When it comes to my perspective on politics, there was a time when all I would watch are clips of Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, those vein-popping right-wing pundits on Fox News. Occasionally I would guilt my pleasure with John Stewart and Bill Maher, but most of the time I would sit, morbidly captivated, before the boys of Fox: What fear-mongering! What hyperbole! What assholes! Enemies were everywhere and so every good citizen had to shut up and tow the line and if you didn’t then you hated freedom and you hated America. At the time, I thought that such over-the-top behavior were characteristics bought and patented by the political right. To me, left wingers were cool, reasonable and funny to boot. Just look at Colbert and Stewart! Nothing irate about these guys.
Well, that was then and this is now. In the years since those Fox News days, I’ve learned something interesting about the political left: their vein popping pundits don’t get their own network segments, they get Twitter accounts. They don’t get their own radio talk shows, they get WordPress and a domain name. Thanks to Twitter, I’ve gotten to know my left-wing brethren and sistren very well…and they are driving me nuts. Once, it was right-wing hysteria that reinforced my left-wing beliefs, but now it’s the hyperbole of liberal peers that are pushing me to the right.
Now before I go out and buy myself a shotgun and a six-pack of Bud, and start complaining about all the Eyetalians in my neigbourhood, I would like to address four common themes that keep popping up in liberal cyberspace:
1. Mansplaining is NOT a slippery slope to acid throwing. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, “mansplaining” is the recently coined idiom used to describe the tendency for men to over-explain things to women. Being that I’m male, the previous sentence is technically an example of mansplaining (sorry). Another more illustrative (sorry) example would be something I witnessed the other day. I was in my favourite coffee shop when I happened to overhear a conversation between two barristas – one male, one female (Yes, “barristas”. You try repeatedly typing out “coffee server person”). Actually, it wasn’t really a conversation; it was more of a monologue being espoused by the male barrista, who felt he had a captivated audience in regards to his female co-worker as he explained how to make the perfect Americano. Justifiably on the female barrista’s part, there was a lot of eye-rolling, sighing, and several instances of the I-can’t-believe-this-guy-doesn’t-get-it look. And she was right; mansplaining can be very annoying, and at its’ worst, incredibly condescending. But for some bloggers , it is the start of something far more sinister and dangerous. To them, such a stunt is just a short walk down the street to the atrocities acted out on women in countries like Afganistan.
I’m afraid to debate this point, however, for at this point I can be charged with at least three counts of mansplaining, and two counts of complete schmuck. Instead, I’ll be brief: From instructions on how to make coffee to public stoning is a scale of fear-mongering that would give Glenn Beck pause.
2. Speaking of unrealistic comparisons, American Evangelicals are not the Taliban. As evil Nazis are the bogey-man to the political right, so is the Taliban quickly becoming a Freddie Kruger to those on the left. Personally, I find those enthusiastic Christians frustrating, even infuriating at times. The right, the religious right, has made a mission out of working their way up the chain of command in the US and to some extent in Canada. Under the guise of libertarianism, they’ve taken control of American Congress have an eye on the American Supreme Court. Infuriating, yes, but please take note of what they are NOT doing to achieve their social-political goals in North America: publicly blowing things up with people inside them, and shooting girls who want to attend school.
Now, for those of you who still can’t see the distinction between the pastor of Megachurch in Virginia Beach, and an extremist cleric in the Talaban-controlled Swat Valley, please, take a vacation in the region. After all, Swat Valley was once known as the Switzerland of Pakistan and was a hotspot for honeymooners. Go ahead, get a tan. Schmooze and mingle! If you can find an establishment that serves alcohol, try the local Pina Colada. Once you do, let us know how you just can’t tell the difference betweeen Kansas City and Peshawar.
3. I have the Twitter. Read my awesome. This one makes me sad because Twitter has the potential to do such good for the world. From helping activists coordinate demonstrations in oppressive regimes, to citizens reporting what’s going on in city council meetings, to providing different perspectives during televised events, the Twitterverse has a great heap of stellar pros going for it. Unfortunately, it has a larger, stinking heap of cons bringing it down. Enter The Great Internet Fuckwad Thoery, a theory which asserts that a normally thoughtful person who is given complete anonymity and a large audience will soon become, well, a total fuckwad.
Now, picture a game of basketball where every player is a complete fuckwad and dressed like a masked Mexican luchador. Then imagine that each of these players is given an endless supply of basketballs whereby they spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, lobbing granny shots at the net from the baseline. Welcome to about 99% of the Twitterverse.
