Monday, April 25, 2016
I used to spend hours and hours... it was the most magical place to me.
Around about 2007, I joined some email lists that started as political but ended up (in the space of a couple of years) as entirely too personal. My experience ended badly, with all manner of bloodletting. Even after I left these lists, the bloodletting continued with the remaining participants. So, it wasn't me. It was the lists themselves; it seemed inevitable. Since 1998, I have participated in message/bulletin boards, email lists, google groups, all of that... and most have ended badly. I have witnessed this again and again and again.
Why? Real-life connections don't always end badly.
In fact, most just 'fade away'--in stark contrast to the vicious break-ups of the online groups.
On tumblr, this constant bloodletting and public evidence of following/unfollowing (constant measures of 'popularity') is standard operational procedure. I have been eviscerated publicly numerous times for (example) wanting to discuss whether "trigger warnings" are a good or bad thing (PS: they're bad) or why so many tumblrites seem to believe John Lennon is the worst white man to have ever lived. They trash Lennon far more than they do Ted Cruz, for instance.
My abject terror at what tumblr and Reddit says about the youth of today, has been a major aspect of my disillusionment with the net, since they are its primary users.
Baby-boomers' parents worried that we were insane radicals, but *I* worry that the kids of today are too afraid to leave the basement. They say they are "radicals" and actually believe they are more radical than we ever were, since they watch some wild-ass porn and purport to believe some wild-ass stuff, and perhaps on one level, that is true. But as we know, faith without works is dead, and most of these kids are dead. They have been brainwashed to think they are radical because they purchase 'alternative' brands, eat 'progressive' foods, wear 'edgy' clothing (often displaying provocative slogans), watch 'radical' TV shows or listen to 'radical' music, and in particular, think certain wayward thoughts. Since they believe they are radical by fiat (or something), they don't actually have to do anything, like vote. (And some even authoritatively counsel the other kids not to vote too!)
They have not even met each other; they don't even know the actual activists in their own communities.
Their radicalism is a role-playing game. That's all.
The simple curiosity that used to rate rolled eyes and whispers in a high school classroom, now warrants hundreds of young women calling me nasty names and instructing me to go away: old people "don't belong" on tumblr. The idea that the internet "belongs" to everybody is also a thing of the past. Now, "everybody" is supposed to go their own corners. The quaint 90s idea that the net would break down barriers and allow us all to talk to each other, regardless of differences? So dated, so 90s. One tumblrite snidely asked me, did I really believe that shit? I answered, not only did I believe it, I briefly experienced it... and if she had too, she might be bored and disappointed with the internet discourse she is currently stuck with, wherein everyone she talks to appears to be of her same suburban economic class (they don't dare even venture into the cities!) and obediently repeats the same dogma. Its like walking into a middle-school classroom, but: the kids are geniuses, the vocabularies are astounding, the knowledge is amazing. Imagine how effective they might be if they organized others, if they left their suburban basements and the echo chambers they now inhabit. Think of how smart they could be! Think of the progress we might make!
[Amusing aside: Interestingly, they often tell me to go away in the same post in which they proudly extol diversity and difference. Not kidding you one bit. The irony escapes them totally.]
Yes... well, those are interesting, and I have decided, after much close analysis, they are not the same people.
The tumblr kids and the the Reddit kids are not the Ferguson kids and the Bernie Bros, although they echo the rhetoric (dogma). The kids out doing real activism are using Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and get reblogged/linked on the other platforms like Tumblr, Reddit, Google Plus. Actual activists simply don't have time for all the theoretical, nitpicky back-and-forth that the tumblrites specialize in.
Which brings me to the next problem.
The early internet, like now, was full of fakes, but the difference was that it was a basic one-line fake vs a full-grown, fully-imagined fake. Somebody might say they were married, then later completely forget who they had claimed to be and say they were dating some new person. Or somebody would claim to be male or female, and later mess up and complain about their period, their pregnancy, their old football injury or their prostate test. Busted.
Pretty simple though. People rarely shared their geographic location, and many refused to say what race they were. (If you guessed they were white, they might ask why you came to that conclusion, when they had never said what race they were. That was actually fairly common.) Asking too many questions about identity could get you banned on bulletin boards; it was considered rude and intrusive. ANSWER THE ARGUMENTS ON THE MERITS, moderators would instruct us repeatedly, YOU DON'T NEED TO KNOW *identity* TO MAKE THE ARGUMENTS. And I discovered that no, you don't. We started to think: Maybe it's better to get appeals to IDENTITY out of they way and get to the heart of the matter: civil rights for all people, fairness and justice for all people.
But... but... here's the thing: identity politics (what Will Shetterly has correctly and incisively named Identitarianism) tells us exactly the opposite.
In fact, identity politics is the flip side of the elitism it was born to counter: identity politics posits that some identities are sacrosanct. In short, some identities are simply "better" than others. It is basically the same as saying: if you went to THIS school or THAT school, you are smarter than regular people; if you are rich and well-traveled, you are a better class of person and more worthy of being taken seriously and listened to. ("when you're rich, they think you really know!") A staggeringly-rich idiot who has never held political office might well be our next president, while a poor idiot would be laughed at... in fact, a poor idiot would have more humility and never even attempt such a thing.
