Supplemental: The elimination of all nonbelievers!

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2014

ISIS, ourselves:
In Tuesday’s New York Times, Roger Cohen authored a column comparing the rise of ISIS to the reign of the Nazi death camps.

After quoting Primo Levi on Auschwitz, he made the leap. In the process, he made us think about life as it’s lived over here:
COHEN (9/30/14): “There is no why here.” The phrase has been reverberating in me since I watched a henchman of the organization that calls itself Islamic State behead two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and a British aid worker, David Haines. The men had been broken by their imprisonment. They had been hollowed out, a terrible thing to behold. How many times they must have asked themselves the why of their captivity, humiliation and torture right up to the moment when a small knife was applied, with a sawing motion, to their throats. Each of the three men died alone, unlike the Yazidis murdered in droves, the Shiite soldiers massacred, the women and children slaughtered during the advance of black-clad ISIS forces across northern Iraq. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, has created a cult of violence that makes the elimination of all nonbelievers the cornerstone of a movement whose avowed objective is a restored Islamic caliphate but whose raison d’être is the slaughter itself.
The leader of ISIS “has created a cult of violence that makes the elimination of all nonbelievers the cornerstone of a movement?”

We’ll have to admit it! That description made us think of life as it’s now being lived over here.

Let’s draw a few distinctions. In our current tribalized culture, very few people are seeking the literal elimination of all who don’t believe. For the most part, our culture doesn’t permit that.

That said, the phrase made us think of attitudes which prevail all over the Net. To wit:

If someone doesn’t approach a problem or situation exactly as our tribe does; if someone's formulation isn’t exactly like ours; if someone dares to make a statement which isn’t the statement we would have made; then we will seek to snark, name-call or misparaphrase those miscreants down.

We’ll paraphrase them in ludicrous ways. Immediately, we’ll attack their motives. We’ll create a cult of aggression that seeks the elimination of all nonbelievers from our discussion or comment thread.

Needless to say, killing people is much worse than shouting or snarking them down. That said, shouting and snarking people down is all we’re currently allowed in our culture. Many of us pursue that means of elimination with unmistakable glee.

Have you seen the kinds of comment threads and articles we have in mind? “Elimination of all nonbelievers” can take an array of forms!

60 comments:

  1. Maybe Bob does read his commentary.

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    1. Sounds more like he writes some of it.

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    2. The key to disproving deadrat's tentative theory is in this sentence;

      "We’ll paraphrase them in ludicrous ways." If Somerby were reflecting on what happens here, and he is a close reader, he knows what makes him appear ludicrous is not paraphrasing. It is ususally direct quotation.

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    3. He also says your mileage may vary. I find very little that he says to be ludicrous. The paraphrases both miss the point he is making and put words in his mouth, often ugly ones. They are clearly a form of attack. Because they don't deal with his actual views, they evade whatever issue he has raised.

      This comment, for example, calls him ludicrous without offering any support for that claim. It is just another attack.

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    1. Yes. For sure.

      As deadrat said.

      Maybe.

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  3. Poor Bob. Now he is comparing the nattering nabobs of the net to Nazi's and Middle Eastern Islamic fundamentalists. Well, when the witch hunters are having a slow day, what is a witch hunt watcher to do with his idle keyboard?

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    1. Sounds like snark to me.

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    2. Obviously it wasn't snarky enough to run off the likes of you.

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  4. In many ways I like this post -- as long as Bob understands that he himself is included in "we." He snarks. He attacks, sometimes in horrible, and silly, fashion, people who don't argue exactly the way he thinks they should: and so on. That's part of public discussion, part of human nature. Where Bob and I consistently disagree is that I believe what we can call "the other side" does this far more frequently, with far more fervor, and with far greater effect, than what we can call "our side." "Our side" has picked up the pace in recent years, but it's still far behind the other side on this issue. Yet, Bob focuses almost all his attention on the LEAST offending side. If you think snarky behavior is A) wrong or destructive (it is); and B) CORRECTABLE (I don't, really, but Bob must, or I assume he wouldn't bother), then it seems to me logical to attack the side that is responsible for most of the misbehavior.

    Bob has spent a lot of time lamenting the fact that the left "went to sleep" all through the 80-90s, leaving the vitriol, the snark, the determined stupidity, to the right. He clearly doesn't like the outcome of that era, but wants the left to behave in the exact same way. Because I got news for you, Bob: YOU might think a cultured debate over snifters of brandy is what convinces people, but what the mythical "common voters" see is one side willing to dig in and lie, cheat, distort, bully, threaten, bribe -- whatever it takes -- to get their way, and the other side, well, not caring all that much. And that leads to media, among other vital groups in our grand experiment, being bent and twisted in ways that we don't like. Rachel Maddow -- I dislike her nearly as much as you do -- is the price we pay for playing the game as it is. The alternative to NOT playing the game is to lose at it. That means going back to the way it was in the 90s and early oughts. We've been there, and it didn't work out well.

