inflammatory language and echo chambers

#foodforthought (what my brain has been chewing on for a few days)

I read a post written by an experienced journalist who has a formal education in the use and impact of communication. (meaning, they understand how to use language effectively)

Here are 98 words from the 346 word post:

“Tumult, Chaos, Lies, Corruption, Autocracy, Inanity, stories, scandal, demanded, attention, bricks, wall of horrors, Waking up, doesn’t believe, noise of the news cycle, plot, Chilling, Shocking, Sadly, outrages, rancid ingredients, toxic stew, poisoning, good and just, fragile, mistake, deep roots, founded, system, White Supremacy, long accepted, battled, demons, winked, suffocated, urgent, voices, dissent, perhaps, phrasing, assign, story, Time and time again, injustices, history, movements, fight on, discouraged, persevere, overwhelming, dangerous, disturbing, perspective, rallying, better angels, nature, undeterred, fearless, grit, energy, ferocity, truth, action, glimmering, horizon, hope, dismiss, dilute, challenges, formidable, fearsome, ranks of an army, change, marching, brighter, Courage.”

After reading the post, I was compelled to look up the exact definition of “inflammatory language”:

intentionally provokes a reaction from the reader by use of strong rhetoric or controversial opinions.

Accurate description of those 98 words.

The use and/or abuse of inflammatory language is one reason I don’t rely on anyone else’s explanation or interpretation for accurate, objective information. I search for and read/watch original sources rather than trust articles and videos which summarize, interpret or ‘splain them.

(And yes, “splain” is an inflammatory word, a derivative of mansplaining, but it’s genderless condescension. I said I don’t rely on inflammatory words for accurate, objective information. I didn’t say I never use them.)

But back to the post…I wanted to see what kind of reaction those 98 words evoked. The comment count showed there were 4.3K comments, but when selecting the option to see “All comments” the thread indicated only 2960 comments were available (that’s an example of shadow banning, btw)

While reading through the available comments, I was prompted to look up another definition.

This time for “echo chamber”:

metaphorical description of a situation in which beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a closed system and insulates them from rebuttal…people are able to seek out information that reinforces their existing views, potentially as an unconscious exercise of confirmation bias. This may increase social and political polarization and extremism.”

I have a personal aversion to groupthink, so the potential negative effect of an echo chamber is one reason I make sure I intentionally and consistently seek out and include listening and processing alternative interpretations and conclusions.

That said, if those alternative interpretations and conclusions are built on secondhand sources – or no sources at all – they lose credibility with me.

Which is what resulted in this case.

Don’t forfeit your opportunities to influence others.
part 1: Dismissing alternative viewpoints doesn't strengthen your argument or your credibility.

Over and over, I see facebook posts by seemingly kind people instructing friends who [they perceive] believe differently than they do to “unfriend” them.

This week, I saw a post from an HR consultant on LinkedIn, declaring they would not work with anyone who [they perceive] believe differently than they believe.

I have more than a few problems with this increasing cancel culture reaction to diversity. And by definition, I believe the word diversity is accurate.

I included [they perceive] because

perception isn’t always accurate,
the issues facing us today are incredibly complex and
most people aren’t myopic simpletons.

1. Perception is subjective.

Our perception (a way of understanding or interpreting something)

is skewed by our

perspective (a particular attitude toward or point of view)

Consider the possibility that we have more in common that it may appear at first glance.

What if

people who believe and act differently than we do, actually want and value the same things but differ only in their strategies for pursuing those shared goals?

What if

people who believe differently than we do are intelligent and informed about facts, but differ only in their interpretations and conclusions about those facts?

What if

the labels we use to describe people who believe differently than we do actually dehumanizes them and prevents us from seeing them as unique individuals, much less understanding or empathizing with them?

What if

our perception of the “other guy” is wrong? What would we find out about them as human beings if we didn’t unfriend them or refuse to work with them?

2. When an issue truly is “clear” or “simple” there isn’t extensive controversy over it.

Time and time again, I see people completely disregarding conflicting ideas as invalid or irrelevant in their efforts to justify and validate their own view. I’ve said this before:

Dismissing alternative viewpoints doesn’t strengthen your argument or your credibility.

It weakens the first and erodes the second.

If our reasoning can’t stand on it’s own merit and stand strong against questions or counter arguments, it needs some work. And if our reasoning needs work, we might consider listening to the alternative viewpoints as a first step. Allowing them to challenge our assumptions and help us come to a deeper understanding of what we believe so we can explain it. Respectfully.

