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Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Blogosphere as a Cult

If you were to scour the comments sections of Daily Kos and Huffington Post, you'd find almost every comment acceptable, swearing, wishing death, other vulgar language, personal attacks, etc. What you aren't going to find on such a site is a defense of conservatives, conservatism, and Republicans. Try and stand up against universal health care on one of those sites and see what happens.

On conservative sites like Red State, Power Line, and Michelle Malkin, the language is less vulgar. Still, it's routine to hear the president called a Marxist, a Socialist, a Communist., and an anti American. In fact, the entire Democratic party is painted with a similar brush. Yet, you are very unlikely to see anyone defend the president on any of those sites. You are unlikely to see anyone attack the oil companies on those site. Take a look at a conservative site following a story about ACORN and see what you'll find. You'll find comments that call ACORN a criminal organization, a Marxist organization, and an interconnected web with President Obama. Don't get me wrong. I think ACORN is a criminal organization. I think they are run by pseudo Marxists. I'm not sure just how connected they are to President Obama. My point is that ACORN is far too complicated to be condensed to those three points. How can every ACORN related story be wound down to that? Yet, that's what you expect to find beyond each and every ACORN story.

That's because on the blogosphere, left and right, there is a certain view of the world that all readers are expected to follow. If a reader doesn't follow it, they are purged from any site. The rest of the world is wrong and only the world view of the site, and others like it, are right. If anyone believes differently, they are purged.

A couple weeks ago, I saw a documentary about Jim Jones. He was the cult leader that ultimately had his followers drink poisoned Kool Aid and hundreds died. In Jones' cult, the world view was no different. Only Jones was right. The rest of the world was wrong. Anyone that challenged Jones was immediately purged from the cult.

Recently, the conservative blogosphere was worked up in a lather over a protest here in Chicago of the American Banker's Association by groups lead by the SEIU. The narrative was the same. The SEIU are a bunch of thugs that are shaking down the banks. That was the only acceptable narrative in the right blogosphere. I didn't write about the story because it confused me. Is the SEIU a bunch of thugs because they are protesting? If that's so, what does that make the tea parties and why isn't the right blogosphere calling them thugs also? If the SEIU are just thugs, then isn't this merely an excuse to call them thugs, and their behavior in this case wasn't necessarily thuggish in and of itself?

The left blogosphere is no different. There are all sorts of global warming related stories on the left blogosphere. It's an opportunity for the left to feel superior to the right. That's because only the left cares about the environment. Only the left sees global warming for what it is, an imminent disaster. Only the left is trying to solve this disaster. On top of all of this, being eco friendly is an opportunity to also transform our economy as well. Meanwhile, conservatives are beholden to big business and are willing to sacrifice the environment for capitalism and their business interests. Of course, the opposite is true on the right blogosphere. There, global warming is a pseudo science. Liberals are using global warming as an excuse for imposing socialism (something I've supposed as well)

This isn't about who is right and wrong. The beauty of politics is that the debates are continuous and usually never ending. There is no right and wrong. It's the joust that makes politics. If debates were ever settled, there'd be no need for more than one party, one ideology, and one way of viewing the world. The point is that blogs, more often than not, create a world view, and then demand that everyone on said site follow that world view or be purged. Don't ever dare to challenge any given world view or you'll be purged from there. Think I'm crazy. Go to Daily Kos and say that you think that George Bush did a good job in Iraq and see what happens to you. Go to a conservative blog and suggest that President Obama isn't all that tied to ACORN and see what happens to you.

If you suggest such things, your point won't merely be challenged but your motives. You'll be called a facsists, socialists, or ACORN lover on a conservative blogosphere. You'll be called a hate monger, war monger, and neo con on the left blogosphere. On both, you'll be labeled the hated "troll". Whether all these blogs realize it or not, that's exactly the same M.O. that Jim Jones used in his cult. Anyone that challenged wasn't just challenged but called a provocateur, an infiltrator, a tool of the outside world looking to break up their way of life. I'm not saying any blog will tell people to drink Kool Aid. They'll just tell all readers to follow their view of the world or else. The M.O. is the same, only the stakes are less.

The irony is that all blogs see themselves as challenging the mainstream, the establishment. By doing so, they create their own establishment. What happens when you go to a blog and challenge the establishment they create in their own little universe, you are purged. Beyond that, there's no debate. A thousand people all agreeing with each other isn't a debate, it's a mutual admiration society. If you don't allow any challenging opinion, then all you get is a bunch of people agreeing with each other and others afraid to say anything different or risk being purged. That's not a political community but a cult.


Lexy said...

So interesting that you bring up Jim Jones. My mother and I just had a conversation in which she brought him up.
It's very interesting that we're never very far from total gullibility and our own demise.
All anyone wants, I guess, is a place to belong.... and likewise a bunch of likeminded people to validate our standpoints.
Not really any more civilized than anyone else. Especially behind the safety of our own monitors.

FourMartins said...

i think there is another factor.

you likened politics to a joust, i usually call it a chess match. either way, there are just two parties engaged in a battle of skill.

in this internet era, narcissism has combined with the sport of politics to produce an endless supply of insta-punditing. every amateur with an opinion can take the stage. get a few thousand of them on the same website and soon they dominate the conversation.