Saturday, November 15, 2008

Learning to Differentiate

Sometimes I am amazed at the manipulative abilities of people.

You find a lot of this online. People who in real life would be laughed out of the room for expressing their opinions somehow gain a strange credibility in the cyber world. It's hard for me to take someone seriously who pontificates hatred, whether in the real world or online. But, what truly amazes me, is how some of these people can manipulate public opinion with their ability to write.

For example: there's really not any way to justify racist behavior in the real world. In the real world, if you expound upon you racist points of view you usually either get your ass kicked or you're dismissed by the people who hear you as stupid and beyond redemption. But, you take that same person and slap them online and suddenly all sorts of whacked-out critters crawl from the woodwork and support them publicly. Why is that?

Is it because of the alleged anonymity online? That doesn't really work any more--I can find out a heck of a lot about a person from their IP address...and their blog...and their website.

What makes people comfortable enough online to try and manipulate other people?

Look at the recent election. Because of online bullshit, there are a whole lot of people who believe the new President is a Muslim and that the Governor of Alaska doesn't comprehend basic geography. Are you serious? What kills me is that there are people who call one of those rumors a lie but still beleive the other one. It makes no sense to me.

As a writer, I'm very sensitive to the power of words. It occurs to me that since the advent and explosion of the internet, that sensitivity has spread into sectors unseen before this time. It was easy to dismiss the KKK newspapers I found on the front lawn twenty years ago.

It's not as easy to dismiss some of the racial prejudice spread over the internet, especially when it's clothed beneath some other sort of rhetoric. It's imperative now that we, as internet users, learn to differentiate between thinly veiled agendas and the outer shell of acceptability that some people are using. We need a new subset of skills if we are to comprehend the ugliness that lies just beneath the surface of much that we find online these days.