Let’s Yell About: Public Discourse

Guys, I had a breakthrough last night.

Usually, when people say that, it’s a good thing. Maybe there was some pain attached to it, but the usual implication is that the pain was fought through, and the person reached some kind of clarity, or level of acceptance with whatever had been bothering them. My breakthrough was not that. It was actually sort of the opposite. It turns out, I’m sort of an angry person.

Yes, Oprah. I mad.
Yes, Oprah. I mad.

So what, right? Lots of people are mad. In fact, just about everyone is mad about something. That’s true, but for the longest time, I wasn’t. I was even tempered to the point of being offensively boring. I never raised my voice, I didn’t let things fester, I didn’t react emotionally to nearly anything, to the detriment of my personal relationships. Then, in January of 2014, something happened.

I got Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Roughly like this.
Roughly like this.

Prior to, I would skulk behind my wife like a chubby Tyler Durden, making sure I wasn’t even mentioned on her social media accounts.

This probably isn't the smartest joke to make when referencing your spouse.
This probably isn’t the smartest joke to make when referencing your spouse.

 

I held out that long, and I probably would have continued, except that I wrote a book; and the publishers suggested I join everyone in the present day. Social media, they said, was the biggest and most efficient delivery system to advertise your–art? I hate calling it that, but art encompasses so many things, that it’s a good catchall.

Anyway—the publishers were right, and I’d be a liar, and a bit of an asshole if I didn’t also mention that social media has also put me in touch with some really cool people that I’d never have met, from places I’ll never go. Social media has been great for fostering communities of like-minded-and-differently-minded-but-still-totally-cool folks that love to shoot the shit about anything from film, to music, to politics, to wrestling–you get the idea. So that shit? It’s all great, and my life is better for having it.

But, on the other hand: I’ve never been so tuned up about things as I have since I joined Facebook especially, and Twitter to a lesser degree. I’m not sure why. I’ve got theories, but nothing I can completely pin down. I mean, people have always had oversimplified, or racist, or jingoistic, or stupid, or pedantic, or wildly uninformed, or sensitive-to-the-point-of-lunacy types of opinions, right? So why am I mad now? Is it because a lot of people interface with these accounts on a telephone, so they’re not really bothered to type anything longer than a few sentences when they’re stating their opinion? Maybe, but it’s probably not that simple.  Is it because we’re just conditioned to send and receive information that way? That seems likely, but I have no data to back it up. Is it because people just have textual diarrhea, and have to fill every space with their thoughts, regardless of how unformed they might be? Have we become that narcissistic, or do we just have a more efficient mechanism for carpet-bombing everyone with our thoughts? I’m sure it’s a combination of all of those things, and I know that way smarter people than me have written voluminous papers about it. But, despite all of that, I think the thing that bothers me the most, is people’s seemingly unstoppable quest to be right.

Now, we all want to have our opinions validated. If I like a movie, or restaurant, I want the people who I care about to like it too. That’s totally normal. The people I’m talking about, though, will not rest until they convince everyone that what they think is true is a stone-cold fact. To illustrate, allow me to regale you with bits of a Facebook conventioneer I had yesterday, with some folk.

Is anyone suspicious of all these people having conveniently drawn up manifestos?

That was the original post from my Facebook pal, regarding the tragic events of the WBDJ shooting in Virginia yesterday. It seemed to be a pretty open-ended question, so, like a fucking dummy, I responded.

letsyell1
The DOJ-level redaction bars are there to protect my buddy, and the other commenter, because I didn’t ask their permission, and even though it’s public, it’s still kind of a dick move to openly blast them with their names attatched.

So, I responded with what I didn’t think to be a wildly controversial opinion. Mental Illness is a humongous problem in this country. I’d contend that anyone who videotapes themselves  executing two innocent people, and Tweets it, might not be of the soundest mind. However, according to Magenta-box down there, not only is the the idea of mental illness being a contributing factor to an unprovoked, multiple shooting, the whole idea of mental illness is specious, because mentally ill people are only seen in the U.S.

Oh, and Ted Bundy is a prime example of sanity.

Seems rational.
Seems rational.

I read that, chuckled a little, then put the phone down. I put on Predator. I tried to go to sleep. I couldn’t. I restarted Predator, because I love the helicopter scene so much. I could barely pay attention, let alone enjoy it. I picked the phone back up. I copied part of Ted Bundy’s psychological profile. I sent it as a response, and restarted Predator.

letsyell2

I stopped Predator. I read the response. I put the phone down, and paced around the room like a maniac.  I clicked the link, which took me to an article that stated that psychopathy, sociopathy, and other personality disorders are not legal grounds  to declare a defendant incompetent to stand trial. That’s fine, and also factual, while missing the MOTHERFUCKING POINT ENTIRELY. Luckily, after this, a more patient and eloquent person than me stepped in to inform the thread that the APA and DSM-V both very much consider these disorders to be mental illnesses; regardless of their legal standing. This is an all too common issue I’ve found in these bits of discourse. Person A makes a wildly inaccurate statement. Person(s) B(s) refute statement with data or accepted fact. Person A responds with semantics argument, ad-hominem attack, or narrative change to suit their original point. And if that should fail, the big guns are called in—inaccurate and/or bizzaro statistics.

Now with green!
Now with green!

This is in response to a post about how garbage collectors are more likely to be killed at work than a cop. That at least seems plausible, and I was just about to look it up, when the comments caught my eye. Ignoring the grammatical flubs and weird umbrella statement about firearms, let’s focus on Mister or Miss Green. According to them, eight thousand convenience store clerks were murdered in 2014! Holy fuck! Where’s their hashtag, right?

You probably already know this, but that number is complete and utter bullshit. First off, the FBI crime statistics (where homicides are tabulated for the nation) don’t come out until the fall of the following year, so, we won’t get those numbers until November-ish of this year. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that there were 15,000 homicides in 2014, based on the 2013 number of 14,196. That would mean that of those theoretical  15,000 murders, fifty-three percent were convenience store employees. The health insurance plans at those places must be fucking astronomical.

I don’t want to make light of people being murdered. One is way too many. But these statemnts, despite how well-intentioned (doubtful) they may be, are not only ruining the credibilty of the person making them; they’re also reducing the impact of the actual issues they’re attaching themselves to.

By 32,000%. I can cite several disreputable sources, and a blog with zero oversight to back up my point. And if you disagree, I’ll call you a fascist/terrorist/Obama loving/neocon mouthbreather/breeder/bleeder/homo, or whatever I think will win all the conversation points. Then I’ll quickly forget about out it, while you restart Predator.

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