Saturday, July 01, 2006

Ridiculous Internet Discussion Board Discourse: One Sadly Typical Example

I decided, in disgust, to stop participating on Internet discussion boards in October 2003 and have (very happily) never gone back. I explained in detail my reasons why. Recently, I've noted that it is quite fashionable to rail against Internet discourse. Most of the reasons given are the same ones I was talking about almost three years ago now.

I do occasionally peruse a few carefully-selected boards, though (without commenting), in search of the rare good, amiable discussion thread, food for thought, etc. Tonight I was cruising through the Theological Discussion Board, and found the following atrocious, abominable set of comments in a few interconnected threads.

To those of you who frequent my blog: aren't you pleased and relieved (as I am) that we don't engage in this sort of nonsense here? Those of you who are new: if you give us a week, we'll show you that this blog is pretty unique in that we have vigorous discussion across denominational lines, yet without the rancor and hostility and mudfests that are so prevalent on the Internet. I'll stack up my readers here (judging by the ones who comment) next to any on the Internet for their cordiality and politeness and intelligence. I'm extremely proud of them [you], and honored that they come here.

I have thought for a few years that blogs were of a much higher caliber than boards, but now you have to select them very carefully too, since the same idiocy can often be found in blog threads. And Theological Discussion Board is actually one of the better, relatively civil boards I have ever found . . .

As you read the following, ask yourself: "would these people likely speak this way 'in real life' to a banker or mailman or cashier or even in an in-person theological discussion group [such as I have often hosted in my house]?" And then think about why it is so different online; what causes that to occur. Note also how my friend Jonathan Prejean (a Harvard-trained lawyer and no dummy, believe me) tried to inject some reason and common sense and rudimentary ethical considerations into the discussion but he was insulted and rebuffed, along with the main target: Diane.

I will list links to web pages containing many posts, for reference purposes.

* * * * *

Reference Page #1:

Double Stopps (6/28/06 9:55 pm)

In all seriousness, does anyone here (yes, you included, Jonathan) REALLY believe that "Saint" Juan Diego and the Virgen De Guadalupe are anything but symbols of Mexican identity? I mean, be serious: what POSSIBLE significance can they have for the advancement of authentic Christianity? . . . The fervor of Jonathan [Prejean] and Diane [Kamer; aka "dianeski1"] just makes me laugh.

Double Stopps (6/29/06 9:43 am)

How Do You Handle A Problem Like Maria?

[this is a song from the classic 1965 movie The Sound of Music, for you young whippersnappers]

dianeski1 (6/29/06 9:45 am)

Just ignore me, Nevski ["Double Stopps"' previous nickname]. That's all I ask.

Double Stopps (6/29/06 9:46 am)

Ignore you? That's impossible. As Mr. Dreher noted before he threw you off his blog the first time, you suck all the air out of the room.

Reference Page #2:

youngfogey1 (6/29/06 10:04 am)

. . . Because the facts don't fit your agenda on the subject? Easier to be a drama queen and pretend to be a martyr for Rome's sake, I reckon.

Kibitzer 123 (6/29/06 11:33 am)

You understand that Diane is only capable of evaluating things by association. It's part of her "herd mentality" pathology. She believes that the apparitions [at Medjugorje] are genuine (because her rosary turned to gold) so she feels that she has to defend everyone associated with the apparition. If she admits that the friars and fake bishop are scoundrels, that would be tantamount to denigrating the apparitions. She cannot do that because of her rosary! I don't know whether she took the rosary to a jeweler for confirmation, but it does not matter. She believes her rosary was miraculously changed, so she believes in the apparition. She believes the apparition, so she must support others who believe in the apparition. It's all part of her pathology, so it's unfair for you to take advantage of it.

The pious anti-Diane clique discusses its next unsavory discrediting
tactic, hoping to hound her off the
Theological Discussion board.

If Diane were a reasonable person, she would understand that admitting the bishop was a fake and the friars were scoundrels would not invalidate the apparitions themselves. She would understand that these are completely separate and unrelated questions. But Diane is not reasonable - she can only understand the world by identifying which "herd" each person is in. It is patently unfair for you to make her face the fact that that people inside the herd can be wrong sometimes and people outside the herd can be right. So please stop taking advantage of her problem for your own gain.

If someone COULD make her understand the distinction between the right group and right ideas, she might suffer a psychotic break from which she might not recover. Of course, if she DID recover and she came to understand that one can actually think about someone's point apart from the "herd" they are in, she would have a much fuller and richer life. But all of the work involved in actually thinking through issues - it might be exhausting.

Reference Page #3:

youngfogey1 (6/29/06 1:17 pm)

As Kibitzer well explained elsewhere in this thread it's bound up in a view of explaining everybody and everything according to which herd they belong to. Good armies vs bad armies.

