Narrow Minds Abound on the Broadband

By Rob Patterson

I should know better than to entertain myself by posting on open political forums on the Internet. Been there, done that, and always come away feeling outraged and disgusted. Not just with others but also myself.

Ultimately, you have to be pretty dumb and lame to see much sense and use to online political debate.

And that’s despite the fact that one can learn much not just from not just like-minded folks but also some of those who hold opposing views.

And engage in genuine discourse that enlightens and can even reach levels of new and better consensus.

But too many people just want to cling to their negative beliefs, and trying to use logic, facts and even appeals to their humanity never seem to sway them. It’s useless to even try.

We live in an age of high personal and political dysfunction. The Internet only seems to amplify that to sometimes gruesome and troublesome levels. It’s all part of a syndrome I call “Digital Personality Disorder.” The firewall of anonymity enables some people to behave at their worst. I end up feeling not just like I need a good shower and scrub but some, alas, nonexistent refuge from how ugly and hateful people can be.

It’s no secret that when it comes to politics, America is a nation not just divided but fractured and fractious. Many people are angry, frustrated, and struggling with a sense of powerlessness. Online forums allow this to be easily expressed, but it’s a venting that never feels like it offers much if any catharsis. It’s one of those highly addictive activities that seems to only feed on itself in mostly unhealthy ways. If I were to say one thing I see as an identifiable trend on the groups and boards I’ve dipped into lately, too many on the right would crucify me. But lockstep adherence to ideology as an answer to everything does characterize too many conservative and libertarian comments. Then again, to them, all liberals and leftists think alike, never mind how the circular firing squad of competing views and agendas has crippled the left for decades.

Racism and xenophobia are rampant. I’m shocked at how many Americans seem to loathe Muslims and Arabs in this post-9/11 era and have contempt for Mexicans and other Hispanics as a result of illegal immigration.

It’s especially ironic to me since as soon as I finish writing this I’ll be heading up the street to my local market, which is run by and employs East Asian Muslims. And maybe get a breakfast taco or two from the Mexicans who have a food trailer in the parking lot.

Wasn’t the Internet supposed to make the world smaller and bring us closer together? Yet on political discussion threads I read blanket negative statements over and over again about Muslims and Mexicans that my everyday interactions disprove as I do business with these nice and friendly people in my neighborhood.

Why can’t these haters realize that most people on the planet, no matter their nation, race or faith, are just trying to live their lives and get by?

And of course, seething distrust and disgust with politicians all across the political spectrum is expressed in online forums. But then I see how the Internet has helped facilitate the recent rebellions against tyranny in Egypt and Libya and it gives me hope that the Internet can be a positive political tool.

For right now, however, I just want to abandon any political boards I’ve been a part of, shut off my computer, and enjoy some serious escapist entertainment with a TV show, movie, book or some music. Because there are few pastimes as depressing and distressing as what passes for political debate online.

Rob Patterson is a music and entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. Email

From The Progressive Populist, May 15, 2011

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