The way I see it, in a debate, there are two scenarios in which you can't formulate a "come-back:" you lost fair and square or your opponent devolves into personal attacks.
The second one isn't too common on a debate stage or even in person. However, it is the accepted norm on the Internet.
A few days ago, I posted on my band's Facebook page and was almost immediately confronted with an angry comment suggesting that I move to Afghanistan if I hated the US so much.
This is a far right slogan I've heard too many times, and always have the same response for. Dissension is the greatest form of patriotism. It's because I love my country that I work to make it better. I then thanked him for commenting (hey, it's more hits on my band page), and went about my day.
Apparently, he didn't like my response.
After just those two comments, the rest of the 20 or so comments focused on personal, violent attacks: I hope you die, you deserve to be raped, suck this, eat that, go to hell, you're a piece of shit, etc. etc. Another one chimed in to bolster the behemoth display of dumb-assery, liking each others posts and re-iterating previous comments.
I watched this all unfold - after all, what would I say?
It was clear that any form of intellectual discourse was lost on these buffoons so why bother? I wasn't about to stoop to their level so after a while, I simply banned them from the page, reported it to Facebook and went on debating and discussing with those who had posted logical and valid points.
But it got me thinking, also because this wasn't the first time this has happened. Just a month or so ago, I commented on someone else's post only to be barraged by violent personal attacks. I've also had psycho stalkers on YouTube who began with death wishes and wrapped up with date requests.
Having grown a thick skin, I mostly just shake it off and continue on.
It's certainly not enough to shut me up, but should it be enough to make me pause?
And that's what I'm doing now.
It seems far too frequent and abundant, these digital dunces who troll the Internet armed with a full arsenal of expletives and an empty head.
And while we can't weed out all of them, or even always stop them from posting - could we trade the desensitization for awareness and not allow our entire interactive paradigm to retard to this shit-slinging level?
Because - imagine, if we begin to accept this as the norm - where does that end?
Can you picture it: once eloquent speakers meeting to debate but instead engaging in an epically grotesque and juvenile cut-down contest? Complete with foundation-less, factually inaccurate, juvenile, threatening verbal vomit?
....Scary to think that might already be happening...
If we continue to accept this as our 21st century digital discourse, we will continue to see more of these cretinous commentators and less intellectual dialog. People will cling to ideologies without the ability or even the need to back them up in any social setting. It will be black and white, good and evil. Compromise will be considered weak and any opposition to a viewpoint will be met with a slew of personal attacks instead of knowledgeable debate.
Sitting in the comfy confines, safe behind your computer, is apparently not just to avoid physical interaction, but also intellectual.
We don't need to agree on everything - what a boring and mono-faceted world it would be if we did. But if someone puts forth a point in a respectful, valid way, we have to learn and/or continue to debate it in the same fashion.
And we can't learn to accept those who don't.
Free speech is one thing, but threats and violent verbal attacks are another.
Deleting comments, reporting abuse - these are options - but is there anything else we can do? Not just to curb this behaviour but to bolster the behaviour of intellectual debate?
(*Please note, if you have a comment on this post that has anything to do with me dying, getting raped, or getting the shit kicked out of me - stop. Go away. Come back when you have something useful to say.)