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September 25, 2011 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Are you ruining the Internet?

Politics and social media are like air and fire—both are neccessary, but combining the two only make both worse.

This extends beyond the political parties themselves; they are selling a product and it makes sense for them to utilise any and all ad space available. They are not the true threat to social media, their supporters are.

“When you go to the zoo and you see a monkey throwing poop, you go, “that’s what monkeys do, what are you gonna do?” But what I wish the media would do more frequently is say “bad monkey.”

This quote is from Jon Stewart who was arguing that the media was being unresponsive to the failures of politicians and that a form of comfortable Nihilism had set in around the reporting of these political failures. He may have a point, but countering this is a universe of twitterers and trollers whose reactionary streak is inflamed by seemingly anything, and who refuse to debate on, or about, anything substantive. This is because the internet is seen by many as so divorced from the real world that what happens on it will not have any ramifications in the real world. They are wrong

How do you know if you are ruining the internet?

Substance can be subjective, but there are certain common traits of the type of lazy debating seen on the Internet. Here are a few:

Taking an argument anywhere just to win it—Whether by Godwin’s Law or pure stupidity, when someone fears the momentum in a debate is turning against them they will change the subject to something they feel better prepared to argue, even if the correlation between that and the original point is almost nonexistent.

Unrelated previous failures/controversies—Like the ‘taking an argument anywhere just to win it’ technique, this strategy involves making up for one’s lack of anything worthwhile to say by pointing to previous, but not at all connected, failures that this person had as proof that they are incapable of being right. This has the added effect of allowing the hack in this situation to dismiss any point you make, no matter how valid.

Ad hominem—Going on the offensive because you have nothing intelligent to say is a staple of the lazy-but-opinionated crowd. Calling your political opposite an offensive word for the female anatomy or calling them racist/sexist/homophobic/etc without any proof of the validity of your accusation is all too common in these partisan online arguments. It’s dirty, callous, and entirely out of line, but it has the added effect of rallying any like minded reactionaries who are looking for an excuse to behave poorly.

Why would someone ruin the internet?

One word: Signalling.

In contract theory, signalling is the idea that an employer will state a skill or level of proficiency they require from a potential employee, thereby attracting people with those skills to apply. In partisan Internet trolling, people use similar statements to show their loyalty to a party, ideology, or social group. This can come in the form of Facebook likes, events, or just using the above strategies to attack people who don’t agree with them. Far from being irrational—though it does stem from desperation and an unhealthy attachment to what others think of them—this type of behavour is often calculated and part of a greater goal—to convince others that you hold these beliefs and that this makes you better than them/in the same boat as them.

Next time you see one of your friends has joined ‘John Key is a ’ or any other non-positive partisan group, just remember that this is all a show.
When you go to the zoo and you see a monkey throwing poop, you go, ‘that’s what monkeys do, what are you gonna do?’ But what I wish people would do more frequently is ask themselves ‘why did I come to the zoo?’


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  1. Yo, Haimona, u tellin’ me that trollin Herman Cain’s FB; hollerin that he aint but a trick and a Collin Powel-mozarella cheese smelling niggah is triflin?

    Or if it’s true and you can back your shit up its aight?
    I swear that Uncle Tom motherfucker likes white women too:

    G’s up!

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