Someone is Wrong on the Internet…and Everywhere Else

Brie and Joe created SWOTI and host the SWOTI podcast. The two, self-described “Millennials of Color” wrestle with race, politics, relationships, and myriad items swimming about in the popular culture. In doing so they discover that, well, SWOTI–“Someone is Wrong on the Internet.”

 

Someone is wrong, indeed.

 

Someone is wrong on the internet when Megyn Kelly fears for her life because internet trolls threaten her for asking then-candidate Donald Trump a challenging question–you know, doing her job. Someone is wrong on the internet when crazy websites like World Net Daily, and Breitbart, and Infowars hold the same prominence among a large swath of the American public as The New York Times, or The Washington Post. Someone is wrong on the internet when the conspiracy theories promulgated by honest-to-goodness fake news sites lead to violence. Still don’t think someone is wrong on the internet? You haven’t spent enough time in unmoderated comment sections on YouTube.

 

Or maybe you have.

 

But in truth, what is wrong on the internet correlates with what is wrong in American society; and not to be too grandiose, but this points to what is wrong in the human condition.

 

Confirmation Bias causes us to look for ideas that support our preconceived notions. The Dunning-Kruger Effect means that we’re most confident when we’re most wrong. The Backfire Effect sees us persisting in error especially when offered evidence to the contrary.

 

And to top it all off, we insist that we can understand the unspoken motives of others who disagree with us. This, in spite of an argument I make in a Right Noise episode that states that our ability to understand the motivations of others is even more challenging than our ability to understand our own motives.

 

And so, politics and political affiliation must be understood as an imperfect vehicle of our attitudes, philosophies, and expressions of our life experiences. Therefore, attacking those who disagree with us politically as morally depraved, insincere, or worse, becomes a tiresome self-righteous exercise, devoid of self-awareness (not that I do not make this mistake sometimes, myself).

 

Moreover, it’s unproductive. It’s noise. It’s the white-hot heat of anger in place of the illuminating light of empathy.

 

My opposition to some abortions is not a proxy for a deep-seated misogyny. My skepticism of the wisdom and efficacy of certain government programs does not betray a secret desire to see vulnerable people suffer. My belief in the traditional definition of marriage–however inconsequential politically–is not rooted in a desire to see gay people harmed.

 

Or is it?

 

Maybe politics provides a convenient narrative, wrapped in the flag, that allows me to cling to confirmation biases that insist that the races are created unequal, that women should not be trusted to forge their own destinies, or that gays should be hanged and stoned as they are in so many other places around the world.

 

For some folks, this may very well ring true. Just as there are some people on the left who truly hate the United States and want to see it obliterated.

 

But it’s not true of me, nor is it true of literally millions of conservatives and Republicans who agree with me.

 

Still, insisting that bigotry; or even ignorance; accounts for ideological differences amounts to a naivety that is both overly pessimistic and exceedingly optimistic.

 

My politics is a blurry reflection of my beliefs, experiences, faith, philosophy, privileges, upbringing, ideals, and sense of justice. Not the other way around. These elements tug at each other, and compete with human frailties and sinful failings. I always assume the same is true of my political opponents as well.

 

Understanding that this identity soup simmers in each of us should dissuade you from shooting at Congressmen at a softball practice, or threatening an Iraq War veteran who writes for the National Review. That which is wrong on the internet, and in American life, is not our politics, but the unwarranted assumptions about what our politics say about our personal morality.

 

The mouth betrays our passions. The pen betrays our thoughts.

These are some of the points I hope to have conveyed in my interview with the SWOTI Podcast.

Carson for Fuhrer

Ach du Liebe, Dr. Carson!


