Friday, January 21, 2011

The Supid. It Burns!

Note: Part 10 of my 323 part series walking through my iPod
Song: American Idiot
 Artist: Green Day

When I started this project, there were a few songs I knew I was going to hate trying to come up with something to tie to the song. Of course, when I started this project, I wasn’t sure I’d make it to double digits before giving up on it. Anyway, this is not one of those songs. In fact, this one may be the one I was most looking forward to tackling (can we still say “tackling” or is that type of language frowned upon in the current political climate?).

Despite moving to North Carolina 18 months ago, I still check in on my old hometown’s newspaper’s website every now and again to see what’s happening there. (Short answer: not much. Long answer: Not much of anything significant). To be fair, in the nearly five years I worked at that newspaper, other than a hostage standoff one year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, there wasn’t a whole lot that went on there anyway. I did have a stretch where I went something like 18 straight weeks of writing at least one (and probably two to three) alcohol-related story when the city considered and then made changes to its alcohol ordinance. For the math impaired, that’s 4.5 months. By the end, I didn’t care anymore. I was hoping for someone else to be taken hostage just to give me something else to write about.

While there, I also check out their blog section, thinking it would be interesting to hear from some of the non-reporters about their thoughts on the community. This appears to have been a mistake on several levels. I have no way to prove this, but from the posts and comments on that section of the internet, whatever organization it is that is the Bizzaro Mensa must have decided at one of their conventions to make that website their new online home*. 

At one point, I’d started a list of all the facepalm-inducing comments and statements. Had I known I was going to write about this topic, I would have kept it. I do recall that one poster seemed genuinely to believe that state funded education, from kindergarten through college, was part of a communist plot to take over the country. When it was pointed out that public education in the United States dates back a few hundred years, they refused to change their tune. Never mind the fact that if it was part of a secret communist plot, it was the slowest-moving plot in history. Like most conspiracies, no amount of evidence could convince this poor soul that the state educational system was not brainwashing children into becoming communists and any evidence to the contrary was there to convince us there is no conspiracy.

I also learned that President Obama is a secret Muslim from Kenya who usurped power illegally is a socialist, a communist (with the schools playing a vital role, no doubt), a fascist and a Marxist, all at the same time, which, to be honest, is a pretty impressive feat. Not surprisingly, hardly anyone seemed to notice the inherent contradiction of claiming the president is all of these political philosophies all at the same time. When pressed to explain how he holds those contradictory positions, their response made slightly less sense than my two-year old trying to explain the plot of The Great Gatsby to me. At times, I find my self shaking my head in amazement, not at the absurdity of the comments, but at the fact these people can remember to breathe each day, let alone turn on a computer.

Despite the fact that I know I’m actively becoming dumber each time I read more than three lines of drivel, I’m like an “idiot addict” who can’t stay away. Every few days, I have the need to see what the minds of these people come up with. On rare occasions, I’ll engage a few of them by pointing out the cognitive dissonance in their “reasoning” or by just being snarky. Not surprisingly, they don’t take to kindly to that, especially the sarcasm. Apparently my statements are sullying the good name of the cyber wasteland they inhabit. And God forbid if you ask a question asking for more details on how a certain opinion was reached. Typically you'll just get the initial opinion restated a different way with no supporting evidence. Asking more than once for details as tantamount to accusing the poster of palling around with terrorists and being a child molester in his spare time.

I don’t doubt that many of them are well-meaning. Unfortunately, they seem to have assumed the Stephen Colbert approach to current events. Truthiness is more important than truth. Instead of looking at things analytically, they’ve chosen to respond to fear. ‘Oh noes, gays serving in the military will be the end of our country. They want to build a mosque at Ground Zero? That means the terrorists have won. Everybody PANIC!’  It’s basic fear-based reasoning and anything to alleviate that fear is deemed a good idea.
Now don’t get me wrong, they have every right to post their “thoughts” (or more accurately, the talking points of whatever political leanings they have) online. I wouldn’t have it any other way (despite their continued insistence that anytime the website removes a post, they are violating that person’s First Amendment rights. Most don’t seem to grasp the concept that an organization removing their ramblings is not the same as the government punishing them for those ramblings.) In fact, I’m glad they post their thoughts, mostly because it’s fun to point and laugh, but it also makes finding the idiots easier when they’re willing to publicly expose themselves (in a non-sex offender way).

 *Based on my limited experience, I've found most commenters on newspaper websites to be among the most ill-informed people around, so it's possible I'm just reading the south Georgia chapter of Bizzaro Mensa. Because I don't read all newspapers and magazines, I'll defer to Sarah Palin on this issue.

Next Song: Sweet Child O' Mine
Artist: Guns N' Roses

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