Friday, July 15, 2016

#NothingElseMatters

I admit that I am always morbidly fascinating at watching #HashtagWars play themselves out on social media in particular. Social media is the perfect echo chamber for would be loudmouths, hucksters, race-baiters, trolls, and various other parishioners of what I call the First Self-Righteous Church of America-Twitter Diocese. Whether it be Confederate flags, LGBTQWERTY rights, or Zoos shooting random Gorillas, there is a constant cacophony of of faux-moral outrage that flows forth like a fountain of bilge from a sewer main explosion. Some of the causes are perhaps worthy of discussion, while some of them are just ridiculous topics that really amount to a cosmic waste of the Divine time.

As of this writing, there has been a dreadful spat of police shootings of civilians, righteous indignation, and retaliatory shootings of police in Dallas and elsewhere. The sad goings-on has led to some ghastly racial tensions and near riots in both the real world and virtual world. The news this week could easily make one despair of America.

All the rage (no pun intended) these days on social networks and political culture is the #BlackLivesMatter phenomenon, which is more than just a weird Twitter hashtag, but a political movement of sorts, which appears largely to be a more grassroots and disorganized group of folks protesting the perceived injustices of African-Americans in American culture. Some of the folks I have no doubt are very sincere, others have more nefarious political or material motives. No doubt some even are using it as cover to simply riot and steal flatscreen TVs from businesses that have nothing to do with any of it.

Whatever the movement is or is not, #BlackLivesMatter is a thing, at least for today. I say "at least for today" because usually fads or buzzwords or #hashtags are like waves on the ocean. They build up, crest, and then hit the beach full on, at which point they tend to dissipate, as the next wave of social media unrest begins to rise. Such is a culture that has a collective attention span of about 5 seconds. I really have no idea whether #BlackLivesMatter will continue on for a time or not.

Remember These?
My general rule of thumb in predicting when cultural trends are about to run out of steam is when the parodies and satires of the trend, fad, or buzzword start cropping up in culture. Some years ago, for example, there was this fad for having yellow traffic signs suction-cupped to the inside of rear windows in cars that read "Baby On Board."  I remember for a time, if you drove anywhere with traffic, it seems as if there must have been some massive baby boom because every car seemed to have them. And then the fun began...

The parodies started coming out. 'Rescued Pekingese on board." "Aliens on board." Finally, the double parodies began like "Barf Vader on board" or even "Stupid Yellow Signs in Window on Board." It really was quite hilarious for a time, but then everyone grew tired of them as they grew cliché. Finally (and mercifully) they largely went the way of the dinosaurs.

I bring this up because of I have begun to see some, as is often the case in cultural movements, responses in kinds to #BlackLivesMatter. At first, it was a political (if preachy) response counter-snipes like #AllLivesMatter or #BlueLivesMatter. I saw my first parodies yesterday, particularly a poignant cartoon done tongue-in-cheek on with #BlackLivesMatter protesters holding signs having an argument with #BlueLivesMatter people with the final frame being a 1990's Grunge-style Heavy Metal fan with long hair and a Metallica shirt showing up and head banging with a sign that read #NothingElseMatters. (Metalheads will understand the reference.)

I think this is why I really recoil at any form of sloganism. Whether it is #BlackLivesMatter or #SaveOurGirls or Making America Great Again, slogans always become vacuous and devoid of meaning to the point of being parodies that people laugh at. I think that is the danger of these social media hashtag wars. They actually accomplish the exact opposite of what they intend. Instead of bringing about change or discussion, they create further animosity and fodder for late-night comics. When they flame out entirely. the same problems remain: man is still sinful and any society created by man is at best a shadowy reflection of the Kingdom of God and a worst a mirror reflection of hell itself.

Don't fight twitter wars. Make a real difference. Love your neighbor. Search for God while He wills to be found. That's the only way to change the world because Hashtags never will.







Saturday, July 09, 2016

Red State/Blue State Facebook.

The Wall Street journal recently did an interesting, if bizarre, experiment that is called the Red Feed/Blue Feed. Basically, it's premise being that Facebook, due to its scripting bots, tracks what news you look at, and caters to your political whims by putting things in your feed that the all knowing bots (peace and blessings be upon them) think might be of interest to you. So the Wall Street Journal bemoans, this is further polarizing our society because it pushes people into Facebook bunker mentality.

I have been looking at this. I am not certain if this is a bad thing or not. I say that because on the one hand, I think it is good that we have a democratization of news sources, both liberal and conservative and anything in between. Back in the pre-internet days, it was the bias of the Big Three news networks and whatever the NY Times was into, which was basically all monochrome news from an elitist New York slant. They often ran all the same stories in (oftentimes) the exact same order. There was no criticism, that was THE NEWS and it was OBJECTIVE (so they said). At least with a Red State/Blue State feed, you have a chance of hearing other voices or stories that the Drive By Media passes on or collectively goes silent on because it "does not fit the narrative." At least this gives the elite media a run for its money.

On the con side, I do understand the "echo chamber" concern. People can get sucked into an artificial world that only reinforces their pre-conceived world views and isolates them from anyone of a contrary opinion. Much like the story about old Walter Mondale who, after getting wiped out in the election against Reagan in '84 (I think he only won his home state of Minnesota and there only by a small margin), and was interviewed some months later about his failed campaign. He got defensive and finally said, "I just don't understand it! I don't know a single person who voted for Reagan!" Interestingly, that happened in the pre-internet days. So, it was perfectly possible before Facebook to get oneself into a bunker mentality.

I am not sure if Facebook is the problem, or it is the People ourselves who are to blame. Even in the days of the Library in Alexandria, Philosophers were notorious for only going into the section of scrolls that aligned with their philosophy of choice. I think the historical annals of none other than Tacitus, he recounts an anecdote of how a Platonist happened to accidentally wander into the Stoic section of library and a riot ensued.

What comes to mind is the famous Adams-Jefferson presidential attack ads.


Talk about polarization. Or look at the propaganda on both sides leading up to the US Civil War. Makes just about anything on Facebook look pretty tame.

I guess my question is: Is there really anything new under the sun?

Thought for the day.

"Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding: it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue."

-Care to Guess Who Said It?