Glutton For Punishment: Cyber-Wars

A Typical Late Night

The story of my life

As I have written before, nothing enrages me more than stupid people on the internet. I hate reading an insightful article or opinion online then scroll down to the comments and see someone I KNOW is wrong discredit everything. I always get to pounding on my keyboard to put this unknown stranger into place and go away fuming and ranting to myself.  I promise myself to just stop reading comments, but then I find myself again reading the dumb things people say, getting upset, and losing faith in humanity. It’s a sadistic cycle that I and many others engage in regularly.

But why do I and many others do it every single time though we end up more frustrated than before and nothing changes? Well it’s because I think responding with reason will change that person’s mind, or embarrass them to the point that they will stop arguing. But it doesn’t.

Perfect example was the other night while I was on The Miami Herald site reading up on the last Florida state legislative session and there was an article about the new requirement that anyone receiving TANF benefits i.e. “welfare”, is required to take a drug test. Nothing was really wrong with that except requiring the people applying to pay for it (it should be free). What got me going was the  outdated “welfare queen” stereotype ladened tirades in the comments. Having read books and learned about welfare policy and the reality of the system, I felt it was my duty to deliver the facts. And I mean evidence too. I pulled up official sources on the amount of benefits received in the state of Florida, the requirements of TANF, and even did the number punching to demonstrate that is impossible by design to get rich off of TANF (though no one ever on welfare was ever living the “good life” under AFDC either) and that there is a high incentive to work.

Even after this long well thought out post with calculations and references embedded (with the links so they could see it for themselves), I got a “you must have relatives on welfare then since you know all of the stats.”  I might as well just typed jeiorqha;gfngazgvnafvb’fahhba’, because that person even confronted with hard evidence contrary to their view didn’t budge from their position that people receiving benefits are lazy and mooch off of tax payers instead of getting a job.

So the lesson is, don’t engage with people who hold illogical and irrational thought patterns. It is futile because all of the research and facts in the world that disproves their argument won’t change their mind.  People who take the time (like myself) to engage anonymous strangers on online forums going back and forth are the ones who feel the strongest and hold the most extreme views. You are better off focusing  on the rational more open-minded and moderate people you interact with in person. It’s way easier to sway someone in the middle to your side of thinking than it is to get someone to swing over from the opposite extreme.

Human Sex: The Never Ending [Non] Controversy

Well months have passed since I posted anything on here, but as a student I have so much work to do and so many different ways to procrastinate on doing that work, that it becomes difficult to do any meaningful blogging. But as this tumultuous academic year at Northwestern comes to a close, I have plenty of new material coming your way throughout the summer.

Now to get to down to business: let’s talk sex. Not just sex, but human sex. And not just human sex, but Human Sexuality, a course that was formally offered by the psychology department at Northwestern University. This past winter, the class and it’s professor caused quite the media stir for the live (excuse the language) fucksaw demonstration. The incident became probably the biggest overblown “controversy” in the history of Northwestern that tarnished this great institution’s name and because of this, the administration has decided to cancel the class for the next year and “review the curricula” to evaluate it’s importance. (Click here for the scoop)

As you imagine the announcement has riled the masses again with the most liberal students crying academic censorship, and the uber-conservative Midwestern oldies applauding a return to “good moral values in the classroom.” Letters are pouring into the campus publication proclaiming shame on Morty (the university president) for punishing the most controversial professor and denying students the opportunity to be uncomfortable. My reaction: get over it and go read a book.

Now as a pretty liberal person, I don’t think the class really had to be cancelled, as those who really have a problem with it and don’t see it’s utility to the non-repressed student who doesn’t have qualms talking about sex or their sexuality (like myself) wouldn’t take the class. And we are all legal adults and if it is legal for us to purchase porn and view it in this state, it should be legal to watch live if you so wish.  I also feel Robin Mathy has a vendetta against Bailey and is making it her life cause to destroy him. Whatever, I don’t particularly like Bailey myself, but I just disagree and move on.

But why is the class not being offered next year the end of the world? Why do people feel it is their only opportunity to be exposed to controversial and challenging opinions? All members of the Northwestern faculty are required to complete research/write books on their area of expertise; if you like Bailey so much, go and pick up a copy of his controversial book, The Man Who Would Be Queen, he advertises all of the time. Look up his research articles in the Northwestern Library system, they’re free for you to access and use to your heart’s content. Look up other people’s research on human sexuality. How about doing an independent study for credit if you need a class format to learn about a subject that interests you? All you need is an advisor and a reading list and you can go for it. If you don’t want to take advantage of those resources still available to you, then you obviously must not care that much about the course. They haven’t burned his books or fired him, and there is still the internet.

That’s the problem I have with the complaining. Learning doesn’t only happen in the classroom, the opportunities to learn and become passionate about an issue are all around. That is one of the most frustrating things about people today, they have to be spoon-fed everything and need someone else to make them learn instead of taking responsibility for their own enrichment. That’s why teachers are vilified and blamed for a failing education system, when most of the time we have the power to crack open a book and study, go to keynote speaker events, go to a museum, or freaking Google something. There are plenty of worthwhile classes and amazing professors capable of inspiring critical thinking, you know if you bother to put in the effort to think.