It’s so. much. easier to call someone by a label instead of by their name, to cut off communication with them and instead surround ourselves with the comfort and familiarity of people who think like us, but we can’t hear different voices if we block ourselves off from their source.

3. Disagreement doesn’t mean people are uninformed, uneducated, racist or brainwashed.

Statements like the ones below assume that people who hold alternative views about the causes of, and solutions to, the problem of racism are only listening to a few well known celebrities “instead of” rather than “in addition to” their friends – and to the alternative views of a significantly larger number of not so famous people with diverse backgrounds, education and credentials:

  • “…if you are listening to them instead of the black people in your life on a daily basis…You’re doing it wrong.”
  • “If you’re a white person…quick to post a video of a famous black person agreeing with you, but won’t read a book from a black person with a PhD in their field disagreeing with you, then you aren’t trying to learn, you’re just weaponizing black voices to confirm your own bias.
  • “If you genuinely want to be part of this conversation, please stop only listening to black voices that prove your white opinion right.”

What if

there are so many of these alternative voices, coming from so many sources, growing louder every day that it’s impossible for us NOT to hear, much less ignore them?

What if

these thoughts and opinions are not just coming from black celebrities but from all walks of life, from multiple socio-ecconomic classes and some with PhDs of their own?

What if

people aren’t just watching youtube video clips and sharing pithy word images?

What if

people are actually reading books, studies and articles – written by authors from both sides, listening to podcasts, interviews and debates AND having authentic, vulnerable conversations with friends who not only don’t look like they do, but also friends who don’t think like they do?

 

Our words and actions, whether online or IRL, reveal something of our true beliefs and character.

As often as I see it, I will never be desensitized to adult bullying.

It surprises me every time.

Especially when it comes from someone who knows the pain of being on the receiving end.

And the duplicity genuinely confuses me.

IRL kindness and then,

BAM.

Dehumanizing and cruel mocking.

SO. MANY. posts and comments about leaders that are flat out mean and hateful.

I’m reminded of a blog post I wrote back in 2018:

…duplicity was the unacknowledged elephant in the room when the internet-infused courage of this person deflated like a day old birthday balloon during real life interactions: what happens online, stays online.

Except, it doesn’t.

Our words and actions, regardless of whether they are online or IRL, reveal something of our true beliefs and our character:
“…surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.” [emphasis added] #IreadthereforeIquote
C. S. Lewis

We’re in the middle of a global pandemic. This situation is incredibly complicated. I can’t imagine the stress of striving to make the best decisions in this no-win hornet’s nest while at the same time getting the $#!+ kicked out of me by both the media and hundreds of thousands of armchair commentators.

They have to be exhausted. And yet they continue to put themselves out there every day knowing they’re going to end up a target.

Again.

#seepeople and #edify because everyone is #justadifferentkindofbroken
#KindnessisContagious but so is #sarcasm and #criticism

Fauci, the Surgeon General and the “lady” doctor who didn’t smile.

I saw something in a facebook comment yesterday that immediately and instinctively evoked what I’ll conservatively refer to as a negative reaction. It was about members of the coronavirus Task Force and the comment was posted during the live briefing. I tried to let it die in the cluttered recesses of my mind, but it was literally the first thing that came to me when I woke up this morning – much too early. So, in an effort to get a full night’s rest tonight, I’m hoping that writing about it will lead to sleeping in just a bit later tomorrow morning.

Here’s the sleep stealing comment:

They must be doctor shopping, Fauci, gone, surgeon general home., the lady doctor no longer smiles. She must be on her way out

Pushing past the primary school level punctuation, I wondered if I was the only one reading this thread who noticed that Fauci was referred to by name and the Surgeon General was referred to by title, but the “lady” doctor was referred to by neither and – although the briefing was packed with nearly two hours of content including her taking a turn at the microphone multiple times – this guy’s comment about her was that she wasn’t SMILING.

Because when you brief the press about a global pandemic, you need to smile.

Like all the men standing on the dais with you.

Stifling my inner Red Foreman, my mind went next to the part of this video about one minute in:

“Do it again, but just this time try it a bit more…smiley.”

“You want me to s-smile?”

“yeah. Just, you know, more…leading lady.”

“The scene gets quite tragic…”

“So?”

I thought about replying to the comment, but judging by the content of the other comments and replies I already saw and how fast they were being posted (including the bird finger emoji above the lady doctor comment), I had a strong sense that anything positive I might have to say about the “lady” doctor would be of no more interest to this person than her actual name.

Which is Deborah Birx.

And while the commenter was correct in assuming she is a doctor, he also could have referred to her by one of her other titles, like (retired Army) Colonel or Ambassador.