My wife tells me this is nothing new, that part of the enjoyment of Twitter is sifting through the bilge, knowing who to block and who to follow. But to me, everyone being able to live inside their personally manicured reality is where the trouble starts. Afraid of embarrassing yourself? Go anonymous. Someone disagreeing with you in front your followers? Block them.
I’m left wing, but I read The National Post (especially the online comments) because I disagree with most of it. I listen to right-wing NewsTalk 1010 AM because I find it fascinating (albeit somewhat morbidly) that there are people out there with complete opposite viewpoints to myself. And ashamedly, I’ve watched countless street interviews on YouTube where right wingers make asses of themselves in front of the camera. Funny though, I never paid much attention to the videos where liberals are at the barrel-end of a guerrilla interview. And in my belief, the Fuckward Theory could never apply to those cool and collected cats on my side of the fence. Therefore, I’ve never paid the average online left-winger much attention (outside the much tamer world of Facebook, that is).
That all changed, however, when I was introduced to the Twitterverse.
@Bowlerism~Chan: #menrights 1: the right to scream when I stomp on your balls for being rapists. 2: the right to suffer unspeakable agony for the above.
To put this into context, this is a retweet of a retweet in regards to a Twitter discussion about MRAs, which I assume stands for Mens’ Rights Associations. Now, I don’t know much about MRAs; I’ve never been to one or read up on them in any way. But I have to assume, because fellow males are involved, there are both valid and not so valid reasons as to why they exist. However, as spurious as these reasons may be, my own common sense makes believe that such associations are not simply meet-and-greets for the neighbourhood rapists (I’m giving the Tweeter the benefit of the doubt that they were just referring to men who are members of MRAs, not all men). I’m not sure what motivated @Bowlerism~Chan to tweet such a statement, but I’m betting the anonymity and the audience had something to do with it. To anyone, like myself, not fully immersed in the Twitterverse, @Bowlerism~Chan comes across as neither angry or edgy, but simply imbalanced. However, to his/her followers, it was just the right level of obnoxiousness that earned them a retweet, a slam dunk.
@Pope-Shakey:A sleazy fuck till the end
This tweet is directed at Ontario Premier, Dalton McGuinty. As an employee of the Toronto District School Board, I’m one of those most recently betrayed by him. I’m no fan of the man. Is Dalton dishonest? Yes. Manipulative. Sure. But someone who is likely to be found in a motel Jacuzzi with six prostitutes? No, not sleazy. Most people with a brain know this about him (I’m betting the author of this Tweet knows this as well). McGuinty didn’t acquire the moniker “Premier Dad” by his critics because he has a penchant for sporting oily moustaches and tight leather pants. As with @Bowlerism~Chan, I can only guess at motivation for @Pope-Shakey to post such a tweet. It does remind me of a bit by George Carlin where he articulates that the loudness one utters the word “asshole” is directly related to one’s geographic distance away from the intended target of the insult. And in the Twitterverse everyone is practically a stranger and everyone is a million miles away, so it’s only to your advantage, since everyone else is doing something similar, to twist the volume dial to eleven as a response every issue.
4. The Greater Peaceful Demonstration Fuckwad Theory (or Romancing the Bloc). Yes, if the Black Bloc has any fans, it’s on the left. Now, since by now I’m deep into mansplaining country, I’ll be perfectly to the point about this: if you dawn a black mask during an otherwise peaceful demonstration and start throwing rocks at store windows while shouting “this is what democracy looks like”, then you’ve just giving the state an excuse to remove said democracy. If you are later arrested for your actions and you post articles on the internet decrying the “police state”, then you are a complete and utter ignoramus.
My wife says, that this is all very well and good, but I am coming across as a crotchety old man and I’m not offering anything constructive in the wake of all my griping. So here goes. Firstly, fear-mongering is fear-mongering, no matter what political corner it’s coming from and regardless if the speaker is genuinely afraid or not. Any time anyone says “slippery slope” or “it’s only a matter of time”, alarm bells should be going off in your head. This is not to say you should disbelieve it, but at least take the time to think about it. Secondly – and this is something I really have to work on myself – be reasonable. There a plenty of trolls out there, but everyone has a little fuckwad in them. Ever wonder why Facebook discussions are much more subdued? One reason is that the lack of anonymity limits the ad hominem attacks.
Secondly, I can’t count the times on Facebook I’ve been called out and corrected by friends over some of my more thoughtless comments (“Oh shit, they’re right, I forgot about that”). Twitter and newspaper comments sections lack the fact-checking safeguards of friends and acquaintances. Before posting a comment, imagine that you personally know the other people on the board. In other words: think before you post.