Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tea Party in the Cafeteria

All too often, we form our political affiliations the way we made friends back in junior high. It's all about who we want to sit beside in the cafeteria.

But we are supposed to be grownups. We graduated from junior high school long ago, and it's about time we started to act like it. When we're kids, we avoid doing anything we don't absolutely feel like doing: eating our vegetables, doing our homework, hanging out with the dorks. As adults, we are supposed to learn that there's a whole, big world full of different people out there, and hard tasks that must be done whether we like them or not. We have to learn that we can't always have everything our way.

It's hard for us to learn that, and many of us never seem to. I haven't always lived up to my own advice.

During the enthusiasm over Obama in 2008, and especially after my unethical sacking by the last company I worked for, I got sucked into the junior high mentality once again. All my friends -- the cool kids, with whom I liked to hang -- fell for Obama. They told me that libertarians were dweebs, that Obama was the savior of the nation, and that big corporations (by which, they generally meant, the entire free enterprise system) were evil. I was genuinely scared of what Boy Bush might have done to the country, and when I was dishonestly downsized out of my livelihood by yet another scummy company, I especially welcomed the consolations of my friends.

I began to think that libertarians might not be as smart as I'd thought they were. My friends all thought they were the uncool kids, and didn't want them sitting at their table. The very few actual, flesh-and-blood libertarians I knew -- jerky young guys who fit the stereotype those who dislike libertarians tend to have of them -- were no help. I came to them with questions, and instead of recognizing my questions as an opportunity to clear up misconceptions, they saw them as a threat. All I got from them was arrogant put-downs of my friends, and of myself for having dared to challenge their dogmas. They didn't want me to sit at their table, either.

Foolish as I was, my enthusiasm eventually came to a crashing end. Though my friends are still telling me how much Obama has "on his plate right now," and blaming everything on Bush, I have come to realize that the libertarians predicted almost everything that has happened in the past year. To limit my contact with them to a few jerky guys was a mistake.

I went back to reading, reached out to a wider circle of libertarians, and rediscovered the truth I had so prematurely abandoned. In short, I remembered that I'm an adult, living in the grownup world, and that junior high school is over. I have a responsibility to act like it, and never has that been more urgent than now.

I still love my friends, but I realize I don't have to think like them on every subject. I'm making new friends -- not instead of the others, but in addition to them -- and broadening my horizons. And I'm confident I'm moving in the right direction.

I'm even considering getting involved in the Tea Party movement. My friends gasp -- how dweeby of me! Don't I know who "those people" are?

They come, actually, in a wide variety. There are Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians (capital "L" and small), straights, gays, Christians, Jews, freethinkers -- you name it. They are united only by the urgent need to take the country back from the politicians and restore limited government, preserve the Constitution and protect the American way of life.

Are there people in the movement at whose table I wouldn't want to sit? Of course there are. Some of them are certifiable loons. But the only way the loons can take over the whole movement will be if all the sane people -- which is to say, the great majority -- leave it to them.

Of course there are unscrupulous operators trying to infiltrate it and take it over. The only surprise in this is that so many people are surprised by it. Any time a movement really takes off, manipulative people are going to come along to try and hijack it. If we abandon the venture simply because of this, we will never be able to accomplish anything. The only sort of movement sharp operators won't be tempted to jump into and try to take over is one that isn't going anywhere.

We have never more urgently needed to lose the junior high school mentality and act like grownups. If you think all the founders of this country got along like buds, you need to go back and read some history. If they'd behaved like the Mean Girls in the cafeteria, this country would never have gotten off the ground.

Again, I'm leaving up all the posts on this Blog that now embarrass me -- all the ones that, when I read them over now, make me cringe. They are a record of my journey to the present, and I think they are instructive. But it's important for me to make sense of them in light of what I have learned since. Our society has become so childish that it's no disgrace to be affected by the madness every once in a while. The important thing is to recognize what's going on -- and be strong enough to rise above it.

I was able to do this before it was too late for me. I can only hope and pray that enough other Americans will do the same.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Another Et Cetera on Trolling

Why do some bloggers give certain trolls free rein? Sometimes they do so out of a misguided conviction that ALL free speech is equally important. The problem with this is that if the trolls express opinions with which they disagree, those folks are either banned or spiritedly disagreed with by the freedom-loving bloggers. When they let a troll rampage freely without ever challenging what is said, I can only conclude it's because they agree with them.

"American Elephant" is so dishonest that he twists people's words around to mean something completely different than what they said. I remarked, on one commentary thread, that I did not believe gays and lesbians should pay high legal fees in order to safeguard relationships that the State protects for straights. He then turned around and tried to claim I'd said that he should pay my legal fees! There was simply no way any honest (or sane) person could have gotten that from what I said. "American Elephant" is, himself, a liar.