The online youth culture tells us that identity is the thing, they demand IDENTITY lists before they will interact with each other, or with you. They list their identity markers the way girls used to proudly point to their charm bracelets and tell us what all the charms meant.
I chart the beginning of the deification of identity politics as coinciding with the Advent of our first Identity Politics president, the one who duly mentioned the laundry list of identities in his presidential acceptance speech. This is the New Order, people, are you listening? I thought it was cool at the time, but that was before I realized identity would (once again) be used to shame people, only a different group this time; in fact, like shape-shifting, the shamed-group constantly changes.
And what has happened, in this toxic atmosphere that worships "identity"?
Well, what happens when one identity is considered superior?
I refer you to SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION, THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY and similar stories. Ambitious poor folks have often claimed to be independently-rich white people, well traveled, good schools, all the stuff I just mentioned. Why? To be well-regarded, to have status and to be taken seriously. Your words take on GRAVITAS when your impressive identity backs your shit up. And when it doesn't, you might be told that everybody has opinions (just like assholes) and yours don't matter. But just re-invent yourself tomorrow as **worshiped IDENTITY** and write the same opinion, then watch everyone tell you how great and important it is.
This whole phenomenon used to make me mad. Then it made me laugh. Then it made me tired, weary. And finally: embarrassed. I am wholly embarrassed and disgusted with the Left. As I said once before (and I was right, so pay attention): if we can't change this sorry-assed state of affairs, we will LOSE, and LOSE BIG... and furthermore, if we are this catastrophically clumsy and pedestrian in our analysis: we DESERVE TO LOSE.
So, get ready for President Trump or REPENT KIDDIES. REPENT NOW or get used to it being far far far worse than you ever remember in your lifetime. The American Raj is over, but Trump is preparing us for the Last Gasp of the American Century. (As for me, all I have been able to think of, over and over, is the end of WHEN THE MUSIC'S OVER by the Doors, when Morrison screams JESUS SAVE US!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
Yes, please save us.
Leave the basement and get out there with the Black Lives Matter people. Stop nitpicking with people on your same ideological side, and start fighting with the REAL ENEMY. How about you bring self-doubt, tears and weakness to the OPPOSITION rather than your own comrades?
And if you don't want to do this, as I asked once before, who are you really working for?
Tumblrites: for every argumentative post with someone on your own side, do one angry post addressed to the opposition. HOW?--they ask (they have never MET the opposition)... well, take a hashtag like MRA or BLACK LIVES MATTER or TRUMP and go find them. Then, pick a fight (i.e. criticize their posts, stay focused, no cussing) and preoccupy them for long periods and drain their energy. (Since that is exactly what they do to you, and you don't seem to realize it.) For every nasty insult you level at a fellow Leftist or sister feminist, make sure you deliver twice, three times that to the enemy, the Right wing. If you cannot argue with the Right wing, you are not a Leftist, you are engaging in Role-playing games and FASHION (identity politics) only.
[Amusing aside: A favorite reply when I argue with the identitarians is "I CAN'T EVEN" ... which obviously means that despite the fancy-ass schools they constantly brag about, they are too stupid to complete their own sentences. What is I CAN'T EVEN.... you can't even WHAT??? GO AWAY then and leave politics to the grown-ups who CAN EVEN.]
I recently ran somebody off tumblr when I found evidence of her fakery. I promised to print her name and elite college employer (hint: most elite college in the country and how did I instinctively KNOW that?) if she continued the lying bullshit about how oppressed and radical, etc, she is. I didn't hesitate for a second.
Later, I felt guilty, but then I realized that of course she will be back in still another (oppressed, ultra-PC) incarnation, and I probably won't even recognize her. Granted, she won't have the thousands of adoring-groupie followers that she once had; that will undoubtedly take some time to accumulate again, but I have no doubt she can do this. They loooove her. They dedicated posts to her and lovingly called her their "blog crush".
They love a fake.
Repeat: they love a fake.
And I would jeer if it not already happened to me too. Lisaquestions/Lisa Harney (one of the people who ran me off one of the aforementioned email lists) has also turned out to be a fake. They appear to be a tag-teaming, white, highly-educated hetero cis couple living in an amazing Seattle-area house priced at over a half-million... not the poor wittle disabled trans woman on a fixed income that they have always claimed to be. (And this is why nobody has ever met them in person!) In fact, this busybody couple proudly lists their brag-worthy running times on Facebook, so apparently, disability is another PC identity in lefty circles, even as real-life disabled people are systematically excluded and shit on. Adding descriptors such as "genderqueer" (nobody can agree what that means, but it means you are oppressed) and "disabled" (means you are on anti-depressants, good thing nobody can tell by looking!) to an already-privileged suburban background, guarantees that you will not be attacked as harshly.
