Monday, February 4, 2013

The Party in the Plastic Bubble

BubbleBoyI was intrigued this past weekend to see the start-up of a new social community website. I won’t give it any publicity here by even mentioning its name, but it caters to those who are politically right wing. It seems that the folks who began this site, and those who are embracing it, feel that they are subject to “liberal bullying” on sites like Facebook. Some tell tales of being reported and banned on Facebook, so they feel they have found their Interwebz “home.”

First of all, Facebook doesn’t easily ban people. If you post nudie pics, you’ll probably be warned to cut it out (but I’m guessing these folks aren’t into nudie least not publicly). If you post hate speech or pictures that show abuse, you will be banned. If you advocate violence, you will be banned. But you really have to be pretty in-your-face about it before they ban you. I’ve reported racist pages, and it’s hard to get them removed. So I’m not sure what these right wing folks have been doing in order to get banned from Facebook, but it couldn’t have been by posting pictures of kittens, okay?

Out of morbid curiosity, I checked out the page. Based on what I saw there, I would guess that some of them may have been banned for hate speech or for advocating treason. There are people there who think it would be a fine idea to kill all the gays. There are some who think it would be an equally fine idea to take up arms against the federal government, apparently not understanding that that is the definition of treason. There are a whole bunch who like to post photoshopped (or as one person put it, “photobombed”) pictures of the President, and like to speak of his wife as “Moochelle.” Well, I guess there’s no law against grade school humor, is there?

I don’t doubt that there are people there who genuinely love our country. We just have different opinions on what that means and how we want to solve our problems...even what our problems ARE, for that matter. I don’t demonize folks like that. I just recognize that we have a difference of opinion. I’m afraid that not too many of them would feel the same way about me, though. I’m one of those “libtards” they like to talk about, and they seem to think that I’m a socialist. (I do not think that word means what they think it means.) And for the record, although I have plenty of friends who like to use terms like “Republitards,” I try to stay away from such name-calling. I do sort of like “teahadist,” though.

Anyway, this site is one of those mildly amusing things to me, like an odd little bug that I watch trundling around for a while. It strikes me as the social network equivalent to the conservative version of Wikipedia. Again, I won’t promote that “pedia” here by mentioning its name, but it was formed by conservatives who felt that Wikipedia had a liberal bias. It is laughable in its lack of facts and complete revision of history and even definitions of words. A five-minute glance at this network shows numerous misleading stories and many outright lies easily disproven by a quick online search.

So I’m not all hot and bothered by the existence of this site. [Side note: I wonder if Mark Zuckerberg might be a little bothered by it, though? It copies the Facebook format almost exactly. I don’t know what kind of copyright Zuck has on the Bookface, but I’m sure he and his lawyers are already aware of this site. At not even 100,000 members so far, I’m not sure how worried they’ll be about it, though.] What bothers me the most is the “You guys are mean so I’m taking my ball and going home” mentality.

Confirmation biasWe are all guilty of confirmation bias. We tend to gravitate towards those individuals, news organizations, and websites that confirm our own feelings. I’m guilty of it myself, and try to fight my bias. While I don’t listen to people like Limbaugh, or read Glenn Beck’s rantings (there is reasonable discourse and then there is the hatemongering of Limbaugh...and then there is the completely paranoid ramblings of Beck), I do try to pay attention to the other side and to their arguments. I can’t say that I agree with them very often—if ever—but I try to make sure I stay exposed to the ideas and policies they espouse. That’s not really hard to do here in red Indiana, believe me!

The gathering of conservatives on this new social network is nothing more than circling the wagons and saying, “I don’t want to deal with any opinions other than my own. I want to reinforce my opinions, and I don’t want to deal with anyone who challenges them.” This is an insular view that fosters intellectual stagnation, as well as condemnation of those we perceive as “others.” It does not promote the finding of common ground, and it is exactly what has caused the cogs of our legislative branch to grind to a halt.

This benefits no one, and this does not benefit the country. There is nothing wrong with people joining organizations that promote their cause. But when you remove yourself from all dissenting opinions, you are closing yourself off from a large portion of the country...and from reality. Outside the Republican bubble, there are people who think that universal background checks will not lead to the confiscation of all guns. Quite a few of us think that marriage equality will not lead to the breakdown of society. And there are plenty of us who feel just as strongly, just as passionately, that we have a great country, one that we can continue to make better for ALL Americans. If we don’t buy into the “We’re Number One!” mentality, it’s not because we don’t think we have an exceptional’s because we recognize that in many areas, we are NOT #1. This is reality, and we want to improve on that.

Running away from facts and numbers, and surrounding yourself with those who believe exactly the way you do and who reinforce those beliefs is not a solution. It is merely a way to calm your fears and soothe you because there are plenty of others who share those beliefs. That may be true...but a network of 100,000 or so does not a majority make. Getting away from Facebook doesn’t mean that all those people just go away. We’re still here, we still discuss amongst ourselves, and we still are working on our own agenda. You might want to pay attention to that.