Tuesday, 24 March 2020

The Toxic Internet & Intolerance

Those readers who have been following my work of late, will be aware that I have now produced more than one diatribe; upon the subject of the Internet and Social Networking. This is my third and final piece in the Toxic Internet series. I am sure many of you will be bored with my rants by now, so having dealt with misinformation and jealously, I now turn my mind towards the internet and intolerance.

The very concept of intolerance is a strange phenomena as it puts us in a quandary. We often wish to promote tolerance at the same time as taking a stand against intolerance but by doing so we risk becoming intolerant ourselves. From an ethical point of view, we are faced with a dilemma. How does one preserve free speech, while condemning opinions that are not necessarily worthy of a civilised society? At what point can we as a society, declare that particular opinions should be considered as hate speech or provocative in nature? It is not at all clear cut. Today anyone looking at the media and the Internet, should be able to appreciate the difficulties faced by those forced to review complaints of this nature.

Exploring the Internet and in particular You-Tube, I have stumbled across Crazy Christians, Mad Muslims, Angry Atheists and quite a few Potty Pagans. I can neither support nor identify with any of these, what I hope to be fringe elements. Their opinions and behaviour are condescending and frankly embarrassing. They are collectively a disgrace and I hope in no way representative of the movements from which they have emerged; whether it is Christianity, Islam, Humanism or Paganism. Indeed I look on Fundamentalist Christianity, Militant Islam and Militant Atheism with the same lens, they are all equally unsavoury and unnecessarily aggressive.

Watching You-Tube I am in particular struck by what I understand to be called 'response videos.' Here an online argument or attack, is passed back and forth between two or more protagonists. These protagonists generally form sides, the Flat Earth Movement will go head to head with those whose grasp of reality is greater. Crazy Christians and Angry Atheists face each other across the web in the same manner. Very often these engagements are characterised by a distinct lack of respect for those opposite, an uncivil manner and a generally patronising attitude. The behaviour witnessed online is as immature as that found in any school playground.

Nor am I in any way impressed by the language that I witness, particularly on You-Tube and Facebook. The use of the 'F' and 'C' words distresses me greatly. By now I am no doubt coming over in an overly genteel manner and perhaps I am socially prudish. This rant or as I prefer, diatribe is something of a howl into the darkness and I admit; I can swear as much as any other. However, in watching a debate and witnessing one 'combatant' call another a 'f**king moron,' I can make this observation.  Such behaviour is no way to win an argument, even if the person losing their composure is factually correct.

What is it about the Internet, Social Networking and media channels, that causes people to switch off their self control and blow their safety valves  outright? Is it the distancing, the lack of recognition that the person opposite is a person, because they are hidden behind a screen? Does use of the Internet induce us all to become socially inept, keyboard warriors that lack any concept of barriers?

As is often the case when addressing the modern phenomenon of the Internet, I struggle to answer these questions in any satisfactory manner. I suspect it is primarily due to the social distancing of the Internet and the impersonal nature of the World Wide Web. Whatever the reasons for these behaviours, they remain inexcusable and I want no part of such an awful 'virtual' society.

The Toxic Internet & Misinformation #1

The Toxic Internet & Misinformation #2

The Toxic Internet & Tall Poppy Syndrome#1

The Toxic Internet & Tall Poppy Syndrome#2

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