Open thread number 1

I’ll be gone for a bit this morning, though I want to post about two people’s opinion pieces later today (Bill Nye and Lindy West). In the meantime, please discuss among yourselves these two questions, which I’ll post in successive posts.

This one was suggested by Grania after I had sent her several emails and comments for this site that were just plain nasty (I haven’t put them up). The question is this:

Why are some people jerks on the Internet?

These are the same people who would be polite, or at least civil, if you met them in a public place. Yet many of them abandon this civility when they’re writing comments on the Internet. Anonymity, of course, is one part of an answer—if you don’t have to be held responsible for your words, then you can say whatever you want. But that presumes that beneath the veneer of civility that enables us to discourse in public, there are many people who would gladly tell you to “fuck off”, “die in a fire” or “stick a porcupine up your fundament”. Is that the case? Is the Internet telling us what people are really like? (I’m not referring to commenters here, who abide by a code of civility; the nasty ones never appear.)

Grania added that it might be good to ask how to “de-escalate a jerk one meets online.” Or should one bother? I’ve rarely seen a nasty argument on the Internet in which one person says, “Yes, I was wrong.” I know it rarely happens here, but on the other hand I also know that readers often use the comments to educate, not to battle.




  1. Posted July 5, 2017 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    It’s not only anonymity, it’s that the internet feels less real and more like a computer game. People who say “die in a fire” don’t fully mean it, they’re just in exaggerated “computer game” mode.

  2. Stephen Barnard
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    In my opinion, anonymity is by far the most important cause of bad behavior on the Internet. Some people may be jerks using their real names, but many more will misbehave if they feel there are no consequences to their reputation.

  3. TJR
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Not quite an answer to the question asked, but IMHO the First Rule Of The Internet is and always has been

    Do Not Feed The Trolls

    Trolling (original sense, which includes MSM sense) is mostly just trying to get a rise out of people, winding them up. They want you to waste your time by replying, so don’t.

    Verbally it may seem more “extreme” on the internet, but in the vast majority of cases it is really much less extreme than standard playground bullying. The extreme verbal aggression tries to make up for the lack of physical threat, otherwise how would we know it was bullying?

    • jeffery
      Posted July 5, 2017 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

      Excerpts from a good article on “trolling” that I saw a while back- unfortunately, I don’t have the link:
      “Trolling, in its purest form, is the act of deliberately behaving in an upsetting or offensive way in order to provoke an angry response. It’s a form of entertainment, but in recent years, it’s also become linked to reactionary politics. A troll might, say, post a racial slur and then mock anyone who responds for being oversensitive. Trolling has become a central component of many of the online communities that make up the far right’s online culture—most recently and prominently including the alt-right.”
      “Trolling reflects a profound lack of sincerity, even a hostility to sincerity. It allows the speaker to make an offensive declaration and then insist that his or her (usually his) statement was just intended to make you mad—that you’re the real fool for taking this seriously. The speaker gets to say the thing and also gets to deny responsibility for it. The troll believes that people who care about things are chumps and that the only wise way to go through the world is with a level of ironic detachment that borders on nihilism. Trolling isn’t just about being offensive. It’s about being gleefully offensive.”

  4. Kevin
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Anonymity. The idea of being the super person, extending one’s ‘id’ above the surface.

    Most people are generally frail when it comes to voicing their opinions in public. We never share hatred or disdain even if we think it, but writing into a magic mirror (i.e., iPhone) makes it feel like the internet can become one’s diary.

  5. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    I think it’s the same reason people are jerks when they drive or to a certain extent, jerks when they deal with customer service representatives….power. They feel they have power of distance, anonymity, or position. And yes, this allows not only the worst in humans who normally receive social pressure to behave, but the freedom in sociopaths to unleash what they normally can’t.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 5, 2017 at 9:05 am | Permalink


    • Posted July 5, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      Yes – sealed in your box yet linked to the world – cars & computers both. Perhaps that means that they feel no boundaries though, that the world exists just for them.

    • DrBeydon
      Posted July 5, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Yes, I agree with this. Some people are jerks everywhere, but some people are only jerks when there is no fear of the disapproval of onlookers (which is often different than online observers).