From the moment Ben Carson entered the public eye, bashing Obamacare at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013, many conservatives clamored for him to run for president. Even when Carson indicated that he would not run, groups–often nefarious groups–collected money in his name, claiming that they needed the money to urge Carson to run. His soft-spokenness, unapologetic appeal to principle and religious dedication endear him to conservatives tired of the self-promotional bombast of typical politicians. For Republicans looking to change the Party image, the black Carson offers a rebuttal against the stereotype that the GOP regards blacks with hostility. Carson writes about his successful career as a neurosurgeon in “Gifted Hands,” the most popular of his books. Before him, no one had ever successfully separated craniopagus twins. That said, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see that Dr. Carson’s newly announced presidential campaign’s greatest weaknesses may be the candidate himself.

In any presidential campaign, the potential nominee must be supremely accomplished, as is Dr. Carson. However, Americans have yet to decide what kind of experience best translates to being a good president. So far, we appear to favor Ivy League lawyers (sorry, Scott Walker), governors (sorry, Rand Paul), and distinguished military service personnel (sorry, John Kerry). Each of those fields, and elements of others, correspond to some responsibility of the Executive office. This means less to Dr. Carson whose success in an admirable profession will hardly disqualify him. The point, though, is that in the absence of knowing what profession best predicts the skill set necessary to be a successful president, Americans faced with fields of accomplished candidates look for more superficial traits–namely those that make a candidate a good campaigner. Dr. Carson, for all of his accomplishments, fails where it matters the most–as a politician.

“I gotta tell you something. I’m not politically correct,” Carson said during his official presidential announcement. “I’m not a politician. I don’t want to be a politician. Politicians do what is politically expedient. I want to do what’s right.”

Carson’s line, appropriately striking a populist tone, attempts to cover him for some egregious remarks he’s made–remarks that he must renounce. Saying that “Obamacare is really…the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” and then doubling down, saying that “it is slavery,” represents a monumentally stupid statement. Todd Akin stupid. (Abortion ranks higher than Obamacare on the spectrum of morally reprehensible policies, I think.) In March, Carson apologized for saying that prison turns straight men gay. This statement brought such a backlash, that Carson refuses to address gay rights issues (a pivotal topic in America right now) for the rest of the presidential campaign.

Then, there is his comparing America to Nazi Germany–implying that the IRS equates to the SS or the Gestapo. One needn’t be Jewish to take offense to a comparison that trivializes the most sinister part of Nazism–the genocide. Still, Carson stands by his comments, and this represents a problem for Republicans who want to win the 2016 election.

Clearly, Democrats have a problem: their wealthiest candidate also has the best name recognition and potentially gives the Party four more years to develop new talent that is sorely lacking. This candidate, though, is Hillary Clinton: the secretive, corrupt, overly-ambitious, unaccomplished Hillary Clinton. Democrats look across the aisle and see formidable Republican candidates assembling to take control of the third branch of our three branch government, and potentially secure further control in the Supreme Court by replacing aging conservative judges and perhaps even Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The left’s best chance to denigrate the Republican Party is to paint the candidates as out of touch extremists, as clowns, as unserious. Just as Akin’s comments hurt the entire Republican field in 2012, forcing candidates outside of Missouri to speak to Akin’s gaffe, Democrats are always on the lookout for another candidate that can help them advance their narrative and direct the electorate to discuss a stupid statement rather than the issues at hand. Alexandra Jaffe, writing about Carson’s Nazi Germany statement for CNN.com, writes: “Carson’s unapologetic, outspoken style has contributed to his meteoric rise within the conservative movement and the Republican Party more broadly…” The subtext of Jaffe’s statement  is that conservatives like Carson’s crazy statements, and his egotistical refusal to walk them back. Between Ted Cruz’ government shutdown and Ben Carson’s “wrong-but-strong” proclamations, Democrats have strong opportunities to smear the party–perhaps even well enough to damage our aspirations.

While I hope that Dr. Carson contributes positively to the 2016 race, I highly doubt that Republicans will make the mistake of nominating him to represent the party in this important election. The accomplished, Dr. Carson may do well as Surgeon General; or as a beloved conservative speaker, campaigner, and writer. Whether or not he wins the nomination, though, I don’t foresee him leading the United States into a Fourth Reich.