A one-true-church theology doesn't necessarily mean that but in this online pathology we're seeing them conflated. Something people like the Klan, the Nazis and the extremely PC (one is an 'African-American' first, an individual second - 'it's the race war that matters') do. Something healthier people outgrow.

Double Stopps (6/29/06 2:34 pm)

See Diane run. See her run. See her run and jump. Diane is happy. Very happy. Laura says "Ayup." Diane says "Amen!" Laura and Diane say "Ayup" and "Amen." See them run and jump.

Kibitzer123 (6/29/06 2:58 pm)

That's the problem, my anti-intellectual friend. This board was our "room" until folks like Diane and you [Jonathan Prejean] came along. I've been coming here for alomst a decade as a place for people of various perspectives to engage in serious and careful discussion. Then Diane came along with her us-versus-them approach to dialogue and folks like you come along and treat serious discussion as some kind of malicious activity. There are plenty of places you can go to sit on the Front Porch or the Back Porch to chat. Why ruin this place?

Reference Page #4:

JPrejean (6/29/06 3:50 pm)

I know what intellectual discussion looks like; I even engage in it on occasion. There are plenty of places for pseudo-intellectuals like yourself to pretend that they are having "serious" and "careful" discussions. Diane comes in and points out that this isn't anything like "serious" and "careful" discussion, and suddenly, everybody's pissed. She's only telling the truth, but nobody likes to hear that that his bloviating is well below the standard of true intellectual rigor. People like to sustain the conceit that they are better (which almost always translates into "better than Diane" ), when in reality, only a miniscule fraction of what gets discussed might actually hold up under critical scrutiny. This is why Internet discussions don't get published in academic journals.

Third, at least before the current mass-reversion, this was a place where decent discussions actually did take place every once in a while, which was better than the zero that one gets almost anywhere else. But most of that was because people did actually consent to just chat, without the pretense that it was a "serious" and "careful" discussion. Frankly, when people have come over here with the pretense of being "serious" (like the insufferable John Bugay), the quality of the discussion has dropped like a stone. If the old way was about having the ego to think that the discussions around here were "serious" and "careful," then thank God it's gone.

Reference Page #5:

JPrejean (6/29/06 4:09 pm)

There's a really simple answer to the whole thing: people need to stop screwing with Diane. But certain people would rather have the board consumed in a nuclear holocaust than to refrain from saying nasty things about Diane. That would be like admitting that she's a (*gasp*) reasonable human being!

Neither you [quickbeam] nor I nor dormie nor Mathitria would tolerate Diane being excluded, so until people start showing some decency (and for those people, I don't care what she supposedly did to you; get over it), this is what you get.

Double Stopps (6/29/06 4:25 pm)

Ah, so that's the answer, is it? God, what hypocrisy. Sorry, no dice. Several of us observed today the absolute insanity of Diane's plea simply to "ingore her." I mean, what a screamer that one was. As we pointed out, she has no intention of being ignored. That became evident the very first time she posted on this forum.

She has no intention of being ignored, that is, unless things don't go well for her in a particular discussion, as it hasn't in the Medjugorje threads. So excuse us, Mr. Prejean, if we remain unimpressed by your argument and accordingly unmoved by your plea.

Kibitzer 123 (6/29/06 4:36 pm)

Why won't you "tolerate" her exclusion? Why do you feel the need to defend anyone? I know you defend the indefensible for a living [the recipient, Jonathan Prejean, is an attorney]... has she paid you a retainer?

Reference Page #6:

Double Stopps (6/29/06 8:42 pm)

You're going off the rails, sir.

[Jonathan Prejean]: It couldn't just be that she honestly believes that there was a manifestation in Medjugorje based on the evidence, and perhaps even that she doesn't reasonably consider the acts of these bad apples as being even relevant to the veracity of the apparition.

You're right, it couldn't be. I say this based on several years of experience on this board.

[Jonathan] No, it has to be some sort of character flaw or psychological defect. It's just crazy.

. . . Forgive me Jonathan, but this fervent defense of her you're taking on here is just flat weird, and if that weren't enough, we're starting to feel embarrassed for you.

Double Stopps (6/29/06 8:47 pm)

Diane, seriously: leave internet discussion boards and get some help.

[the discussion then apparently took an even more nasty turn in yet another "bash Diane" thread. As I went to document it, I discovered that the moderator must have deleted an entire 50-something post feeding frenzy-thread where yet more predators were descending upon Diane. But at leastthe famously hands-off moderator (if indeed he can even be called that at all) laid down the law and protested against the sheer idiocy that had been prevailing]

Perhaps it is best that this was done and that I don't bore you with more Christian hypocrisy and bared fangs eager for the old "kick that moron off the board!" kill. The above sampling is more than sufficient to show that something has gone radically awry on that board and most others.

Philippians 2:1-4, 14-16 (RSV):

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

. . . Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, . . .

Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

2 Timothy 2:23:

Have nothing to do with stupid, senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.

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