The Tip of the Iceberg?

I admit it; I read comments in newspaper posts. Not all of them for certain – I can’t imagine anyone would actually read over 2,000 comments on a six or seven paragraph article in the Washington Post.  (Perhaps there are folks who are worse off than I am in this regard!)

Sometimes I ask myself why I do it – why subject yourself to a virtual hate-fest of ideologues with a smattering of common sense thrown in here and there?  Often those attempting to make a valid point are viciously attacked from both poles of the ideological spectrum.  It’s like rubbernecking at a bad traffic accident; you don’t feel good about looking on at the carnage but can’t quite make yourself look away.  Like looking at any of the 1,677 comments HERE.

But here’s my biggest question.  Do these virtual lessons in how not to get along represent only the lunatic fringe?  Or are they like the tip of an iceberg?  Just like 90% of that ship-crushing ice lies beneath the surface, do these acerbic, animonistic folks who seem to find sport in back-and-forth hate speech represent more that we don’t see?  Have we as a “people” become so distanced from one another – so polarized into left / right, blue / red, liberal / conservative, saved / unsaved, wise / foolish (the categories abound here)… that this is our only way of talking across the divide?  Have we become this mean?  Or has the Internet age simply brought the lunatic fringe into relief in ways we’ve never really paid attention to before?  While I hope it’s the latter, I fear it might be the former.

So I wonder – is the smoke on the horizon of so much of our political, religious, cultural discourse… just smoke from the inevitable friction when people disagree and have real emotion in those disagreements?  Or is there fire there – burning everything in its path, scorching all the earth in such a way that winning or losing no longer matters since these verbal slugfests leave everyone sharing a blackened, useless wasteland?

I’m just thinking…

2 thoughts on “The Tip of the Iceberg?

  1. John Sellers

    Tip of the iceberg is correct – but there are a few factors that temper that assessment; percentage of posters-to-lurkers is likely not 90%-10% (won’t match the floating ice split).

    But the relative percentages of lunatics/fanatics to sensibles in the general population is probably close to what you’ll actually count or see posted. (Problem here is, you’d have to go through ALL of those posts to get a number – enjoy that, you will.)

    Another factor – number of lunatics showing themselves on the web is greater than what you’ll observe in face-to-face contact. This is just like the effect you see with drivers behind the wheel of vehicles on the roads – there is an increased sensation of anonymity for internet posters; they feel more empowered to stir stuff up. (Just like I’m doing now?)

    Population warming is a much greater danger than global warming – IMO. With increasing decrease in education (how’s that for paradoxical sentence construction?), it’s going to become very flammable.


  2. Serena

    I don’t have any answers … it may be just that there are more people living now than have lived and died in all history and so more lunatics and fanatics (and hopefully more who are not so lunatic and fanatic) and more ways and more freedom to express one’s self … but either way, it’s very sad and scary to me!

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