    • steve oberski
      Posted July 5, 2017 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      They will never make any significant contribution to the world, nothing they do or say will in any way increase human happiness so they exercise power in the only way that they have, by destroying the contributions made by others.

      I see significant overlap between Internet jerks and Drumpf supporters, an unfocused rage at the bad hand that they have been dealt and a determination to pull everyone else down to their level of misery.

      • biz
        Posted July 5, 2017 at 10:43 am | Permalink

        There is also significant overlap between internet jerks and regressive/far leftists, and Israel derangers.

    • Brendan
      Posted July 5, 2017 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      Louis CK has a good bit about road rage. Doesn’t give any answers, but sets the problem up nicely:

  6. BobTerrace
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 9:05 am | Permalink


  7. Desnes Diev
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    The reasons are certainly multiple. Sometimes it must be because it’s easier to react than to make an effort to articulate thoughts. It may also be a way to vent personal frustrations (see Lindy West’s “What happened when I confronted my cruellest troll”, The Guardian) or to gain some kind of power (Sarah Holder’s “How the Psychology of Cyberbullying Explains Trump’s Tweets”, Politico).

  8. Posted July 5, 2017 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    I’m thinking that this whole fracture is occurring due to the separation of our biology. Being a hominid, when I relate to others I use their cues to continue the conversation. The comment section is “a shadow on the cave wall.” A departure, or poor simulation, from that relation. How could decent communication occur without our biology interacting? The obvious answer to that is The Roolz and the participants acknowledgement and adherence of them. And we all know about hominids and rule following. 😉

    • sensorrhea
      Posted July 5, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink


  9. Historian
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I think that many of the “jerks” on the Internet possess an inner rage due to dissatisfaction with their personal lives or the state of the nation or the world. The Internet allows them to vent with minimal repercussions. It is possible that this venting is psychologically good for them and reduces the possibility that they would engage in harmful behavior in the physical world. It is probably best just to ignore their unhinged rantings. I would not respond to them.

  10. Posted July 5, 2017 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    A line & a rule guide many a fool!

  11. Phil Rounds
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    I’ve found that those people who are rude on the internet are actually genuine dicks. They might not tell you to FO to your face, but they’re probably saying it behind your back. Since it’s not generally socially correct to misbehave in public, they do it from behind a computer where the audience often includes people they want to play to or impress. You’ll usually find that they have a number of followers who get a charge when they tell people to fuck off. Pseudonyms and handles are for cowards. They’re likely hiding their “opinions” from their “real life” associates.

    I don’t confuse these people with those who want to actually discuss or debate an issue. I’ve been in some long discussions where things can get pretty heated up…but i almost always try not to make it personal.

  12. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I wonder if anyone personally knows someone who is an internet troll. What are they like I ‘meat-world’?

    • nicky
      Posted July 6, 2017 at 4:20 am | Permalink

      When I started posting on Internet (long before WEIT) I have been guilty of rudeness and even trolling. I quickly realised that the ensuing flame wars lead nowhere, and they easily become boring too.
      If you want to convince someone, or even just to consider your argument, civility is much, immeasurably better.
      What got into me being rude? Anonymity certainly played a role, but also blowing off some ‘frustration-steam’, I guess. Plus the fact you childishly just can do it: plain naughtiness.
      Nowadays, I’m trying to be more civil than I would be in real life, try not to forget the smiley or ‘/s’, and am a bit more careful with what maybe humourous to me, but not to you.

  13. fizziks
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Ok, well first let me put out there that a small portion of people also behave awfully in real life, and these people behave the same on the internet.

    The real question here is ‘why are people who are generally civil in real life uncivil online?’

    I posit that it is the particular combination of 1) anonymity and distance with 2) a standard outrage ratcheting effect.

    Let’s face it – many humans hold views and opinions that are obnoxious. These grate on other people and make them angry and outraged.*

    In real life there are a lot of checks on that anger and outrage, such as a) not wanting to make a scene, b) not wanting to risk escalation to a physical confrontation, and c) not wanting to discover that the person you are about to insult is your boss’ dentist or some other acquaintance.

    On the internet, by contrast, all of those potential checks on the anger are not there! There is almost nothing holding people’s anger back.

