Friday, July 18, 2008
A Milestone Has Been Reached.
I got my first really great hate comment this week.
I wrote a blog post for DISCOVER about this kid in Australia who was diagnosed with "Climate Change Disorder" -- he thought he couldn't drink any water because we'd run out and humanity would be destroyed. I wasn't totally convinced it wasn't a hoax, and what really made me want to write about the story was that pundits picked up the easy "Al Gore is making people crazy" angle to say that global warming is all empty hype: If you're scoring their logic at home, that's [one funny anecdote=years of research being meaningless]. Frequent rhetorical trick.
Anyway, I made the post, pointing out that while this boy was probably troubled, that doesn't invalidate the world's concern over global warming. Pretty straightforward, really. It's here. Then scroll down to the rambling comment. It's immaculate, and has very little to do with the actual post, other than one sentence in which I say global warming is real and dangerous.
I bring this while thing up because I thought of it after I was briefly accosted while walking over the Brooklyn Bridge tonight. The central pathway runs above the cars; half the wooded walk is for pedestrians, half is for cyclists. I walked over to the east side to look toward Midtown, and unwittingly walked across the bike lane. A man made a turn around me and then yelled the obligatory "you gotta watch where you're going, buddy."
Let's get a few things straight: I'm not Ralphie from A Christmas Story, and I'm not your buddy. But I was not angry with this man. He's a New Yorker, so I excuse him the knee-jerk reaction to say something. It's like honking. The world around you is unfit, so you must register your disappointment, and what's more, be an asshole to drive home the correction. "You gotta watch were you're going, buddy." All right. Now I know.
When I starting pondering his urge to correct the world at large, I started to think about something that's been on my mind lately -- web hooliganism, and how easy it if for otherwise small people to beat their chests and play bully online. There are all the usual reasons, of course: the anonymity, the lack of face-to-face contact that would normally throw social mores in the way of our aggression, the relative ease of writing something down compared to actually saying it and getting it past that conditioned lump in your throat.
What occurred to me was this: New Yorkers are New Yorkers all the time, but the rest of the country is becoming New Yorkers online -- free from the shackles of propriety, people can no longer withstand the urge to correct the world around to some imagined one best way. And when somebody else can't resist the urge to correct them to their correct way, the personal attacks come.
My hating commenter might be the kind of person who's aggressively correcting in all phases of life, online and not. Or perhaps he's a very nice man in reality, and only online does he troll posts however tangentially related to global warming, looking to correct the world to his point--that climate models haven't been totally accurate, so global warming is a hoax.
I don't know.
The creators of Donnie Darko were wrong, by the way. "Brooklyn Bridge" is a much better phrase than "Cellar Door." Same "UM-pa-DUM" rhythm, more visually appealing. And don't get me started on alliteration.