Thursday, October 19, 2017

When Avatars Attack

A Recycled Prelude

An excerpt from an earlier post. This tells of what turned out to be a personally profound moment that took place in Phoenix on Halloween, 2016 just before Trump's election. It sets up nicely what you'll see sprouting here over the next several days and/or weeks. 

Facebook Avatars Escape The Matrix

Jeff and I went to a tiny Halloween get together at his apartment complex and toward the end of the night, the host’s neighbor stopped to chat. Seemed like a decent kid. Personable. Pleasant. Mid 20’s. I didn’t think anything of it. Suddenly, while he and the token liberal/anti-Trump partygoer were having a nice conversation, the liberal gun slinger decided to show off his ideological marksmanship and, out of the blue, yanked his Progressive Facebook Avatar from the Matrix dropping it, meme guns a-blazin’, into the Desert of the Real. The Trump supporter naturally reacted in kind and it predictably, and quickly, devolved from friendly polite banter into The Battle of Arizona and almost a physical fight.

What stuck out to me, aside from how rapidly it deteriorated: they were each obviously reciting their stockpiles of recycled Facebook posts and other means of "Internet Wisdom"; hurling them back and forth like delirious monkeys sling poo! There was no listening whatsoever. While one was talking, the other dug his heels in impatiently sorting thru his oft-used, memorized collection of memes and pre-written Facebook flames waiting for his turn to "post"!

What came out of it? Each left believing they were even more “right” because they “knew” the other guy was just parroting Breitbart/MoveOn propaganda. Even though they were each doing exactly the same thing! One talking point jockey accusing the other of talking point jockeying! Neither able to see it in themselves! Righteous anger triggered by the Outrage Industrial Complex does funny things to people.

It was terribly instructive to watch this happen in real-time. I didn’t say a word yet could predict each combatants conversational track/retorts before they struck. I was simultaneously amused, annoyed, horrified, and embarrassed. Trump Guy did nothing to instigate, let alone deserve, anything. It was the “tolerance” preaching “progressive” who initiated hostilities. As things fell apart, I was embarrassed for self-righteous Liberal Guy not to mention arrogant progressives everywhere. Once the confrontation ended and Trump Guy went home, I told Mr. Liberal Crusader exactly that.

I was also quietly embarrassed for myself. It’s been a long time, but yes, I’ve behaved exactly like Progressive Guy. I told him so. I also mentioned that watching their exchange was eye-opening. At least Progressive Guy was showing off for me. He wasn’t particularly hard to impress nor impress upon, especially considering the travel/hitchhiking stories he’d insisted on hearing for the previous hour or two. Ok. Fine. What was my excuse?

As it settled into my mind, I saw these two as a red, white, and blue composite. Neighbors who, without politics, seemed to get along. Even like each other. Inject someone else’s pre-produced ideology and propaganda: they instantly looked and acted like they wanted to kill one another. Whatever sense of commonality, community—even simple, basic decency: gone. One preemptive propaganda volley hurled from Camp Left let to a Camp Trump counterstrike and BOOM! Instant civil war. Each blaming the other for initiating hostilities.

It seems obvious in retrospect that this sort of ideological fanaticism and radicalization is what's happening online worldwide. The problem is that many of us have forgotten what we have in common; things more humanly organic and important than left/right. There's also the echo chambered “alternative factual universes” effect . It's impossible to engage in dialogue when the participants lack a common language base. 

As this example illustrated, these mutually distorted “alternative universes” are wholly incompatible. They’re matter meeting antimatter. They see each other as “the enemy”. It’s impossible to overstate how dangerously destructive this is. If we don't rediscover a sense of commonality then reestablish an organic basic fact-based foundation, we're essentially circling the drain. It’s not happening anywhere on Facebook that I'm aware of. Least of which on any backwoods or kale eating pundit's profile.