    It really is scary to realize that the only things holding most people back from almost unlimited lashing out at another person are social sanctions that only apply to non-anonymous, physical situations.

    * Ceiling cat knows how angry and outraged -I- get when someone says something transparently idiotic like “Linda Sarsour is a liberal, progressive, brown hero, and I like that her hijab covering her head means that she doesn’t have to worry about her thigh gap, and also unlike those conservatives troglodytes I support science so I know there is no biological basis to gender whatsoever.”

    • Pali
      Posted July 5, 2017 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

      Something Stephen Pinker notes in “Better Angels of our Nature” is that we use a lot of nonverbal cues in conversations to show acquiescence, that we are backing down from the challenge, that we aren’t seeking a quarrel, and so on – these cues all work to help de-escalate situations, as the other person (usually subconsciously) reacts to them. Pinker notes this while discussing psychopaths, and how they don’t recognize such signals from others, but I wonder if something similar is at play in internet conversations for everyone – we are missing such cues in discussions online, and emojis and the like only go so far in making up for their absence.

      • nicky
        Posted July 6, 2017 at 4:23 am | Permalink

        Good point.

  14. yiamcross
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    I prefer anonymity on the internet because I’ve learned to my cost that there are people out there who will come and find you and harm you for taking a contradictory position against them. The religious are by far the worst offenders, tell a fundamentalist christian or moslem that you find their religion vile and their god does not exist and all too many will threaten your life. Or I could just not say anyhing and leave them to spread their nastyness but then that would be abject surrender to the bullies of the world.

  15. BJ
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    “…people who would be polite, or at least civil, if you met them in a public place. Yet many of them abandon this civility when they’re writing comments on the Internet. Anonymity, of course, is one part of an answer—if you don’t have to be held responsible for your words, then you can say whatever you want. But that presumes that beneath the veneer of civility that enables us to discourse in public, there are many people who would gladly tell you to “fuck off”, “die in a fire” or “stick a porcupine up your fundament”. Is that the case?”

    I think there are plenty of people who treat others poorly on the internet because they can, but I think there’s another, similarly large group in which I belong: those who, unable to see the face and hear the tone of voice used by their counterpart in a debate, are far quicker to anger because it’s easier to read condescension, malice, bad faith, or general ill will into a comment when one can’t see or hear their opponent. I know it’s far easier to anger me on the internet than in person (I’m generally known by people as being particularly difficult to anger, at least in person), and this isn’t because I have some desire to be angry or treat others as if I am, but simply due to the mechanics of interaction on the internet.

    At least for this latter group, it is very much worth asking how to “de-escalate a jerk one meets online.” Many of the people who seem to be jerks aren’t jerks at all: it’s just a simple misunderstanding of intent by them, caused by the limitations of communication through this particular medium. When I get angry with someone because I think they’re acting in ways like I described above, only to have them respond with kindness and an explanation of why I’m wrong about their intentions in commenting, I usually feel pretty bad and apologize (provided their explanation seems plausible in the context of their previous comments. I don’t give anyone and everyone the benefit of the doubt when they respond this way if it’s abundantly clear they were/are being a jerk).

    So, we have two groups, one for which deescalation can work, and one for which it won’t because they’re not open to deescalation.

    I’d also like to add that, for me, communication based purely in text leaves me sounding much more clinical and cold than I do in a normal conversation, and this can lead to people thinking I’m being condescending or dismissive when I’m not (it’s just a problem I’ve found with my writing style). So there are also people who just happen to write in a way that makes other think they’re being jerks sometimes, even when that’s not the intention and wouldn’t be perceived as such in person.

  16. Pierluigi Ballabeni
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Maybe it is a side effect of some behavioural trait that would be adaptive if expressed in a given environment.

    A couple of years ago, Umberto Eco wrote that the Internet allows any idiot to say to a global audience what otherwise would be only heard by a couple of people in a bar.

  17. jwthomas
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    The questions and answers seem to be based largely on personal experience in the English speaking world of Late Corporate Capitalism. Anybody here familiar what, say Twitter, is like in Japan?

