one you are ;) Trying for a tongue in cheek summary here, but if I fail at least you know what names to call me!

  • If you don’t think the world economy is working perfectly you are a Communist
  • If you are not in favor of free immigration you are a Racist
  • If you think women have achieved any level of equality today you are a Misogynist
  • If you are critical to any part of the Christian faith you are a Christian hater or taking part in a War on Christmas
  • If you think anything is well in the world today you are a Straight White Male
  • If you are against any Israeli policies your an Antisemite or Neo-nazi
  • If you feel that gays, women or ethnic minorities are not having their voice heard on an equal level you are a Social Justice Warrior
  • If you are critical of any part of the Quran or Islamic practice you are an Islamophobe

I am sure there are a lots more, these are just a collection of some I seen recently. So while I think there are real issues behind many of these examples I think sadly the Internet seems best for turning anything into a binary question, which surprisingly turns out to not be a super method for finding common ground, and as it turns out if you can associate a name to these things you can turn them into binary questions even faster!

Not that these things are specifically tied to the Internet, long time since I last saw any kind of political debate that felt like there was any time or interest in bringing out the nuances into the discussion; We do live in the age of bumper sticker politics after all.

Anyway, enough musing about the sad state of public discourse :)


#1 Jef Spaleta on 04.14.15 at 19:49

Can you do me a favor. Can you come up with a clever acronym to use when someone is all those particular things?

Having someone try to introduce me formally as a
“communist,racist, islamophobic, antisemitic, misogynistic, christian hating, social justice warring, straight white male” is just too much of a burden to put on anyone.

I think I speak for all my female brethren and male sistren when I say that we really need a tweetable acronym that encompasses all of those labels.

#2 Simon on 04.14.15 at 21:52

Actually, Jef, I think it needs to be longer, rather than abbreviated to a clever acronym. Because the idea of people running out of breath while trying to apply all those labels… that’s just too funny.

#3 Mattias on 04.15.15 at 08:08

Well, I understand your frustration. I’m also quite frustrated regarding discussing sensitive subjects on the internet.
I have myself participated in quite a lot of discussions about racism and religion. I see two problems:
1. People say that you cant critique immigration without being called a racist. People saying this, most often use arguments based on stereotypes, fears and hearsay. Which when they are used comes out as racist. I have no problem discussing immigration politics with my friends, but when you want to throw out immigrants begging on the streets because “you heard they are being picked up in fancy cars at the end of the day”…. well, you are really looking quite racist. And at the end of the day, nobody wants to be a racist… not even racists. So they all use the strictest possible definition of racism, and not the more loose definition that was defined in the UN-convention (and that is more in line with what people mean in general).

And critiquing the Quran? Well, the only time I see people do that is to pick out random quotes, to support the stereotypical image that Islam is a hateful religion, that is evil and medieval… (ignoring the fact that you can find very similar things in any other religion). So most people that say they are critiquing the Quran in random internet forums, are doing that to support an irrational fear of Islam, which by definition is Islamophobia. Now, we must keep in mind that the Islamophobia is mostly caused by massive propaganda from the US, to create a base to support their wars. So, you really can’t blame the people for being Islamophobic.

2. The other problem is when you discuss things like religion in general, the opponents to religion are doing this from the perspective that religion and church have a privileged position in society. Hence, you can critique it quite harshly. However, the people believing in the dogma, take the religion quite personal. And this difference in perspective makes it quite hard to communicate, often with the outcome that the person critiquing religion comes off as an asshole.

#4 uraeus on 04.15.15 at 14:07

I have no trouble understanding your challenge here, the problem though is regardless of which side one is of an argument is that as soon as the name calling starts,
all real debate tend to shut down and people heading for the trenches. So even if someone is a ‘racist’ for instance the question is if calling them that actually help
move the discussion forward. Especially as these terms are getting so much misuse these days that the fear of being called something is almost gone.

And as for Quran and religion in general, have you ever heard a discussion about religion where people on either side of the debate doesn’t pick out random quotes? Wether you claim
that Islam is a religion where there is no compulsion in religion or Islam is a religion where apostasy means you should be killed you are basing your argument of random quotes. If you
want to read what I think is a great balanced article discussing these issues in depth, without resorting to random quotes I recommend this article about ISIS from The Atlantic.