I also repeatedly -- REPEATEDLY -- stated that I don't believe the State should subsidize ANYONE'S relationship by taking more in taxes from singles, gay or straight, so that married people (gay or straight) can get tax breaks because of their status. There was absolutely no way any reasonable, or even rational, person could have mistaken my meaning. "Elephant" responded by repeatedly mischaracterizing what I said. He kept trying to claim that I wanted straight taxpayers to "subsidize" gay relationships.

Again, this guy is a liar. He is exactly what he keeps calling me. He is slandering me, and this is a legally actionable offense. In another age, he would have been called out for it in a fistfight or a duel. When I pointed this out to him, of course he resorted to the standard troll trick of claiming I was threatening violence against him.

He knew very well what I was saying. Again and again, "American Elephant" is a lying son of a bitch. It is far more likely that (if he had the gumption) he is the one who would stalk me than the other way around.

I called attention to the fact that I was using my own, full name in my posts. I told him I live in Phoenix, Arizona, and that I'm well known in the local GLBT Christian community. I assured him that if he wanted to take the matter up with me face-to-face, he would have no trouble doing so. Of course, being the lily-livered coward that he is, he then backed down and went into whine-mode about how I was supposedly threatening him. This is what liars and cowards do.

I have since informed him that I believe him to be a phony, and that I'm not the only person in the blogosphere with an incentive to expose his real identity and who he is working for. That, indeed, WAS a threat -- and I fully intend to make good on it if he persists in harassing me.

It's entirely up to the bloggers at Gay Patriot to determine whether they will ban him. He must express a lot of opinions with which they agree, since they never seem to challenge him on anything he says.

The only issue on which even "Elephant" and I seem to disagree is that of same-sex marriage. I don't believe that the State should be in the business of regulating private relationships or using the tax-code to manipulate individuals' behavior. He seems to feel the need to mischaracterize my viewpoint as "progressive" liberal, rather than libertarian, because he knows how to argue with the former and cannot intelligently deal with the latter. His own views on same-sex marriage are actually socialist, which I have also pointed out many times, and of course all he can do is go on lying about what I've said and impotently spluttering that he is not a socialist.

I intend to return to commenting on posts at Gay Patriot. Sooner or later, I will probably be banned, but I will never submit to censorship. Cynthia Yockey of A Conservative Lesbian seems to have declared war on Gay Patriot, but I am not interested in doing that. As I have stated in a previous post, my only real quarrel with that blog is that it permits one particular troll to indulge in blatant lying while he hurls the charge of "liar!" at others. It's up to each blogger to determine what he or she will allow, and that's not a choice I can make for any other blogger.

But again, if you permit that sort of crap, it makes you look as if you agree with it. Unless you state otherwise, which -- to my knowledge -- Gay Patriot doesn't. When one of your commenters baldly lies, and then calls others liars in a particularly stupid and childish attempt to obfuscate his own lying, it makes your blog look bad if you allow it.

It isn't going to be tolerated here. I still hope to build up readership for this Blog, and when I do, the same basic standard of common decency, and common sense, that applies to every other form of discourse will apply here. You will not be permitted to hide behind an alias and indulge in behavior that would get you horsewhipped, shot or sued in the real world. Nor, if anyone points this out, will you be permitted to wet your panties and squeal about how they are, supposedly, threatening you.

You need to be housebroken here. I don't ask much, but at the very least I demand that.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Further Thoughts on Trolling

I must reiterate that trolling is one of the biggest threats to continuing freedom of speech on the Internet. As regular users of the Net, we need to understand how to deal with it. From time to time, on this Blog, I will post my ideas on how we might do this.

One of the most common epithets hurled by trolls, at those with whom they disagree, is "liar." They don't seem to understand what the word means, but that doesn't stop them from using it, and the reason is obvious. It's nasty, and it smears their targets. The fact that they often misuse the word, and that simple recourse to a dictionary would clear that problem up, does not seem to concern them. Their very purpose is not to illuminate the truth, but to obfuscate it -- which, of course, makes THEM the actual liars.

A "liar" is not merely someone who says something you believe to be untrue. The standard required to meet the definition of "liar" is higher than that. A "liar" is someone who KNOWS that what they're saying is untrue, and who is therefore saying it with the purpose of misleading.

