The death of expertise is a rejection not only of knowledge, but of the ways in which we gain knowledge and learn about things. It’s a rejection of science. It’s a rejection, really, of the foundation of Western civilization: yes, that paternalistic, racist, ethnocentric approach to knowledge that created the nuclear bomb, the Edsel, and New Coke, but which also keeps diabetics alive, lands mammoth airliners in the dark, and writes documents like the Charter of the United Nations.”
I got called a sadist on Facebook the other day. By a friend. Over Gamergate, of all things. I said I found humor in trolling feminists, and got asked how I “justified my sadism in light of (my) spirituality.”
I spent a few hours afraid that I was just too stupid to answer such a question. I mean, my motivations make perfect sense to me, but how to explain them in a way that doesn’t sound deluded or defensive or jaded?
But then I realized that I could easily answer it — if the audience were different. So I went into a particular chat room and announced, “I got called a sadist on Facebook for saying I think trolling feminists is funny,” and everybody laughed. I didn’t have to give context, I didn’t have to justify, I didn’t have to explain; they all totally understood.
I can troll feminists because feminism has succeeded. Women and men are equals; women are no longer special. They have to become worthy, just like males do, they’re no longer conferred worth at birth by virtue of their gender. This is what the genderlessness of the online community has achieved: everybody gets treated the same way, even if some of them are girls. (This is what Rule 16 ["There are NO GIRLS on the internet"] means. Everyone starts at the same baseline and has to prove themselves, rather than just immediately being granted value for possessing a vagina. There are no vaginas on the internet, either, only pictures of them.)
And while some of them knew my age and gender, most of them didn’t (because it’s a text-only environment) and still, they all understood that, no, I’m not a sadist, even if I’m a male trolling feminists, and that it’s totally common to be accused of suffering from major psychiatric issues by people who disagree with you online.
So I found relief in the thought that maybe it wasn’t that I’m too stupid to answer the question, but more that the questioner doesn’t have enough shared context for me to answer in fewer than ten thousand words.
If anybody really wants to know why I think, among other things, that trolling feminists is not only funny but an okay thing to do, they’d have to go read most — but definitely NOT ALL (because some of that shit will melt your eyeballs) — of Encyclopaedia Dramatica,a shocking, disturbing, and uncomfortable little cliquey clusterfuck of rude kids and bastion of free speech and, strangely enough, egolessness and non-attachment.
If you believe that Gamergate is a tragedy of white male privilege and that women are literally being forced to quit the internet in fear, well, I suggest that you just don’t know enough.
My Facebook feed is full of white women and sympathetic gay men posting histrionic traditional media articles about the so-called victims of Gamergate. But none of these posters really game, none of them have ever been to Reddit or 4chan or IRC, and none of them understand the dynamics of how the new guard uses traditional media. (It’s a hobby for some of them, to get the old traditional media to breathlessly report utter bullshit.) It’s a form of trolling and they think it’s funny, because grown people aren’t supposed to be that gullible.
So, since it’s Facebook, I usually respond to such posts with, “Actually, she lied” and appropriate supporting links written by the actual people involved, or “You’re missing the point: she’s being treated like that because feminism has succeeded and now women don’t get preferential treatment when they act like twats! It’s freakin’ awesome!”
But nobody responds to the content or asks for more information about my point of view. All they hear is that a female has allegedly been threatened and that’s it, they know what to do, they’re instantly and wholly on board with all possible sympathy and support for that poor woman… for that poor woman who was a troll all her life and demonstrably said even more horrific things to people, who really did engage in the weird sexual politics everyone says she did, who is not now and has not been in danger, and who is parlaying all of this into attention.
They either ignore me, which is totally fine, or they insult me personally (as if that were somehow relevant to anything. At all. Ever. And which used to confuse me, but is such a universal response I mostly don’t even bother to read past the first few words anymore because the sentiments are all pretty much boilerplate).
Do you know there’s a name for that? For calling someone names when you don’t like having your beliefs challenged? It’s called an ad hominem attack. It’s a logical fallacy. And all online discussions are stuffed full of logical fallacies. All of them. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so damn common.
Actually, no. It’s still hilarious. Somebody posts something, which is literally an invitation for response. You respond with anything other than OH YES I TOTALLY AGREE, and there’s an 80% you’ll get blocked or insulted.