Men and Women Seek Truth

Postmodernism, a prevailing philosophy in the United States, argues that Truth cannot be objectively known. Truth consists of narratives constructed by people biased by their own ascribed statuses. Therefore, what may be true for one may not necessarily be true for another, but both people’s truths, even when mutually exclusive, hold equal validity.

If this makes no sense to you, much of the world around you might not make much sense to you either. As it happens, this young philosophy fuels the madness of transgender identity and the movement to affirm it as a valid lifestyle.

After Bradley Manning, Bruce Jenner becomes the latest high-profile person receiving gender reassignment surgery. Jenner, a track and field Olympian, born a man, dominated headlines recently because he mentally identifies as a woman. With the help of modern medicine, Jenner plans to live the rest of his life pretending to be a woman. Postmodernism argues that because Jenner believes himself a woman, he is so. My argument that Jenner can never be a woman, but can only be a mutilated man, offends the postmodern sensibility. On the political left, where postmodernism thrives, activist groups pressure lawmakers and society to recognize gender dysphoria as a legitimate lifestyle, instead of a mental disorder fed by postmodernist tenets. Their work, aimed at helping the gender-confused by convincing society to be complicit in a lie, may do more harm than good.

Dr. Paul McHugh, a retired psychiatrist in chief from Johns Hopkins Hospital, wrote a bold piece for the Wall Street Journal describing gender dysphoria as a mental disorder that leads to dire consequences when treated with gender reassignment surgery. To this end, McHugh quotes a 30-year study from the Swedish Karolinska Institute.

“The study revealed that beginning about 10 years after having the surgery, the transgendered began to experience increasing mental difficulties. Most shockingly, their suicide mortality rose almost 20-fold above the comparable nontransgender population…The high suicide rate certainly challenges the surgery prescription.”

A prescription that Johns Hopkins, America’s premier medical institution, refuses to condone.

Other studies, too, highlight the same phenomenon. The Williams Institute, an LGBT research group at UCLA, finds that the transgendered attempt suicide at twice the rate of lesbians and gays combined. Transgendered men, like Jenner, lead the pack. Transgender rights activists pounced on McHugh, making mostly ad hominem attacks. The statistics, though, speak for themselves.

The reach of this aspect of postmodern thinking even affects young children. 5-year-old Mia Lemay insisted, since she was 2, that she identified as a boy. Her parents, Mimi and Joe–who presumably would not allow Mia to eat ice cream for breakfast as she willed–decided to rename their daughter Jacob, cut her hair, and insist that her preschool treat her as a boy.

“Ultimately, Jacob made that decision in his mind and his heart,” Mimi says. “If we don’t come out now and talk to people and… show people that transgender children are normal and wonderful…then I’m afraid that he will go into the world and meet with hostility.”

Mia/Jacob did not receive gender reassignment medication or surgery, but some parents pursue this course for their children. McHugh explains:

“…[T]here is the subgroup of very young, often prepubescent children who notice distinct sex roles in the culture and…begin imitating the opposite sex. Misguided doctors at medical centers including Boston’s Children’s Hospital have begun trying to treat this behavior by administering puberty-delaying hormones to render later sex-change surgeries less onerous—even though the drugs stunt the children’s growth and risk causing sterility. Given that close to 80% of such children would abandon their confusion and grow naturally into adult life if untreated, these medical interventions come close to child abuse.”

Parents convinced to submit to the will of a toddler, a grown man’s decision to mutilate himself so that he can better pretend to be a woman, and the many people working ardently to change society’s view of the transgendered, do so under the powerful sway of an utterly silly ideology–postmodernism. A 5-year-old girl is not a boy because she says so anymore than Bruce Jenner is a woman, or than I was Luke Skywalker as I proclaimed as a little boy. Truth exists, despite what postmodernists say. Understanding postmodernism for the sham that it is will reintroduce us to clarity and sanity. Or maybe that’s just my own, personal truth.