If you disagree with someone because he or she has said something you regard as false, the only way you can know for sure if this person is a liar is if you can read their mind. If this person sincerely believes whatever he or she is saying -- regardless of the fact that you consider their statement untrue -- that does not make him or her a "liar." People who say things that aren't true, but that they believe to be true, are mistaken, and in some cases perhaps even stupid -- but they are not liars.

I suppose there is a second way of knowing if people who say untrue things are liars, and that would be if you can show they indicated elsewhere that they knew better. You would then provide the quote, or preferrably the link, that demonstrated this. This is by no means an impossible task, but most of those who scream "liar!" in every quarrel are too lazy (or too dishonest themselves) to attempt it.

Small children often holler "liar!" at other kids in their playground quarrels. This is because they don't yet know the meaning of the word. It may also be because it sounds really bad, thereby making them feel better. Children can be excused for doing this, because they just don't know any better. Those on the Internet, who are supposed to be adults, have no excuse for not knowing better.

What the shouters of "liar!" are really revealing about themselves is that they are too insecure in their own convictions to risk a real debate. Not only are they very likely liars themselves, but they are also cowards. Next time somebody screams "liar!" at you on a blog commentary thread, remember that the best way to counter their idiocy is to call them out on it.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Slaying Trolls

I am still trying to free up enough time out of the process of establishing myself as a professional freelance writer to perfect this Blog and bring in more readers. Please bear with me, you dear and gentle few, as I do that.

One problem I have not had much of, yet, on this Blog -- simply because I do not post enough to keep a large regular readership -- is that of trolling. When the happy day arrives that I have enough regular readers to be assailed by trolls, I intend to deal with the problem differently than many bloggers do. I think a lot of them are too tolerant of this nuisance, which is really worse than merely a nuisance.

I will insist that persistent trolls identify themselves by their real names, as well as by location. Does this place them in danger? I must say that I don't care. The odds that anyone would track them down and go postal on them are significantly less than the near-certainty that cowardly trolling will destroy the freedom of the blogosphere.

If you feel you must hide your identity, you are actually aiding and abetting the very sort of people who might track commenters down and try to harm them. It is by standing up to these people that you can defeat them -- and there is no other way it can be done. A common troll trick is to claim those who confront them are threatening violence against them -- but as my identity is right out there front and center, that is obviously the last thing I could or would be dumb enough to do. They are the ones in the position of tracking people down with the intent to do violence -- which they well know, may indeed be part of the reason they hide their identity as they do, and even may be why the notion of doing such a thing comes so readily into their minds.

I use my own name when I comment on blogs. Just as it is visible -- along with my home city of Phoenix, Arizona -- on this Blog. Why do I do this? Because I believe it is important to be accountable for the remarks I make. If people don't agree with me, they know where to find me.

You don't need to remain anonymous in order to express yourself. As a matter of fact, by hiding behind a cyberspace alias, you cheapen and devalue every view you express. If nobody knows who you really are, for whom you may be working, or where you're located, then why the hell should they really care what you think? You're a nobody, floating around in the flotsam of nothingness.

Over at Gay Patriot right now, there is a very obnoxious and persistent troll calling himself "American Elephant." He has a blog, which my fellow-blogger Cynthia Yockey of A Conservative Lesbian believes to be nothing but a fake. It certainly seems, to me, that even if it expresses his real views (and I have no reason to believe it doesn't), he compromises the credibility of everything he has to say by hiding his real identity when he comments on blogs.

I think he's working for some fundamentalist church or far-Right social conservative organization, probably for pay. Unlike those of us who must toil every day for a living, he certainly seems to have a lot of free time to post his bilge. Unless he's still living in his parents' basement (I suppose, a distinct possibility with this type), he is on somebody's payroll. Those who read Gay Patriot have a right to know whose it is.

Generally speaking, I disagree with those who say Gay Patriot is a "self-hating" blog. We ought to be careful applying that label to others on the gay Right, because there will be those who will also use it on us. I have found much on that blog that is very worthwhile, and have enjoyed both reading and commenting there. But skulkers and back-shooters like the cowardly "Elephant" are poisoning the discourse there.

Those of us he keeps attacking are beginning to unite against this sort of crap, and sooner or later we will find out who he is and for whom he is working. Then we will expose him. This may take some time and effort, but it must be done for the sake of honest discourse. It is crucial that the blogosphere remain dedicated to freedom of expression. But when that freedom is abused by cowards who sneak around lying and attacking others, it sets the stage for the busybodies who have already started coming out of the woodwork with proposals to regulate Internet speech. If free speech in the blogosphere is regulated, the blame must largely be borne by people like "Elephant."

Perhaps that's exactly what they want. If so, shouldn't the rest of us know it?