We’re the richest, most educated iteration of our species of all time, but we’re all emotional dumbfucks when our beliefs are challenged, even by something as innocuous as a reply on a Facebook post that doesn’t immediately validate our delicate egos.
Somebody told me yesterday that I “have a sharp tongue” because I’d pointed out that the Buzzfeed video she’d posted was bullshit. It claimed that “the US doesn’t require cosmetics ingredients testing” (which is a flat out lie and soooooo easy to check) and also implied that, because Europe had banned a bunch of ingredients the FDA still allows, that the ingredients must therefore be toxic. Which is yet another logical fallacy.
I used strong language because I enjoy swearing, and ALL CAPS because Facebook doesn’t have italics. My authorial voice is too strong; perhaps not girlie enough? (Note: when I’m online anonymously nobody ever attacks my style. Ever. They just assume I’m a man.)
THIS IS WHY I NEED FEMINISM, MAN. (Note: “This is why we need feminism” is typed ironically. It’s a meme, a trope — it’s what girls say when they don’t get their way, or what bronies say it when people mock them for playing with girls’ toys.)
(Disclaimer: I realize a lot of historical bias remains. But at the end of the day, in the online world where your gender is irrelevant, the fact that you get to lie in the bed you made is progress.)
And in anti-vaccine threads, wow. Because anti-vaxxers are constantly putting the burden of proof on anyone who tells them their assertions are wrong, then simply rejecting facts they don’t like and attacking the messenger. You can’t possibly have any idea how lonely, misguided, and stupid I am until I’ve disagreed with you on the vaccine thing by telling you that qualified experts were unable to find any evidence to support Wakefield, period, end of discussion.
Opinions are not facts. Repeat after me: Opinions are not facts. Opinions are not facts. Opinions are not facts.
If you’re anti-vaccine, it’s because you want to be, end of discussion, and no amount of proof will change your (crazy-ass, conspiracy-theorist) mind. I know this because I’ve actually dug up all the links and posted them, and the typical anti-vaxxer will ignore facts completely and hare off on another twisted logical fallacy, keeping the argument going forever, never learning a damn thing, because they’ve rejected expertise and think they know more than the qualified doctors and researchers who have proved vaccines to be both safe and effective.
There’s also something called the Dunning-Kruger effect, which says, in sum, that the dumber you are, the more confident you are that you’re not actually dumb. And when you get invested in being aggressively dumb…well, the last thing you want to believe is that there are “experts” who disagree with you, and so you dismiss them in order to maintain your unreasonably high opinion of your own nitwittery. (I think there’s a lot of that loose on social media, for sure.)”
People don’t want to have their beliefs, no matter how irrational, questioned. They would rather be passionately wrong than learn anything.
So why am I a sadist?
Well, on the one hand, I guess I don’t care about your ego; I’ve been trying to eradicate my own for most of my life so I don’t really care if it hurts your feelings when you post propaganda on your Facebook page and I tell you it’s wrong. (Seriously, if that’s your idea of suffering? Being disagreed with on Facebook? #firstworldproblems)
On the other hand, personally, I enjoyed learning that homeopathy is useless. I wasn’t embarrassed about having used Rescue Remedy for years; I’d learned something and it felt great. Hell, I was even kind of anti-vax at one point; then I learned better. Learning is awesome. I enjoy learning. It’s like evolving… for the mind!
Just today, for example, I was mouthing off to somebody in a chatroom about how being exposed to trace amounts of allergens — as in the local-raw-honey-cures-hay-fever theory — won’t stop someone from being allergic (because I don’t know shit about the topic), and they linked me this. I learned I was wrong. It was awesome. I shut up. I said thank you. I went and read up. I had had no idea there were vaccines for snake bites!
It’s just so weird to me. People get so upset, so defensive when you offer them an opportunity to learn. And the thing is, you get called names because you might be hurting people’s feeeeeeeelings! And yet feelings are literally responsible for measles outbreaks. Who gives a fuck about their feelings; they’re killing people.
And another thing is, it’s not like I’m emotionally attached to what some chick I kinda knew in college thinks about something as meaningless as Gamergate, but the assumption always seems to be that I’m passionately involved in it and that my alleged emotion is unseemly.
(Seriously. It’s a regular trope, this thing about the unwholesomeness of being perceived to care too much. Well, I care about all sorts of shit! Just not about coddling your ego!)
