21st Century Haterade

There is an epidemic circulating these days, and unless you live under a rock you likely will fall victim to it sooner or later (if you haven’t already). The relatively newfound interconnectivity people have with each other due to social media and the like has made it possible for dialogues that even ten years ago wouldn’t have been possible. Soccer moms can chat with other soccer moms on Facebook about how their kids are more primed for the big time than their coaches seem to comprehend. Wives to be can Pinterest their favorite wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses to demonstrate for all the world just how superfluously tasteful they plan to be in the upcoming months. Sorostitutes can Instagram their favorite pouty poses and cleavage shots in Cancun to make Greek America jealous for a week or so. And so on.

But while these awesome new trends may seem reason enough to welcome ourselves happily into the new millennium, there is one facet of it all that makes this wannabe reporter cringe every time it occurs. The speed of our networking allows not only for people to express their views about whatever may be on their minds, but also for detractors, hiding in the cyber weeds ready to pounce, to tell everyone why the views are wrong (and make themselves feel that much smarter, cooler, and good looking in the process). Put simply, horses have never been as high as they seem to be these days, and quite frankly, it annoys the living shit out of me.

Here’s a recent example from my own experience. I’m currently reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Why? Because I’ve heard it’s an interesting book, it has achieved canonical status over the past few decades in American lit, and because I fucking felt like it. If you will excuse my obvious annoyance at having to explain myself for the moment, hopefully the rest of this brief story will help it all to make sense eventually.

About a third of the way through what has so far been a very fun to read book, I came across a quote that struck me as both poignant and hilarious. So as a good disciple of the Internet age, I posted it on Facebook. Here’s what I wrote, verbatim:

“Keating leaned back with a sense of warmth and well-being. He liked this book. It made the routine of his Sunday morning breakfast a profound spiritual experience; he was certain that it was profound, because he didn’t understand it.”

Ayn Rand, putting pretentious pseudo-intellectuals on blast since 1943.

If you can’t see why I found this hysterical, you need to get your sense of humor checked out. It’s a good quote, it makes fun of people who in my mind deserve to be made fun of, and it’s easy to understand. So I threw it online for people to enjoy it along with me. That was it. Story ends, right? Not even close. Within minutes I had a response comment from a former colleague in graduate school saying:

“Good thing her argument that A=A entails that all truths are necessary is understood by her followers.”

Jesus Christ. That was my first thought, anyway. My second thought was to explain what I thought should have been obvious–namely that my finding a quote funny shouldn’t implicate me in the funny person’s philosophical agendas from the following decades. But rather than do that, I went back to my trusty standby and responded snarkily without ever really taking the comment seriously. Sixteen messages later, the discussion was over (but not, I might add, before the commenter plead with himself on his own page not to get into “fights with friends on Facebook.”)

The point of this is not to belittle my social media detractor. I don’t hold any ill-will, and I hope he doesn’t either. But the fact that I can’t be sure whether he would “forgive” me for something like this is exactly what I’m talking about in the first place. Why in the hell is it more fashionable to try and rip someone apart than to leave it alone, especially when doing so requires twisting words in the first place? How is this gratifying? Who was being harmed by my quote? If this is what it takes to win intellectual pissing contests, consider me a dribbler.

And even when supposed “harm” might be involved in inspiring someone to sip the haterade and rant, it seems that the usual assumptions of, say, using facts in your argument have gone out the window. Here is another example of what I’m talking about.

“Kristen,” a friend and former grad colleague as well, is the writer and editor of a blog that focuses in large part on the legitimacy of home birthing and doula relationships. Here’s what I know about what it takes to give birth: not much, beyond having my hand almost ripped off by my wife when she was having our son. Here’s what I know about home birthing: not much, beyond reading Kristen’s entertaining stories. Here’s what I know about being a doula: not much, beyond reading Kristen’s entertaining stories. And finally, here’s what I know about Kristen: she’s incredibly smart, obviously a great mother, obviously a beloved doula, obviously a great writer, and has been nothing but supportive to me in my blogging and other similar endeavors. (Check her stuff out here if you’re interested.)

I mention all of this because just recently, a well-known blogger named “Dr. Amy” decided–apparently on her day off no less–to dedicate an entire post to the dangers of Kristen’s ideas and ideals. Fair enough–giving birth is a serious and potentially dangerous ordeal, so if you truly believe that home birthing is problematic, that warrants a response. But here’s the problem–interspersed in the out of context ramblings against Kristen’s posts, Dr. Amy decided to throw in comments like this gem (about Kristen): “YOU aren’t radically unique. You are the gullible, woefully undereducated woman who thinks reading books for laypeople is ‘research;’ who has probably never read a single scientific paper in its entirety…(and are) the typical homebirth advocate, risking her baby’s life for no better reason than your personal experience.”

Damn. Pretty harsh stuff. Except for one small problem: none of it is true. The fact that Kristen is where she is in both the blogging and doula world makes her pretty unique, especially given where she started. Which was by getting her doctorate in philosophy. Which, last I checked, kind of negates the whole “uneducated and never reading research papers” thing. And while I can’t speak directly to her level of gullibility, I can say that she is savvy enough to pay her children off in order to have ten minutes to get it on with her husband. So that has to count for something, right?

(Very) long story short, there are too many people out there who would rather spend their time attempting to create stupidity in others and exploiting it than creating something positive of their own and honoring it. This bothers me, especially as a true hater of stupidity in my own right. There is plenty of real nastiness out there to show off your medula oblongpenis with. Don’t waste your (and my) time with the rest.

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