    Ultimately, Maddow might be a store-bought whore, but at least she's OUR whore, or the closest thing we're going to get to it as things stand. And there are far bigger, and skankier, whores out there, spreading a lot worse diseases. The same is true of Matthews, O'Donnell, et al. There's nothing wrong with pointing out these people get wealthy for brushing over certain topics -- in fact, it's a requirement. But Jesus, Joseph and Mary, go after the ones who make them look like pikers as well.

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    1. You can dispute and debate without being snarky, employing ridicule or trying to shut up other commenters.

      I don't think Somerby's columns fit his own description because he is writing his own blog not commenting on someone else's. He is not trying to eliminate or shut up others but trying to reform them. And I don't see him drawing tribal lines between us and them. I think once again you are focusing on superficial similarities and missing essential (deeper) differences.

      This isn't a game. This is reality. If you become evil to fight evil, you may win but you remain no better than those you defeated. The day our democracy becomes a place where such tactics are necessary, we have already lost. Meadow is Limbaugh.

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    2. Leaving the rest of your post be for now, tell me: what noxious things does Maddow espouse? What elections has she influenced? Which Democratic politicians feel impelled to kiss her ring? Live in terror of crossing her? Answer those questions coherently and then I'll accept the Maddow = Limbaugh equivalence. Not before.

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    3. My points of equivalence are not those you've chosen. Like Limbaugh, she places partisan point-scoring ahead of factual reporting. Like him she uses flamboyant histrionics to whip up a sense of outrage, often disproportionate to the situation. Like him, you cannot trust what she says. Like him, she encourages true believers. Her tone is often sarcasm and she sees others as good guys or bad guys with no gray.

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    4. In many ways I did not like this post. But I agree with Bob on general liberal skanky tribalism. And don't accuse me of being one of those who finds clowns scary. I just don't admire them or even find them necessary to the scene changes in a good circus.

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    5. But you'll have to admit, they sure get pack themselves into a little car. How do they do that with those big shoes?

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  5. My first thought was that Bob went way overboard comparing political tribalism with Nazis and Isis. However, one area where there is some resemblance is climate change. Some people have indeed called for the death of people who don't agree with them on this topic. E.g., the Australian government recently funded a play called, 'Kill Climate Deniers'.

    See http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/liberals-outraged-that-kill-climate-deniers-play-is-funded-by-the-act-government-20141001-10ogo7.html

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    1. No one in Australia, including the playwright and the theater company, is calling for the death of people they don't agree with. The play, which is still in draft form, will be about a fictional Minister of the Environment who has to deal with an armed band of eco-terrorists who take the Australian Parliament hostage.

      Sounds like it's Die Hard on Foster's.

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    2. Good thing Dave and dead do this late at night where their cogency is not impoeded by the direct rays of the sun poking through the still tattered ozone layer.

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  6. Trying to silence people through commentary ridicule violates every principle of our democratic values. It makes our intellectual culture collapse. That is why I like this post and renew the comments made from time to time that Bob needs to ban some of them. The rest need to go away. They are douchebags. Hopefully that will get the message to our media and they will fire some people for tribalism and others for incompetent fuzziness.

    We all know who they are and even who eggs them on.

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    1. I am a douchebag, but I never resort to snark.

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    2. One way to prevent someone from being heard is to shout him down. Filling the comments with unresponsive nonsense that makes no attempt to engage any issue is a form of shouting down those trying to have a discussion.

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    3. We are all douchebags now.

      Except those trying to have discussions.

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    4. @ 10:47 If your mother or your wife had been brutally snarked, would you resort to snark, or would you just limp away in eliminations, knowing Chris Matthews paid for his Nantucket house by comparing your wimpiness to Dukakis?

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    5. Good example of troll garbage that shouts down actual conversation.

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    6. Now show an example of "actual conversation."

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    7. @10:51 is a good example. I don't agree with what is said but it is responsive to the post and explores what was said, extending discussion in interesting ways.

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    8. Interesting choice. Since it was a statement, it is hard to describe it as conversation until someone chose to reply. And you notice that there were no replies that shouted 10:51 down, I presume? The example you cited of "troll garbage" in this subthread was not aimed at any actual conversation.

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    9. Anonymous @10:47A,

      You are not a douchebag. And I'll leave it to you to figure out whether that's snark.

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    10. Perhaps we could limit all the nasty commentary to a designated 7-day period. We could call it "Snark Week."