[Amusing aside: Many of these same fake-disabled identitarians also refused to vote for politicians who accepted the Medicaid expansion in their states, thus guaranteeing that many disabled people will die, of course. In my local political work, I learned that people with actual disabilities, activists or not, were acutely aware of this issue and how it impacted them; South Carolina pointedly did NOT take the Medicaid expansion. Therefore, this issue and the discussion around it became one foolproof way I ferreted out the disability-fakes.]
What is their agenda? To look good to others, to feed their ego, or ... do they actually intend to engineer leftist concepts/theories in ways that will benefit them? How would they do this and how WOULD it benefit them?
It has been pointed out to me by interested parties (meaning: I didn't figure it out all by myself) that some of the most contentious crap on tumblr and Reddit, the source of so much ideological in-fighting, has started with the fakes. (This takes me back to my earlier proposition that provocateurs are the problem, or at least that they are successful in "pointing" the arguments in certain directions.) One activist pointed out to me that Lisaquestions' first (and very influential) blog, Questioning Transphobia, was the first place the "my penis is a woman's penis" argument was made. Before Lisa's QT dogma was formulated, trans women did not usually discuss their penises. After Lisa's proclamations, their penises seemed to be a major subject with them, just like when your obnoxious little brother discovered his and couldn't stop waving it around. Bloggers like Toni Dorsay took up the banner, decreeing that anyone who says trans women were socialized as male is a transphobe, anyone who says a trans woman has a male organ is a transphobe, any lesbian who won't sleep with trans women due to a dislike of (or no discernible reaction to) penises, was a transphobe. In fact, everyone is a transphobe; even trans people like my real-life friend SCBoy are screamed at for not getting with the dogma.
And now real life and the internet meet in strange ways. SC state senator Lee Bright, dangerous right-wing creationist crackpot and official Tea Party looney tune, has proposed a transgender bathroom bill here in SC, just like the one in NC. This has brought about the witty hashtag #peewithLee.
I do not want to pee with Lee, and in fact, I want nothing to do with Lee. Lee needs to disappear. (note: he once had libertarian tendencies and supported Ron Paul, but that didn't get him enough votes and he is now on the BIG GOVERNMENT, MORE LAWS AND MORE WAR side of the fence, with Ted Cruz and the whole Hee Haw gang.) Although I dislike the online trans discourse (much of which I believe is dominated by fakes--being a supposedly 'stealth trans person' is a perfect, airtight excuse to avoid meeting people in real life, isn't it?) -- I will NOT be agreeing with Lee Bright about shit. I once agreed with him about war and weed and Ron Paul, but this was way back in that exciting, hothouse year of Occupy, when anything seemed possible. We have gone our separate ways. Lee Bright sees trans people as an easy way to get votes in hyper-conservative South Carolina. The online-fakes see trans people as a way to needle feminists and leftists and handily bring us down.
Very similar isn't it? Using groups of unpopular people for political gain is the way Southern politics has always been played, but I never thought it would CATCH ON everywhere else.
Then again, I am reminded that this is how that famous German Chancellor was elected ... and don't ever forget that, yall. ELECTED. He was ELECTED.
I know, I have just ruined my endless tl;dr post with the Godwin rule, but sometimes, you just have to.
And what does all of this mean for me, my blog, my politics, yada yada?
It means I do not blog the way I once did.
It means I now keep my private life very private, when I used to broadcast my business all over creation.
It means I am suspicious of everyone online (including even Facebook friends), that I have not personally verified.
It means when I change my mind about something, I will often not be sharing that here.
I am hoping to get this blog started up again as an outlet for reviews, links, local news, etc... but I always wrote in a very personal, chatty, Good Housekeeping/hey-yall style, as if we were all just girls trying to get by. I honestly don't know if I can pull that off anymore; I am no longer sure that is who we are at all.
At least, I no longer am.
Some would. Many did. Others? Ha.
And what was the difference between the people who would and the people who would not?
I finally figured it out: they did not take themselves seriously! And they seemed surprised when anyone else did.
Is this why we have the fakes? Because they feel like they can only take themselves seriously when they are someone else?
If only identitarians are sacrosanct, important, worthy of being taken seriously... it stands to reason that those who want to be taken seriously will invent identities for themselves, to join this rarefied, special club. Just like the talented Mr Ripley. They may even believe these fake identities are real, like the kids on anti-depressants who claim to be disabled, although no one IRL has any clue they are on anti-depressants.
Or they may just make up these identities wholesale, and pretend to be someone else entirely.
In any event, the internet and the political discourse have been irreparably damaged. I am looking forward to the day when we can track them all down, every single one, not just the ones who get sloppy and/or simply can't hide which elite college they work for.
I used to be afraid of that, but no more. As some famous, miracle-producing rabbi once said, the truth shall set you free.
Back in the day, at the Christopher Street Gay Pride March in NYC, we chanted, OUT OF THE CLOSETS AND INTO THE STREETS!
How about now?: OUT OF THE BASEMENTS AND INTO THE STREETS! OFF THE FUCKING INTERNET AND INTO THE STREETS!
Time to update the slogan, add your own, play along at home.
In the meantime, what will happen to us? Can we turn this around? Is Citizen Kane going to be president?
When the music's over, turn out the lights.