    • stephajl
      Posted July 5, 2017 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      I cannot comment on Japanese-language Twitter, but I find Francophone Twitter significantly less aggressive, hostile, and generally nasty than Anglophone Twitter tends to be. It’s a different subculture.

    • Posted July 5, 2017 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

      The Bulgarian virtual world resembles the English one. I think we are observing a universal phenomenon.

  18. Posted July 5, 2017 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    I read this in American Scientist last month, above is the original paper: Anyone Can Become a Troll:
    Causes of Trolling Behavior in Online Discussions



  19. Posted July 5, 2017 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    My theory is that the world is full of jerks, and the internet offers them a huge new playground. On the school playground, someone would have punched their lights out.

  20. rickflick
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Part of the tendency to blast away on the internet may come from the frustration people feel when their voices seem ignored. Most intelligent comments on many platforms will not raise much of a response, if any. So people can feel ignored. They don’t feel part of the action. What better way to get an answer to knocking on the door than to knock harder. There, that’s better. Now their listening.

  21. stephajl
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 10:08 am | Permalink


  22. Sastra
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Grania added that it might be good to ask how to “de-escalate a jerk one meets online.” Or should one bother?

    I’ve spent over 20 years online practicing de-escalation skills. My advice:

    1.) Keep to topic. The person making the argument and their deep personality flaws aren’t the issue. The issue is the issue. You are a pleasant robot programmed to pursue the topic, which might change to another topic — but it’s not going to be ‘you.’

    2.) Completely ignore any insults, taunts, or bits of rudeness. That includes pointing out that you’re ignoring them, or going to ignore them, or have ignored them before. Act like you didn’t notice any of it.

    3.)Remain calm, polite, and impersonal. Use praise but sparingly, it can lead off topic. Ignore or gently glance off any directed towards you: same reason.

    4.) Discern the gist of an argument somewhere in the midst of the madnesss and address that. Let it be a challenge. Ask a question. Give a response or rebuttal as if speaking to a respected colleague. Use humor, but never at their expense. Admit mistakes graciously. Behave as if you like them. Better yet, like them. Trust that it will get easier over time.

    5.) Enjoy the discussion. They’re probably not really jerks. They’re interesting. And if they really are jerks, then that’s interesting, too. See what ought to work and watch how and why it doesn’t.

    6.) Repeat. Repeat.

    This WILL de-escalate virtually any and all interactions with jerks because it almost always takes 2 to escalate and you’re not playing. You’re playing a different game, an inviting one. Genuine trolls drop out. They’ll ignore you for the person or people giving back what they’re getting. But someone who is sincerely aggrieved and angry about a hot button issue will at least calm down enough to converse. And once it’s civil it stays there, because you continue #1-6 and they quickly revert to the new default.

    Is it worth the bother? I think so. If nothing else, it helps one understand the fringe-y edge of the case for the other side.

    • Jonathan Dore
      Posted July 5, 2017 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      Agreed. I’ve tried to do that too when I have the energy, but the time-cost can be enormous.

      • Sastra
        Posted July 5, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

        Really? The discussion may take a while, granted, but I’ve found it’s unusual to have someone still hurling personal abuse after 3 or 4 bland, civil responses on my part. They quiet down pretty quickly … unless they’re trolling.

        Of course, I’m not counting what I call ‘impersonal abuse’ — which includes threats of Hell, demonization of atheists/atheism, and personal taunts, insults, or anything else coming from a Calvinist. Those are the issue, it’s not really about me.

        • Jonathan Dore
          Posted July 5, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

          I try to answer their points comprehensively — probably a mistake — since they often splurge an inchoate ragbag of ideas and, if you don’t address them all, they’ll pick up on the one you didn’t as if you were stumped.

          • Sastra
            Posted July 5, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

            I used to do that — till the Gish Gallop got to me, too. Only one topic now. Like a laser. Explain at the start, say it’s because otherwise you’re not very good at following…

            • Jonathan Dore
              Posted July 8, 2017 at 2:28 am | Permalink

              Good advice — thanks!

    • darrelle
      Posted July 5, 2017 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      Very interesting, and excellent. I’ve seen you do just these things at times to “hostile” commentors and been impressed by your imperturbability and levelheadedness.