Online Commentary and the Apparent End of Human Decency

So as a young person, I spend 90% of my free time on my computer reading the news, blogging, Facebooking, and watching videos on Youtube and Hulu. I also read the comment sections to read the feedback that posted material is getting from users and I almost always end up losing a little bit of faith in humanity and our capacity to be reasonable and decent to one another.

Youtube is the most notorious for comment indecency. You can look at any music video for any popular artists and for every positive or rational comment, there are at least 100 defamatory, profanity-ridden, hate rants insulting the artist or people who just may like them. Popular feuds on Youtube are Christina vs. Gaga, Beyoncé vs. Ashanti, and on and on and on. Some users will even make a handle like “beyonceadumbslut666″ just for the sole purpose of visiting all of her videos and insult her.

And it isn’t only just music videos. Videos with a constructive purpose like the It Gets Better video found here is followed by tons of anti-gay hate speech. Now I don’t expect everyone to agree or be tolerant, but why would you go on a video that is suppose to be comforting and uplifting and really is targeting anyone who has ever been bullied or is being bullied and then take away from the positive vibe with inappropriate comments?

It gets more disheartening when you see hundreds of these appropriate comments and any feeling of advancement or progression for mankind is squashed, at least for me it is.

But then I remember, that though 200 or 2,000 hateful users seems like an insurmountable number, in a larger context, it really is insignificant and doesn’t reflect the majority. There are about 310.5 million people in this country, not all of which go on Youtube or read the paper online. Then even out of all the users who do, the good majority don’t even comment and are otherwise indifferent.

It’s like what Jon Stewart said when he was on Oprah (watch the segment here) that most normal, moderate, rational, and decent Americans are too busy living in the real world to go sit on the computer and insult people they don’t know and will never meet anonymously. It’s also true that the people with the most extreme views will put more effort into having their view heard than those who are more in the middle. (I’ll discuss maybe in another post the problem presented by both the extreme right and left).

So for those of you, who like me, feel that there is no hope for humanity when you read the comments under your favorite Ke$ha video (I don’t really like her BTW, but I don’t comment on her videos either) remember that all of those haters probably don’t have anything better to do with themselves and don’t represent the rest of mankind.

The First Thought: “Don’t It Always Seems to Go…”

One of our pow-wow/meditation huddles before heading to competition

…that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?”  The lyrics of “Big Yellow Taxi” have never rang more true than they do now at this time in my life. Saturday as I was crying about the “boiling” of the ‘Cats at the hands of Purdue, a much more joyous thing occurred about 1,000 miles south of Evanston on Florida’s Space Coast: my Alma mater Coral Reef Barracuda Band was named grand champion at the Merritt Island Marching Competition.

As my news feed was filled with jubilant status updates from my little ‘Cudas, I was taken back to that moment in time 3 years ago when Coral Reef was declared the grand champion and what it felt like to be apart of a group of individuals pushing each other and working as one to achieve a goal; to do something that mattered, even if it was just a high school marching band competition.

Band had been an integral part of my life for 7 years. During school, after school, weekends, summers; man I planned my vacations around band. “I can’t, I have practice/rehearsal/performance/competition,” was the story of my life. Band concerts, band camp, band picnics, band competitions.  In addition to the general frustration of having not much of a life outside of band, I had to deal with the inconsistency year in and year out with a revolving door of band directors, the BS band drama, and aggravating incompetence and lack of creativity from some of my peers and leadership.   I was Jan Brady but instead of “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha,” it was “band, band, band.”

It goes without saying that by the time senior year rolled around, I was ready to be done with it. I wanted to get out and get away from the band world and define myself as anything other than just a band kid. So I went off to journalism school, rejected the invitations of joining Northwestern’s marching band, and made a crop of non-band-kid friends who did non-band-related things. And my wants were fulfilled…for a little while.

As time went on, I really missed being in band, which isn’t a surprise seeing how it was practically my life for so long. But I didn’t just miss being in A band, I missed being in the Coral Reef Barracuda Band. I missed hanging out in the band hallway with all of my band friends. I missed goofing off in Wind Ensemble. I missed eating lunch in the band room. I missed band drama, band shenanigans, hidden rooms in the ceiling, warm-up block, running drill, marching into pep rallies, football games, competitions, and bus rides. I missed seeing my favorite people everyday. I missed having that core group of people that I could count on for anything (well almost anything).

Now, I’m not completely miserable in college. I have a large and diverse pool of friends, even if we aren’t all pulled together by one major commonality. I have the opportunity to take advantage of a wide variety experiences that are offered at my world class school located in a world-class city (or near I should say, as Evanston is FAR from world-class anything-_-). But until I find some club or cause to really devote my spare time to and satisfy this longing to be apart of something greater than myself, I’ve “paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

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