Jan 122012

A response to Ms Drag0nista is warranted, methinks.

Paula Matthewson – to use her real world name, and it’s the real world impacts of her piece I’ll be addressing here – wrote this piece for The Drum recently. Cool kids not being cool anymore, progressives who once held sway – over what I’m unsure – and a new wave of nastiness sweeping social media. Paula, I have to tell you, it’s all so yesterday, my dear. The inter-webs have always been a dangerous place for the opinionated, out-spoken and overly sensitive inhabitant.

You have an opinion, you like to express it and Letters-to-the-Editor are so old hat. So, what to do? You look for places on Ye Olde Inter-Webs where like-minded persons – opinionated souls who like to express themselves – gather. They used to be called Bulletin Boards. That’s really early times for the inter-webs, so I’ll update a little. BB’s became ‘Discussion Forums’, which is a nicer name than ‘Skidmark Repository’, which is what these defined areas of the ‘net quickly became. One need only have a read of “Politics and Current Affairs” or “Debate & Relate” to understand what I mean. Discussion Forums, at least the half-way decent ones, have rules of engagement. The Do’s and Don’ts of exchanging polite if robust opinion with your fellow human beings across a medium where nothing is real, save for the opinions being expressed. Those opinions, at least on the boards I’ve been a part of, and am still a part of, must be substantiated usually by a linked URL pointing to conclusive support for one’s standpoint. Rules are fine, and moderators – or forum police – do exist to ensure that the rules are followed. Trouble is, in my experience, those same moderators also have opinions and are not as objective as they ought to be, in most cases. The ultimate outcome being that you wind up with a biased board that will eventually piss off a number of members who will leave, the board folds and the dregs eddy into a cesspool of their own to whinge bitterly about this person or that person until it all fades away.

That was ‘then’. Now we have social media. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and even Diaspora*, although the latter two seem far more civilised, or at least self-regulating than Ye Olde Skidmark Repositories. Paula – @Drag0nista if you’re looking for her on Twitter – focuses on that medium which strangely seems to have taken on what some believe to be the mantle of debate forum. Paula’s piece talks in terms of debate quite a lot, but seriously, 140 characters, which includes spaces and punctuation, does not allow for cogent or rational debate in the truest sense. In my view anyway. Debate on the ‘net requires a poster to give serious consideration to what he/she writes, how it’s written, whether it even makes sense and can sustain its author’s arguments. The requirement to link to appropriate URL/s is mandatory if one is even slightly serious about making ones point. But alas, there are all too few who really understand what cogent, rational discussion is all about. I harken back to my comment about nothing being real, save for the opinions being expressed. It’s true, and this is where the concept of logical fallacy comes into play. Specifically, ad hominem – the attack against the author, not against the opinion. Playing the man, not the ball. One need only observe the Twitter hashtag #auspol to understand what I mean. Opinions are expressed, challenged, the challenger receives personal abuse & whatever passes for conversation devolves from there. This isn’t debate. This sort of thing is back of the pub, Friday night, pissed-as-a-newt-and-chundered-twice-already-but-give-me-another-anyway gibberish. However, in defence of @Drag0nista, she claims not to have allowed #auspol to darken her existence for a considerable period of time, so whatever it is she’s run up against when trying to express herself is pure & simple bastardry.

And I’ll reiterate for the slow among us. The internet is NOT real. The people who appear on it in social media environments are NOT real. They are sheltered workshop facsimiles of a person who is hiding behind a keyboard. Twitter, is NOT a debate forum. Twitter has no rules, other than the self-protection mechanisms spouted by it’s creators and hosts. Twitter looks after itself and has no interest in regulation of what it’s inhabitants do, write or how they treat each other. To inhabit such an environment and expect one’s fellow inhabitants to all behave in a prescribed manner just because one intends to do so one’s self, is naivety personified. In my view. You can NOT expect to logically engage another human being in rational debate within the confines of 140 characters. The very idea simply does NOT make sense.

Which brings me to the real crux of Paula’s piece, the internet Troll. There are a myriad of definitions on Ye Olde Inter-webs about this creature. Here’s just a couple. I’ve written before on this tome about the trolls that inhabit Twitter. One in particular. What drives these people quite simply escapes me. What they do is plainly evident of boredom, even an intellectually deficient lifestyle. It’s easy to be a troll, hell, I’ve even indulged from time to time for shits & giggles, but frankly, the rise is so short-lived as to not last past the first sip of the first beer of the evening. The troll in the aforementioned post does what he does on Twitter for hours at a time, all of it personal abuse, and for what I ask? Surely, such behaviour, especially from a 43 year old, single white male, a software author, living in a 2 bedroom flat with a male flatmate, speaks volumes about the individual concerned. There’s a line from the Fawlty Towers episode, “The Psychiatrists” which is quite fitting, I think.

“There’s enough material there for an entire conference” . ‘nuff said.

Debate on the internet belongs entirely within the realm of places where Paula Matthewson – alias @Drag0nista – has posted her thoughts, upon which this post is made in response. A weblog. The difference between this tome, and where Paula was invited to write is only the host & site owner. Paula wrote on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s blog site, The Drum. Jonathon Green hasn’t seen fit to invite me to do likewise, so I respond from my own domain. Waddayano-dot-org is mine. I own it, I make the rules and I express my opinions here, as I do elsewhere, without fear or favour. Those who wish to engage me can freely do so via the comments box, just as those who responded to Paula’s piece did. The ABC moderates their comments, I moderate mine. THIS is where debate happens. In a regulated environment, free from distortion, free from disruption to the flow of ideas. Social media is a fad. A feel-good environment which has come, and will go while maintaining a hardcore of avid followers. Internet Relay Chat (IRC) – the very first kind of social media – evolved and devolved in exactly the same manner. There is no substitute for considered text, written from the heart AND the mind, with cogency, relevance and feeling. Internet ‘nastiness’ is nothing new, it’s human nature. ‘You don’t think like me, ergo, you’re to be silenced’. Think Caligula. Think the Roman Catholic Church. Think Stalin. Think Adolph Hitler. Think Pol Pot. I could go on & on. It’s who we are and what we do. Thankfully, we never quit as a species. Thankfully, the smaller minds will always lose out to the bigger picture.

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