I’ve noticed an interesting trend on the Internet. I don’t think what I’m about to address is confined to cyberspace, but there are certainly concrete examples popping up all over. I’m speaking of the movement of prominent opinion artists away from a discussion of ideas and into an echo chamber, where only their opinion matters. What gradually happens to many people who have such solitary focus is an almost fanatical devotion to their core principles, so much so that they eschew healthy analysis and instead start veering into cult of personality. There are many examples, so let me bring them to light.
- Bill Maher. I used to like Bill Maher. His show “Politically Incorrect” was a healthy debate forum, and he usually started the show with something snarky. However, as time progressed, he used his monologues as a self-righteous pulpit from which to preach, and he never allowed a following discourse from the guests to discuss the ideas in his monologues. As time progressed, Maher became more and more of an establishment liberal, and in doing so, has walked his self-righteous being into a state reserved for conspiracy theorists. Here he is on his show, looking to his guests for support, as he rambles about inoculations and mercury fillings. Strap in and enjoy this special kind of crazy (especially the “settled science” bit):
- Charles Johnson. I remember I used to have a good ol’ time a Little Green Footballs, reading the 700+ comments on a single post, and listen to Charles talk about the rise of Islamofacism in Europe. People like Robert Spencer (of JihadWatch) would stop by and contribute. But about two years ago, CJ started afoul of the White Nationalist movement in Europe, and he slowly drifted into some deranged paranoia, so much so he even banned Robert Spencer from his site for reasons I can’t readily explain (it’s logged on JihadWatch if you want to see the actions of a paranoid individual attacking a steadfast intellectual in Spencer). He started banning commenters for disagreeing with him. He’s done such a good job of discouraging debate, he now speaks to an echo chamber as their Grand Poobah. His loss of focus on Creationists drifted into “hate-mongers” at the Washington D.C. protest march. Look at these “hate-mongers” in this photo-essay of his and tell me– are all of these people foaming-at-the-mouth racists? I see people who are talking of revolution, not hate, because they fear their rights are being eroded. Somehow that gets translated into White Supremacy. And, of course, there is a Birther thrown in, as well as someone with a satirical sign (“Dr. Strangelove” anyone?) and someone stating that Barney Frank is a sexual deviant (which, given Frank’s track record on economic issues, should be the least of our concerns).
- Lee. I used to love Right Thinking from the Left Coast. I even sent money. Now, I don’t want to speak ill of the dead (Lee tragically passed away last year in China), but the blog seemed to lose its focus on a variety of topics and instead spent a lot of time on torture. In fact, Lee spent an inordinate amount of time on torture and why it was bad. After about the 100th post on torture, I had lost hope in the blog as a whole, and moved on to greener pastures. I enjoyed many of Lee’s posts before his torture obsession, and I miss the guy who made me laugh. I think that’s what got me the most– I stopped laughing, and reading someone so obsessed with the minutiae of a gray-area topic that it sucked the life out of anything else he was talking about, pretty much ruined the site for me. Rest in Peace, Lee, and I hope you find laughter wherever your Spaghetti Monster puts you.
- The Huffington Post and other liberal blogs. I used to love going to the Huffington post because I could effectively dismantle arguments of the bloggers there (and before you click to see my greatest hits, know that the comments have been under maintenance for about 2 years now). I even had the good fortune of being mentioned in a blog post by Jane Smiley (in which I am called arrogant for telling another commenter that she’s, ahem, a human). The meat and potatoes of a liberal commenter on a blog is the strawman, and it was so much fun knocking them down. Abortion debates were my specialty, and I had fun there, helping the confused sort come to rational decisions. However, out of the blue, one day I was banned. I had not violated any terms of service. But what I did was upset the Echo Chamber. I was persona-non-grata because I challenged them by bringing in debate. I rarely veered off topic, and I always discussed the merits of the post. But, at some point, I was too big of a thorn in the side, and my attempts to bring rational debate met with banning. I found a few other blogs, and even found William, the hardcore liberal, who would plagiarize posts from other places and claim them as his own. (When I routinely made him look stupid for blindly following the liberal talking points, he started attacking me personally.) But in those other blogs, I discovered a microcosm of people who simply found others who agreed with them, and would result to derivative dribble when debated. It’s come to a point where the Defenders of Academia are so locked into their liberal mindset that anyone who disagrees is the subject of ridicule, not debate (although some, like Maher, want to debate something that’s saved the lives of millions of people).
- And that brings us to the News. Conservatives love to point at the Mainstream Media and claim that they have a largely liberal bias. And who can blame them, when CNN runs a story with a psychiatrist calling conservatives cowed toadies? Who else would run with the video other than a network tailoring its news to its listeners– liberals. Is there any debate here, or is this just a story put together to make conservatives sound like angry ignoramuses who only do what are told by a bully?
What I’ve illustrated here is a disturbing trend within the Age of New Media. We are so connected that it’s not hard to go out and find people who agree with us, but to actually engage in argument forming debate is so uncomfortable that it is shunned and the opposition ridiculed. And in that echo chamber, we find people we once trusted are deteriorating into nothing more than conspiracy theorists with 50,000 daily counter hits.
We’re becoming a polarized nation, and it has nothing to do with Talk Radio, as it’s a product of the lack of debate found elsewhere. When the policies of indoctrination end in academics and the News, maybe we’ll see a thawing of the polarized viewpoint. But so long as people can find a safe haven to hear people agreeing without debate, we’ll never have this thaw. And to that end, the internet is not doing us any favors– it merely magnifies the ever-growing rift sown by the media and ideological blogs.
UPDATE: Charles Johnson is now surfing HotAir comments and posting them on the front page of his blog, trying to expose the “racism” inherent in the Right-o-Sphere. It takes a special kind of vindictiveness to surf the comments on a rival’s blog and use them to try and smear it. Essentially, because HotAir doesn’t spend the time prowling and banning people for possible racist comments, HotAir must itself condone all racism. (Or, maybe HotAir is just more tolerant of free speech, not just speech you agree with?)
Here’s a few examples of comments CJ has objections with:
Of course not, Oba-Mao is their messiah, he holds their Marxist ideologies every bit as dearly to his heart as they do their own. Were the founding fathers alive today, they would be hanging these ba$tards from the nearest Liberty Tree for treason. Benjamin Franklin would be spitting flames to see what his precious Fourth Estate has become.
doriangrey on October 21, 2009 at 8:18 AM
Like any good dictatorship the filthy lying coward in the White House will soon not allow unapproved media networks.
highhopes on October 21, 2009 at 8:34 AM
Unfortunately, we have a Marxist/Maoist Administration, a slavish Congress, and a Goebbels-esque Fourth Estate, who has destroyed the concept of objective reporting more than any other generation before it. The best defense is a good offense and sunlight is the best disinfectant. Remeber, Chavez, Mao, and Putin exercised containment of the media and control of the message, also.
kingsjester on October 21, 2009 at 8:39 AM
Yes, CJ actually thinks these are “extreme, hateful, racist, and/or violent”, and need to be banned and scrubbed from the HotAir comments. So believing a President to be Marxist who has surrounded himself with some clearly in-the-realm-of-communist leftists is now considered a banning offense, or a window into your racist soul? For someone who claims rationality, CJ is clearly moving into the realm of megalomania.
So, my recommendation to HotAir commenters — beware! CJ may attempt to shame you by posting your possibly “extreme, hateful, racist, and/or violent” comments on his website for all to see!