      I agree that it is worth the bother, if only for your own peace of mind. I will try to develop these skills, but I am but a flawed human being.

      • Sastra
        Posted July 5, 2017 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        It’s easier to remain calm and polite with strangers over the computer than it is in real life with strangers, acquaintances, and/or friends in your face. That’s one reason to practice online. Experience starts to spill over and kick in.

        • darrelle
          Posted July 5, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

          Yes, that makes sense.

    • Posted July 5, 2017 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the very well articulated advice.

      I post under my real name because it reminds me not to write anything that I wouldn’t be willing to say. That doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally flame someone, but I do try to stick to the point.

      The problem I’ve encountered is with people who are manifestly not participating in good faith. None of your techniques is going to work when your interlocutor is fundamentally dishonest, either deliberately or because of deeply held beliefs that do not allow him or her to even consider the possibility of being wrong. This often happens during discussions with creationists, including the intelligent design variant.

      One is then stuck with either letting such people spew their nonsense unrequited or engaging in a wrestling match with a pig that doesn’t care about anything other than getting everyone covered in mud.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 5, 2017 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      This works well in face-to-face situations as well. I exercise it often in the working world.

  23. Jonathan Dore
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    No reason to think such people haven’t always been around. Before the web, we just never heard from them. They had no public forum in which their words, pictures or videos could be published. All modes of mass communication (newspapers, radio, TV) had editorial gatekeepers whose job was (in part) to keep out the unhinged, the crass, and the sociopathic nihilists.

  24. Blue
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I quit. I do not bother.

    Not anymore. I used to, and
    I used to do many of the pointers
    Ms Sastra recounts.

    Not anymore. Determinist that I am
    and believe in re others ? They know.

    They know that they are mean – spirited and
    thuggish, savage. Since about their ages
    of eight* or so. Cuz they know, by then as
    kiddos, what makes them feel good and what
    makes them feel awful or pained or damaged.
    They have learnt these lessons by about age
    eight. So … … they know.


    They, too, know that they could, if they wanted
    to, change things / change how they relate.
    No matter the setting. Internet or
    face – to – face. Or wherever.


    No. I quit. I do not bother. Not anymore.


    *two exceptions: child soldiers and
    mentally ill (actual / not others’ labeled as)

  25. Steve Gerrard
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    I think the perception that half the world must be trolls is a result of failure to grasp the size of the world population. One percent of the world population is 70 million people, more than enough to soil all the comment threads with bile. It’s really no surprise at all if 1% of people are jerks.

  26. David Duncan
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Internet trolls are like North Korea – they want attention. Don’t give it to them.

    I know people who sometimes troll and are sometimes perfectly civil on the Internet snd also in real life. To react to trolling in either circumstance is wrong. Ignoring them punishes them. One of my ex-friends is a champion troll who also can be civil. He claims not to care what other people think of him. Such people are literally unballanced, IMHO.

  27. darrelle
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    “Why are some people jerks on the Internet?”

    I’m sure there is a range of reasons. I’m not sure if the question is intended to mean those people that are always, or at least normally, jerks on the internet, or something more general. After all, most people that correspond on the internet are jerks on occasion. I’m sure that most of the people commenting here have been so, most certainly including me.

    Given my uncertainty, I’ll talk about why I am sometimes a jerk on the internet. One of my big pet peeves is impoliteness. Now by “impolite” I may not mean exactly what others may envision. Perhaps meanness is a better term. Curse words in and of themselves don’t bother me, but being a dick to someone without provocation (admittedly a matter of interpretation) is what gets me.

    One example. A couple of times here on WEIT during discussions involving feminism Blue has made a comment about how she views feminism from her perspective, based on her very relevant experience. Some people responded like dicks, treating her as if she were one of the SJWs they dislike, and/or as if she has no good reason for her point of view. Admittedly, they may have misinterpreted Blue to one extent or another. In any case that is one example of one of the things that can inspire me to be a jerk on the internet.