“Birx was nominated by President Barack Obama as United States Global AIDS Coordinator and confirmed by the Senate; she was sworn in April 4, 2014.”
Wikepedia

Before she was confirmed as an Ambassador under the Obama Administration, Birx served as the Director of CDC’s Division of Global HIV/AIDS from 2005-2014. From 1996-2005, she served as the Director of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

But according to this particular pundit, she and everyone else on the Task Force “have no clue.”

Maybe the people who actually know this guy in real life wouldn’t view his comment about the “lady” doctor not smiling as misogynistic.

But I don’t know him. And this comment – on a PUBLIC facebook post, where anyone can read it – is all I know about him. He summed it up well with his last comment:

When Words and Actions Conflict, Actions Carry the Stronger Message
are you duplicitous?

Do you have a friend who you KNOW differs from you with regard to faith, politics, relationships, social issues, etc?

Is there a difference in how you relate to them one-on-one and how you express your opinion of the cultural sub-groups they fit into?

Do you have a Christian friend and mock Christians as uneducated sheep?

Do you have a liberal or conservative friend who you personally interact with respectfully but then post content that could be viewed by them as arrogant condescension?

Do you post divisive and mocking “us” vs. “them” memes and gifs about the group your friend is affiliated with?

Those friends are not stupid and they don’t live under a rock. They see your posts. They hear what you say. And when you talk to them in real life, they know what you REALLY think about them.

They know you are duplicitous.

(unless you’ve blocked them because YOU ALREADY KNOW you are duplicitous)

Look at the content you post, from the other person’s point of view.
Listen to what you say, from the other person’s perspective.

Often, we have the ability to recognize content that might be viewed as an attack on others who differ from us. If you know it crosses that line, DON’T post it. DON’T say it.

Not sure? If you genuinely care about this other person, be brave. ASK them if they’ve seen or heard anything you posted or said that contradicted the respect you express toward them in person.

Maybe they’ll tell you the truth.

or maybe, they will protect themselves by remaining silent because they know they can’t trust you.

I’ve written about this before, with examples, in my posts entitled:
duplicity. duplicity everywhere” and
People talking without speaking. People hearing without listening

People talking without speaking. People hearing without listening.
Why would anyone want to engage in conversation with someone who thinks they are stupid?

January 20th [2017].

I should NOT have gone on facebook.

So. much. hate.

contemptuous mocking. sarcasm. ridicule.

Not just for DT, but for everyone who doesn’t overtly hate him.

My facebook feed was toxic, repelling me away.

Post after meme after video after tweet after comment,
reiterating again and again and again and again and again
how stupid and intolerable anyone is if they don’t hate
DT – AND everyone who “supports” him.

I think I’ve actually been grieving. genuinely, profoundly sad.

not because DT is the president.

The long term impact (positive and/or negative) of these next four years is yet to be evidenced.

not because people think I’m [insert contemptuous label here] because I don’t hate the same people they do.

I’ve been hated and shunned for being different before. It’s no fun, but it’s nothing new.

I’m grieving because I can’t un-know what I’ve learned about so many people I genuinely liked and respected:

That they have the capacity to be so callously and unflinchingly VICIOUS towards people who believe differently than they do. And not just because of differences – the actual differences aren’t even being acknowledged, much less discussed. It’s the relentless derisive personal attacks on the character of people who believe differently.

This is the one that finally drove me away:

fbh8te

Burn in Hell? Seriously? Burn in HELL?

This person is saying this to their own facebook friends. People they know personally – and supposedly like. This is not the only post like this from this particular person, much less the only post like this from a number of other people in my facebook feed. and I only have about 300 friends. If I actually unfriended every person who demanded that “unfriend them right now!!” if I don’t hate DT or anyone who voted for him, that number would be even lower. I imagine my facebook feed is not the only one contaminated with this virulent stream of bigotry.

All this blatant cruelty leaves me with these nagging thoughts:

When someone mocks, ridicules or derisively condemns a group of people,

Do they not realize there’s a strong chance they have a personal relationship with someone they would identify as belonging to that group?

And if they do recognize that some of their friends are “those people,” do they not make the connection that they are mocking and ridiculing and condemning their friend? or family member?

Maybe they themselves didn’t mock anyone. Maybe they just liked or commented or shared a post that does.

Do they not realize that the action of liking, commenting and sharing validates the attack?

That it aligns them with the attacker?

stop-hate-peace-signDo they not realize it’s evidence that their “no H8te” duct tape selfie and the “STOP HATE” peace sign they posted are dishonest and betray their true beliefs?

