I haven’t really been able to discuss the internet recently. The internet left in America is busy asserting that violence is the best solution to political problems, which would be less weird if all branches of government, as well as the military, the police, and most people with guns in America weren’t explicitly “the enemy.” The internet right, meanwhile, ALSO wants to use violence to solve political problems, which would be less weird if the violence wasn’t being directed from Russia against us. I don’t know how to critique anything that is this far gone. Alex Jones recently tweeted: “We are all Alex Jones,” but he’s only correct in the sense that we are all idiots.
Everyone once in a while someone says something that’s almost smart, but it’s also really stupid, and so it goes viral, and let me talk about John Scalzi.
Scalzi actually manages to articulate a pretty accurate theory of human interaction; and then, predictably, he says, “This only applies to other people.”
Imagine if Freud had written, “People suffer from something I call an Oedipal Complex, although only outside of Vienna.” If the old primer had read, “In Adam’s fall we sinned all; except, of course, for you and me.”
I don’t understand how anyone can believe that the last few years of internet discourse have been a case of one side exercising good faith arguments in an attempt to reach an amicable solution and the only hitch is THE OTHER SIDE and their cynical machinations. But apparently 20,142 people do.
(You’ll notice that nerd hierarchy is never far from Scalzi’s mind; here the bad people play CCGs. Probably they have neckbeards.)
I don’t mean to call “both sides,” as though both sides were necessarily equal; equally bad, I mean. At any given moment one side is probably worse, and right now it’s not hard to pick a winner. Anne Coulter’s book Treason was probably always garbage (I didn’t read it), but it’s going to be hard to explain now that the GOP party-line is that treason is good (because: her emails). But to pretend that WE are concerned, caring, sincere, and informed, and THEY are [opposites] — look, you should pretty much never believe this. Regardless of who you are and what the issue is, never believe it; it’s sloppy and lazy. Obviously I think the specific behavior of Scalzi’s “we” over the last few years makes the assertion even more ridiculous.
Here’s what Scalzi should have said (please break it up into tweet-sized chunks at your leisure): “We made a bunch of crazy rules with the assumption that we would always be the ones who got to enforce them. Somehow we never thought that anyone else would be able to use these rules, even though a child should have been able to figure out that rules do not get applied to one side and not the other. When the Washington Post sports the headline ‘Georgia Police Invoke Law Made for KKK to Arrest Anti-racism Protesters,’ we should take a moment to remind ourselves that the law may have been ‘made for’ the Klan in the sense that the Klan inspired it, but it was actually ‘made for’ masked activists, because that’s the way laws work. The fact that we believe they are primarily tree-dwelling sociopaths makes our hope that they would honor a gentleman’s agreement not to use our own tactics against us particularly silly. Let’s try in the future to think two steps ahead before insisting, say, that anyone’s job should be contingent on never having made the wrong kind of joke [the specific impetus for this particular tweetstorm]; glass houses etc.”
Scalzi’s real complaint seems to be they are self-aware and we are not.