    Another long time pet peeve of mine, predating the internet though extremely common on it, is people being dicks to their heart’s content and claiming they aren’t because they don’t use any curse words. Bullshit. It is perfectly possible, routine even, to be a raging asshole without using any bad words. Not using bad words doesn’t give you any cover. So, when I see someone doing that, being a dick, being called on it then claiming innocence because they didn’t cuss, that irks me.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 5, 2017 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      Not wanting to be snarky, but Blue’s style of writing is quite unusual and sometimes hard to follow. This may make her comments more susceptible to misinterpretation.


      • Colin McLachlan
        Posted July 6, 2017 at 4:36 am | Permalink

        I feel this too. I often have difficulty parsing her comments.

      • darrelle
        Posted July 6, 2017 at 8:15 am | Permalink

        Granted, and I did say that misinterpretation is a factor. In the cases I had in mind I’m not sure it’s a valid excuse though. But of course, that to is a matter of interpretation and subjective values.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 5, 2017 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

      In the curse word thing! It go s the other way too. If someone uses a curse word that distracts a bunch of people and they don’t hear what the person is saying. Since I don’t care about curse words, I can see past them. Further, curse words are important to self expression and stopping them limits what people are trying to say and make you feel.

      Also, darrelle, you are one of the good ones. I just can’t see you as a jerk on their internet!

      • darrelle
        Posted July 6, 2017 at 8:22 am | Permalink

        Yes indeed.

        In real life (meat space) I have a habit of using cuss words fairly regularly. Legacy of a misspent youth I guess. I really tried to be mindful of that when the kids were young, but wasn’t too successful. To try and give them perspective I often explained that there are two very different applications of cursing. One is calling people names, the other is exclamation. Surprisingly, neither of my kids has developed a cussing habit.

    • Diane G.
      Posted July 6, 2017 at 1:04 am | Permalink

      For the record, darrelle–that you occasionally step in and defend someone who’s getting bullied or simply misunderstood does not go unnoticed. Or unappreciated.

      • Blue
        Posted July 6, 2017 at 8:11 am | Permalink


        and … …
        Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres.


      • darrelle
        Posted July 6, 2017 at 8:28 am | Permalink

        Thank you for the kind words Diane.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted July 6, 2017 at 11:21 am | Permalink


    • nicky
      Posted July 6, 2017 at 4:36 am | Permalink

      I have to say, although Blue’s comments are generally good, I often struggle to understand what she means. She’s not always crystal clear, in other words. But I realise that may be as much (or more) my shortcomings as hers.

  28. Blue
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    in re “One example,” Mr Darrelle: : )
    = my thanks.

    You have daughters if I am not mistaken, not ?
    Something I wrote a wee bit back is this
    excerpt in re fathers of us daughters … …
    … …

    Your comments here on W E I T in re matters
    feminist often remind me of Mr AmTaham True,
    Mr Darrelle.


    • darrelle
      Posted July 5, 2017 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      Just one daughter and one son. Twins!

      Thank you Blue. Mr. AmTaham True sounds like a worthy role model with respect to his views regarding the worthiness of others.

  29. Posted July 5, 2017 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Most of the insults that get thrown about on the internet have lost all power now. If you haven’t been called a racist or a rapist you probably haven’t posted on even an innocuous subject like your favourite biscuit or prime number. I’m less bothered but that kind of abuse than arguments that are so stupid you can’t even believe those arguing for them believe, the redefinition of commonly used words, and some arswhile who thinks your point fails because of some issue regarding grammar. People like that aren’t arguing in good faith.

    I don’t think it has anything to do with anonymity, more immunity. We all know who the above the line commentators are at FTB but we also know they are in positions of power where being an arsehole on the internet isn’t going to put their jobs at risk.

  30. Posted July 5, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    “Is the Internet telling us what people are really like?”

    Well, yes, I think so, to a degree. I think anonymity and distance and the “computer game not reality” effect Coel mentions all simply enable the real culprit: tribalism. “I don’t who these jokers are; why should I be nice to them?” I think the degree to which we’ve managed to expand the circle in real life shrinks significantly when we hop on the internet. It’s the same phenomenon as not being able summon the same kind of empathy and sympathy for the myriad suffering and dying children around the globe as you can for your neighbor’s one child.

