Saturday, April 2, 2011

Swimming in Unfamiliar Waters

The danger of the internet and blogs and favorites is that you only circulate in the forums where you are comfortable and familiar.  It is this tendency, to follow the well worn paths, to chose to find places where what you think or feel is validated, that make the internet both exciting and a desperately lonely place.  Because community is dependent upon shared values and those values are only articulated through words, not faces or kind acts or meals or visits or even conversations, the communities often fall away when dissent is openly presented.  Those who agree are the polite and acceptable people in the society.  Those who fight or disagree openly are often considered trolls.  It doesn't help that the only means of communication is words and at times all of our words are not always written or read with a charitable sprit.
How do we know we're not allowing ourselves to only swallow what we want to hear? 

By reading in places that are not our home. 

The first thing I learned in venturing into the realm of Salon, Slate, Huffington Post and Das Kos is they really do think Republicans are stupid.  Some of the examples they give validate this opinion and the red meat is devoured just as surely as it is on Conservative sites when Democrats are bashed.   So we are not so different in that, both sides reflexively sustain and take pleasure in having validation of their preconceived notions of what the opposition is like.  Yet in the actual world, we have friends of every political possible stripe and I've never considered them trolls and I presume they don't think I'm an idiot.  I've never felt treated as if I were.   We forget this when we emerse ourselves in the strictly political world; that R and D are not like the mason dixon line during the civil war.

Secondly, like conservative and politically right leaning websites, left leaning places presumed the audience would be in agreement regardless of the situation.  There was little serious consideration given to the political, moral, ethical, or rational reasons why anyone might oppose anything the site itself deemed true and correct.
There was little indication of any belief that the moral, ethical or rational reasons for opposing something, anything one's own political prism deemed correct, might be genuine or legitimate.   The deficit of trust based on political ideology logjammed any genuine examination of an issue as more than a right or wrong, up or down, sort of thing.  Republicans were only obstructionists and those who came to the site or article to protest, ignorant Fox News watching masses brainwashed by Glen Beck, Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh or their religion.  

But I couldn't shake the idea that if we are ever going to get past the bitter divide that threatens to balkanize not only our political structures but our very nation, we're going to have to begin swimming in unfamiliar waters and be willing to allow others to play in our backyard on more than the rare occasion.  The result of this type of virtual browsing for cliques into which we fit can leave one with the profound sense of isolation akin to high school. Walking the hallways, there is the cool politicos over here and the moms with many over there and the Catholic blogs and the Republican blogs and the news blogs and the prolife blogs and the humor blogs and all of them seem to have a focus. But the browser must fit the focus to fit in.

After reading a few pieces on Das Kos I also began to wonder, how will we ever get beyond anything if everything is spin regardless of party.  How will we address the serious issues of healthcare if any criticism is immediately deemed only a political ploy?  How will we address the serious issue of the deficit if all spending is justified because others spent first or more?   How can we be a representative republic if our watchdogs no longer check and verify everything and love truth more than even a story they prefer?  How do we break through the noise if all we want to hear is our own voice? How will we be anything but a tower of bable full of sound and fury signifying nothing if the only thing we will ever accept on any side of the political aisle, is absolute agreement with our own preconceived or preformed notions?  Rush: I'm always right, Don't Doubt me and Olberman: All Republicans are idiots and Tea Partiers too and they're the worst people in the whole world both reflect the internet agree or go away type thinking that permeates the internet. 

I don't have an answer and I'm not trying to sound superior.  I'm asking how in a culture that supposedly values multiple perspectives, we've instead become a world wide web of sharp edges ready to shred anyone who gets too close.


Fuzzy Slippers said...

Excellent post. I don't have the answer, either. For a while I was trying to engage progressives at Firedoglake in this discussion, but it was pointless. And frustrating. I fear the trenches have been dug, the troops firmly in place, and no Christmas Truce in sight.

MightyMom said...

the form may have changed, but it's really always been this way. the haves and have nots them agains us.

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!