And that despite the safety pin they wore or posted online, a percentage of their friends know that the only reason they are safe from outright attack from the safety pin bearer is that they’ve remained silent. under the radar. out of line of sight.

Not that silence keeps anyone safe from judgment and ostracization. Because lack of commiseration makes you suspect. The solidarity of those who hate DT is stronger than a red rover line of linebackers who just picked their nose. Nobody wants to risk going near that. Better to stay away. where it’s REALLY safe.

As a result, many of my facebook friends have been missing. Silent. For months.

I completely understand.

Why would anyone want to engage in conversation with someone who thinks they are stupid?
Why would anyone make themselves vulnerable to attack by someone who’s evidenced that they prefer to talk ABOUT them as an enemy than WITH them as a friend?

so. What have I’ve been grieving?

The loss of authentic friendships? or the loss of the illusion of those friendships?

The loss of my naivety? or the discovery that I didn’t know people as well as I thought I did.

Maybe people had misrepresented themselves and I only knew the persona they wanted me to know.

Whatever the reason, the breadth and cruelty – and tenacity – of these expressions of hatred and intolerance have genuinely shocked me.

I’m trying to tell myself that, in the long run, it’s better that I know the truth, not only about what some of my friends are capable of, but also what they think of me.

Right now, it doesn’t feel like it’s better.

All that interpersonal destruction aside, the question that comes back to me again and again is this:

When someone attacks, mocks, ridicules or derisively condemns, why is it that the validation of their opinions and beliefs seem to require and thrive on the ridicule of people who hold to different opinions and beliefs? Are the opinions and beliefs not strong enough to stand on their own merit?

the 1% rule. a minority with too much free time? or representative of the 99%?

Something has bothered me for a while. When someone says that a certain group of people “thinks” this or “says” that, where does the opinion of that group come from?

If it’s true that only 1% of people are “vocal” on the internet, (via posts, tweets, comments or blogs) does that really tell us what the quiet people are thinking? (I’m not claiming to be one of the quiet ones.)

By Life of Riley – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Even if a person on the internet seems to be in line with my own thoughts on a subject, I rarely agree with the way they’ve stated it much less every nuance of their opinion. Often, there is no nuance, the stand is so extreme it forces polarized positions and the statements are surface level, oversimplified, sarcastic or trite.

The world is bigger than this 1%.

The issues are complex and I have a feeling a good chunk of the other 99% think much deeper than can be expressed in a tweet. So, they don’t tweet, they talk. and listen.

In person.

Where there are no trolls and the only seagulls are at the beach.

I don’t say “the left” does or says this or “the right” does or says that. Reformed, Arminian, Atheist, Evangelicals, straight, LGBT, Clinton/Trump “supporters”….whatever group label you can think of, remember the 1% rule.

“The 1% rule states that the number of people who create content on the Internet represents approximately 1% (give or take) of the people actually viewing that content. For example, for every person who posts on a forum, generally about 99 other people are viewing that forum but not posting.” [CLICK HERE to read the full wikimedia content on the 1% rule]

Given our propensity to get our information from the internet, it’s statistically probable that whatever opinion you hold about a certain labeled group and whatever reasoning behind that opinion is based on what 1% of the internet population thinks – and the internet population is only 40% of the world population.

The world is bigger than this 1%. We only think they represent the majority because they are the loudest and most visible.

The quiet people are thinking. And apparently, there’s more of them than we realize. I’m betting one of the reasons they are quiet is that they have no time or patience for the tic-tac-toe futility of the bickering that seems so prevalent on the internet today.

Thank God. Because there’s a LOT of intolerant and judgemental people on the internet who could use a day or two off the grid to regain some perspective.

#seepeople and #edify, because everybody is #justadifferentkindofbroken

sarcasm: religious and political poison.

sarcasm and stupidityReading too much on the internet today and keep thinking one thing:

Sarcasm is an ineffective persuasive technique.

It’s condescending, arrogant, divisive and shuts down dialog. It’s too often used by people in a manner to indicate that an issue is simple and anyone who doesn’t see the simplicity and logic of their side of an argument is an idiot to be ridiculed and dismissed.

Seriously.

If these issues were simple,
they wouldn’t be so controversial.

Anyone who uses trite, flippant sarcasm to make a point – especially without even acknowledging any opposing points of view – loses credibility with me

and my interest in any discussion with them about how stupid the other guy’s point of view is

– regardless of whether I am the other guy or am aligned in opinion with the person wielding the sarcasm.

sarcasm puppets and crayons