“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a
chance to get its pants on.”– Winston Churchill
I’ve received lots of tweets, emails and blog comments in support of the things I write but I’ve also received some that take exception to it. I don’t have a problem with that. As I have written before, I welcome debate and differing opinions but while the odd differing opinion has been reasoned and thought through, most of it is simply to call me an idiot, or words to that effect.
Today I was called a capitalist ‘lickspittle’ and even if I wasn’t 100% sure I knew what a capitalist lickspittle was, I was pretty sure it was much more than simply being an idiot.
I have noticed, over the past while, that people who feel their opinions are threatened increasingly turn to name calling rather than debate on the issues or the facts, as the best they can do in response to something with which they don’t agree.
It isn’t unique to any one group and is as prevalent in the 1% ad it is in the 99%; on the left and as it is on the right. I consider it less an insult and more an indication of how poorly thought through on the issues most name-callers are and how insecure they are about their position. Either that or it is simply a belief bordering on fanaticism that makes them so intolerant and strident.
Everything is personal now and few can look at any issue objectively or debate it civilly on the facts and there is an ever decreasing respect for the opinions of others and for their right to hold them and voice them.
If you challenge an environmentalist on the science of climate change or present an alternative point of view, many blow a gasket and rather than discuss the science, accuse you of ruining the planet or being an apologist for the energy corporations.
If you dare to question President Obama’s four year record, you are accused of smearing the precious movement or you get a barrage of messages accusing you of being a liar, a racist, a corporate running dog or…a capitalist lick spittle.
Liberals attack conservatives calling them Nazis and fascists and conservatives return the favour calling liberals…well…Nazis and fascists or sometimes communists and socialists which usually means the same thing to whoever is doing the name calling. Accuracy of language is irrelevant. It’s all about the level of insult and I’ve seen posts from both sides of the political divide that accuse each other of basically the same thing.
Anti-Islamic rhetoric is spreading like a prairie brush fire and radical Muslim rhetoric borders on psychopathic. Meanwhile, some atheists attack all religions and people of faith with the same fanaticism as any religious extremist attacks non-believers.
The simple fact is that there have always been extreme viewpoints and those who were only too willing to share them but we used to see that and dismiss it for what it was. Most of us were able to carry on reasonably civil debates and discussions about issues but that is fading.
The Internet has opened up an entirely new venue for communicating. Everyone feels empowered now. Everyone is a publisher and everyone has an opinion. The odd thing to me is that while the Internet has provided a place that offers easy access to all of the world’s collective knowledge, too many simply use it as a means to find only that which supports their pre-existing opinions.
If you believe that vaccinations cause autism, you’ll find lots to support that on the Internet even though the science behind that opinion has been proven to be a fraud. And that’s the other problem with the Internet, not only is it possible to find whatever we need to support our opinions, it’s equally easy to avoid any information which might contradict them.
Psychologists call it confirmation bias which is the process whereby we only seek out and accept that information that confirms what we already believe to be true.
Whether it is out of fear of the truth or because too much of our personal self-concept is tied up in the opinions we have, we are increasingly unwilling to examine all sides of an issue and are only willing to accept what supports what we already believe. It’s almost as though we are threatened by contradictory opinion and unwilling to change ours in the face of new facts. We don’t want to be wrong or even to learn.
We are also far less willing to continue to examine facts as they evolve, especially if they threaten our existing opinions. We resist change to what we believe and reject any fact or opinion that might criticize or undermine it.
As a result, we are divided, not by fact or even by beliefs, but by uninformed opinion. We are divided by anger and insecurity but mostly we are divided because we don’t listen to each other, we talk over each other and ignore those we can’t shout down or convert.
The Internet opened up a world of instant connection to anyone world-wide and a source of information never before experienced but we are squandering its power, Like our democracies, we have trivialized the opportunity to debate by degenerating down to yelling, to vulgarity and to name calling. Our ability to communicate with more people than ever before, and our access to all of the world’s knowledge, hasn’t opened us up to a broader understanding; it has made us more closed minded.
On the Internet, we enjoy a certain level of anonymity that empowers us even further. It helps to hide us from accountability for our comments and our actions and so we become enabled to shout out opinions without the messy responsibility of informing ourselves first. Typically there will always be a few who will share our opinion or who are easily influenced to believe what we do which only enables our uninformed beliefs even more. It’s odd though that we never stop to consider that we don’t really know those people, they’re just avatars in a profile and words on a screen. Nonetheless, if they support our opinion, they become our friend and anyone who doesn’t support our opinion becomes the enemy.
It is the New Jerusalem but not the restored and beautiful city prophesied in Ezekiel. This is an ugly New Jerusalem where opinion is more important than fact, a world where knowledge is less relevant than what we want to believe. We are losing the understanding that honest debate is one of the most effective ways to learn. Our values are being eroded into selfish, self-righteous opinion what is making us increasingly intolerant of the opinions of those with whom we disagree and even permits us to lash out and do harmful and hurtful things to them as if, somehow their lack of agreement with us makes them less human or deprives them of the same rights we demand for ourselves.
It seems a damn shame to me but then, I’m a capitalist lickspittle. What would I know about it?
© 2011 Maggie’s Bear
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