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    11. One man's snark is another's pointedly-cogent comment.. What's against our democratic principles is silencing people in a public forum based on what they have to say or how they say it. And I don't count having to put up with trolls, spellcasters, or even KZ as silencing.

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    12. Deadrat, please think about the difference between communication and noise. Noise actively prevents communication because it makes it hard to hear what is being said. Clutter is the equivalent of noise here in these written comment threads.

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    13. There you go again cluttering up the comment box with false equivalences.

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    14. You say it is false but don't explain why -- support your claim. Otherwise this is just another troll attack, not conversation.

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    15. @3:53P,

      I take your point, but I think you're making a faulty argument by analogy. Yes, in the information theory sense, noise (i.e., randomly generated signals) by grabbing bandwidth on a communication channel, can make it hard to understand messages. But assuming that the channel has sufficient capcity, the solution is to apply the appropriate filters.

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    16. Filter=moderator

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    17. I said "appropriate." I don't want a moderator deciding for me how noisy a comment is. I can do that on my own. Are you having that much trouble ignoring KZ? Practice on his spell casting comments.

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    18. I find KZ commentary to always be on topic. His work as a spellcaster brings some hope and joy for recovery of lost broken families.

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  7. So after we try to persuade a Tea Party member (to no avail) with facts and a cogent argument, what's the next step?

    Berto

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    1. People can be persuaded and are persuaded to change their minds regularly. The next step is to get out the vote.

      One of the subfields of social psychology is persuasion. We think people don't change because we are not necessarily present to see when the change occurs.

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    2. So it is an invisible subfield? What happens if they change back unseen and we have them half way to the polls already?

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    3. You takes your chances. It is a numbers game. If you try to convince enough people you will get more going your way and the few who change back will matter less. Preaching to those who already share your views will keep them from swiching -- and that's what campaign rallies are for, but you gain new votes at the edges, among undecided or independent voters and moderates, not in the heart of the tea party, although even they can and do change.

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    4. Persuasion research is mainstream social psychology, not invisible. Why would you say that?

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    5. Nobody can see what we think. And you said are not necessarily present to see when they change and don't think they do anyway. Sounds invisible to me.

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    6. Anonymous @11:29A, I like your enthusiasm but beheading won't work with teahadists for the obvious reason.

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    7. If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal.

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    8. Yes, let's all become nihilists. That will change the world.

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    9. Converting one voter at a time by the logic of left of center arguments isn't going to change anything, either. That narrows the future down to some charismatic populist on the left showing up or Camden, New Jersey becoming the template for population centers everywhere in the country. And if that charismatic figure does show up we're as likely to end up with smelters in our backyards, or the manifestation of some other equally bright idea, as we are to see Social Security benefits increased.

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    10. Obama was a charismatic figure. Look how that has turned out. He was so charismatic, voters forgot to read his campaign statements.

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    11. The Obama phenomenon was more of a well funded ad campaign selling the wonder of he as a bridge to nowhere in particular. The pitch was aided by a remarkable amount of favorable product placement throughout hours of regularly scheduled corporate infotainment programming. He wasn't a populist, he wasn't selling any particular agenda which, I take it, is what you, @12:13 AM, are suggesting.

      Hopefully, somebody is going to come along explicitly offering something pretty dramatic in the way of departure from the status quo, a William Jennings Bryan type figure, for good or ill. And whoever that might be, they won't be getting any favorable corporate media coverage, at least not until the prize looks to be very nearly in their grasp.

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  8. I notice Cohen also compared the Bush detention policies and facilities to Nazi death camps.

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  9. Howler's scoldings of our benighted era harken me back to the time of the old Tatler and Spectator, with their trolls like Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, and Jonathan Swift. These halcyon days are sometimes remembered as the "Augustan Age" or The Age of Wit.

    True, there's not a lot of genuine wit to be found on today's blogs and comment strings. But the nature of the Web means there's more than a few knuckle-draggers joining in fray. Standards have definitely decayed, but in their way the old masters could be snarky themselves. No doubt they commited a "misparaphrase" or two in the process. But that's the nature of satire, rehetoric and good old Argument, and that's what made their writing so readable to this day.

    If Howler were to adhere to his own prescription of scholarly fastidiousness in all musings, his blogs would be even duller than all you trolls (a term as subjective as "misparaphrase") keep claiming.

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    1. There's not as much wit because they let anyone learn to read and write these days.

      It seems to me there is a big difference between satire and rhetoric to make a point and satire used to distort, mislead, and distract from the original writers point -- to confuse the discussion and block conversation about it. The first is a contribution to discussion. The second is a tactic used to interfere with any discussion. The intentions of the author matter. To see this, consider the difference between information and propaganda.

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