  31. Posted July 5, 2017 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps the lack of body language is also a minor factor. When talking to another person, you can pick up on subtle clues that you are discussing a sensitive issue, and adjust your tone and language to adapt to that. Much like adding Seinfeld’s “Not there is anything wrong with that.” when discussing homosexuality with someone who might not share your views. On the internet, without those clues to enforce polite conversation or debate, people are more honest or blunt with their views.

    Of course anonymity is important, as in person if you cross the line there could be immediate physical consequences, but online they can only type in caps back at you.

  32. Curtis
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    I think there is a mob mentality at play plus a desire for fame/prestige (even anonymous fame.)

    I see this in Facebook posts from my both progressive and conservative friends. One person says some slightly inappropriate and the others quickly turn it up to 11. Each person appears to wants to be the most outrageous partisan.

    Although anonymous fame seems like an oxymoron, I think that people love being the most admired/reviled hero/jerk. They get their chance to be Yiannopoulos while remaining safe in their own life.

  33. Paul S
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure that the people who are jerks on the internet aren’t jerks in person. In my experience the people who are jerks on the internet are to a lesser extent, jerks in person.
    Their face to face civility is a front that quickly fades away after a drink or two.

  34. karaktur
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Another place this shows up is in on-line poker games. There is usually a chat window and after hand, it is very common for a loser to indicate “well played” or “good hand”. Often, however, a player will do the opposite, even if they win with comments like “donkey” and other insults. I’ve noticed that the rude comments tend to come from aggressive players who overbet and unfortunately, most rude players come from North America, the US and Canada.

  35. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Part of it is, you can’t see tone of voice in a written comment. It is possible, in verbal communication, to say dreadful things and it’s obvious they are meant in a jocular and non-offensive manner. But the exact same comment in print may appear quite innocuous to the person who makes it (because they know it is intended lightly) and extremely provocative to the reader.

    This should be obvious to anybody who thinks about it.

    [That last sentence was a deliberate example.
    There was an (unspoken) implication that the readers are too dumb to have thought of it. Such an implication could have been quite unintentional – I admit, in this case, it was intentional for the purposes of demonstrating the point.]


  36. ladyatheist
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    Late to the party but my two cents: it seems that having two personalities is not comfortable for the human psyche. We either need to step away from internet battles, or our RL persona will start to be less civil. The fact that people have been emboldened by their internet echo chambers to commit violence in the name of ISIS, racism, anti-racism, anti-cops, and anti-Republicans, it seems the common denominator is self-radicalization seeping into RL in susceptible people. What makes people susceptible? Isolation for starters, which spending too much time on the internet will exacerbate.

    I have stepped away from some of internet atheism because IRL I have to deal with a lot of Christians. But… I have also found RL atheists to talk to thanks to the internet, so it’s a two-edged sword.

    Unfortunately, with Pence where he is, we do need to be more vigilant and activist so I try to keep my focus on creeping dominionism when I do allow myself to get upset.

  37. Merilee
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    Torally OT, but saw some really cool critters made out of LEGO today at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, Ontario.
    Too bad they don’t show the whole praying mantis. It’s maybe 5′ long and 3′ high.

  38. Diane G.
    Posted July 6, 2017 at 3:53 am | Permalink

    Three comments:

    1. Using a ‘nym isn’t always the same as being anonymous. Take a community like ours here, where the personalities of, say, Sastra, Musical Beef, Historian, infiniteimprobability, Blue, etc. (just naming the first nyms that popped into my head) are very familiar to all of us, as much so as anyone using their real names. And there are often good reasons for using a nym.

    2. There’s a flip side to the “can’t pick up nonverbal clues online” argument, and that’s that we’re also not being unduly influenced by anyone’s age, speaking facility, looks, manner of dress, gender, etc., not to mention all the sly tricks of debating in real life. We’re also not being as brutally talked-over as sometimes happens in RL, though sometimes it feels like we are…

    3. I think, especially on science-oriented sites, we get a higher proportion of people on the autistic spectrum (or whatever we’re calling it nowadays); we need to keep that in mind before we jump to erroneous conclusions or react to perceived slights.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 6, 2017 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      Good points, especially #2. I use a nym on some car sites to hide my gender so it isn’t a distraction from the conversation.

      • Diane G.
        Posted July 7, 2017 at 2:35 am | Permalink

        Perfect example!

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