In a way, it doesn’t matter to me, personally, if you’re still championing the long-dead and irrelevant feminism of the 60′s as today’s new adults are leaving you intellectually and socially in the dust (while gently mocking you for your cute outrage about chick programmers leaving their blogs in shame due to fake rape threats, like a blog’s even a real place). It doesn’t matter to me if you’ve chosen to be deluded about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, because I’m childless and vaccinated and therefore personally safe. It doesn’t matter what you think or feel about GMOs, Europe, corporations, the government, the FDA, or liberals, rappers, Golden Rice, or the moon landing. None of it matters to me because it has no impact on my life… until it does.
See, all these stupid Facebook posts aren’t actually harmless. If we continue to believe nonsense and avoid developing a fact checking habit, we’re going to continue to spread bullshit as gospel, and then dumb things, untrue things, wrong things will become things everybody knows, and then a lot of people are going to vote stupidly. Or die of the fucking measles. Or destroy GMO crops causing real human beings to starve. So our asinine social media “feelings” do matter, because they cause real harm in the world, and I do care about that.
Just not all that much about what you think of me, but about real world suffering? Yeah, I care.
Feminism is a fantastic example of how broken thinking can be. A chick enjoying all the privilege of her gender while crying that she’s being discriminated against? Classic delusion. Excellent target for object lesson in critical thinking. Maybe she gets her feelings hurt, but most likely she’s been trolling since she got online at nine years old so it’s not like she doesn’t know the mechanisms. These people were raised on the internet; the way they think, the way they behave, it’s different. You have to seek it out to understand it, and if you’re over 40 you probably haven’t. But overlooking reality in seemingly harmless places like modern feminism turns into the habit of overlooking reality everywhere. And delusion is really the main issue of one’s spiritual path, too. The habit of delusion is a bad one both in the relative and on one’s journey to enlightenment.
Making fun of someone’s attention-seeking nonsense online isn’t and shouldn’t be compared to IRL bullying. It’s words, typed. Online. And people raised to the internet know the fucking difference between words typed into a website and real life. Trolling is actually a way of reaching consensus in a virtual environment. And most people over 40 don’t understand it because they don’t even know what it is; they’ve never seen it or done it or had it done to them. All they know is that the media tells them it’s really bad and it’s just like bullying and it makes shy kids kill themselves!!!.
While a teeny-tiny minority of trolls might actually have hearts full of hatred, the majority are just making fun of people’s attention-seeking nonsense (like cam whores who claim they’re feminists) or poking holes in their publicly displayed delusions (um, no, actually Wakefield made $600,000 from lawsuits alone after The Lancet published his study, so you can’t claim he had no motive).
So, sure, I have a sharp tongue and, apparently, I’m a sadist. (I’m also: abrasive, abrupt, rude, loud, negative, deluded, heartless… all things I’ve been called in Facebook comments.) That’s your feminism for you: girls shouldn’t have sharp tongues, and anybody pointing out their delusions to feminists is a sadist!
To quote myself: Currently considering QUITTING FACEBOOK FOREVER due to prolifigacy of idiotic posts about gamergate, vaccines, “yoga,” Euro policy. It seems there’s a tacit rule on Facebook now that wasn’t there before, and it’s this: if you don’t agree with my posts, quit following me! Do not point out errors or fallacies: I don’t want to learn anything! Facebook is for showboating and not for actually interacting! YOUR DISAGREEMENT WITH MY WORLDVIEW IS HARASSMENT! THIS IS WHY I NEED FEMINISM!
And thus it has ever been, since the old days of the Internet.
And maybe that is the current social networking contract, but if so it’s boring. I don’t unfollow conservatives or anti-vaxxers; I’m an adult who can actually bear to see memes and infographics I disagree with without losing my compass. I’m navigating the death of expertise just like everybody else, but my motto is “Opinions are not facts” rather than “If you disagree with me I will unfriend you!!”
So I’m a sadist for making fun of feminists? Eh, okay. Fine. Whatever. Does it conflict with my spirituality? Not at all. It’s not unloving; I love the shit out of the world and the people in it, and even the eccentricities of their minds, and I think that learning how to be wrong is an incredibly important spiritual step. The seed never becomes a tree if it refuses to go under the dirt.
Do people think I’m mean and a bitch? I dunno, I guess so. Let ‘em.
So I’m barely past twenty-five hundred words and my point is a dead horse to some and nowhere near made to others: an ambiguous state, one might even say conflictory.
And I’m okay with that, too.