Poking the Dragon

I am not exactly sure what it is about human nature, but on occasion we seem to be incapable of not poking the dragon, I did that this week (baaad Robert).

Partly little devil to see what would happen and part Social Experiment, I chased down the dragon and challenged him to a flame war.

Some Background

A while ago, I found a Facebook group that appeared to be dedicated to a certain program that I happen to love.  Unfortunately, the administration of the group and several who seem to live there have determined that it is all about their particular political beliefs.

Anyone with the audacity to complain about this is asked to please reacquaint themselves with a post pinned to the top of the group.  This post has the equivalent of contractual small print that basically says the group is not about the show, but just a collection of people who have watched it and talk about whatever.

The “whatever” is usually Right-Wing rants on the latest offense of the President, why gun owners are the only “Real Men”, etc..  At times, they make FOX News look like Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.

Why not just leave and get away from it?  When the subject matter is on target, it usually turns out to be particularly good and entertaining.  The rest of the time I just try to avoid it, trolling is just not my thing, to be or read.

Poking the Dragon

So you can imagine the explosion that happened the other day after President Obama announced his Executive Order about gun control.  If you cannot, you are not watching or listening to enough Right-Wing media (lucky you).

The usual pattern emerged, they did their rant, a few people responded in support or opposition to their opinion.  Those in opposition were occasionally rudely told how stupid they were and the usual collection of insulting memes were hurled at them.  Those who complained about it being “off topic” were also informed how they were without a clue and pointed to the pinned message to validate their unrelated commentary.

The one thing I had not seen on the page was a centrist to left-leaning meme as the start of any of these threads, so I posted one. Poke, poke, poke!  OK, I knew I was pouring gas on a flame, but I prefer to think of it as salt in an open wound (I am in denial of my pyromaniac tendencies).

After Poking the Dragon

I actually expected the group administrator to remove the post though to his credit it is still there.  I knew that if I went around poking the dragon I was going to be the target of some flame.  Fortunately, I was wearing my asbestos undergarments and came through without being singed.

The replies were worth reading, some for their originality, some for the ability to see the spittle while screaming the words they were typing (no all caps responses, impressive), some interesting information was presented on both sides and some actual humor.

My favorite response did not even occur on Facebook, it was an email.  Why do people always email me the best stuff instead of posting it?

I received an email from the Spiritgeek site’s Contact page claiming to be from Anonymous about my spamming of the fan site.  If I ever find out who it was, I may have to thank them for the best laugh I have had in a long time.

About the same time, a DoS attack started against the site.  I write about Comparative Religion and Spirituality, I am in the business of being attacked by people with little to no sense of humor, fortunately, even fewer computer skills.  I keep regular back-ups of the site; files and data.  You just never know when they might actually get someone who knows what they are doing.

Lessons from Poking the Dragon

Cognitive Dissonance

In several ways I think I ran into an amazing example of cognitive dissonance, particularly in a couple of discussions where the exchange of supportive arguments, that at least had a basis in fact, were concerned.

In short, cognitive dissonance is the stress and imbalance created by either holding contradictory positions, acting in violation to one’s belief, or having one’s belief structure threatened by non-supportive data (having your cage rattled).

I suspect you can often tell a state of cognitive dissonance in these situations when you either get to the collapse of communication for insults, rants of frustration, complete gibberish, or; when possible; immediate deletion of the discussion by one party.

To a certain degree, I am not sure I have much of a personal issue with cognitive dissonance.  Mainly due to the position that I am ALWAYS questioning myself, my beliefs, opinions, and perspectives.  I may be tough to convince, but I am open to the possibility that I may be completely wrong.

Media Manipulation

The most effectual means of preventing [the perversion of power into tyranny are] to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large…

Thomas Jefferson: Diffusion of Knowledge Bill, 1779. FE 2:221, Papers 2:526

I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.

Thomas Jefferson to William C. Jarvis, 1820. ME 15:278

America has sadly become a nation where greatness is a threat to the masses and ignorance is applauded in many cases. I suspect that George Carlin may have gotten it right:

Thomas Jefferson and the rest of the Founding Fathers believed that an informed electorate was key to the success of their Grand Experiment.  Today, we think it is bling, being in the right religion or church, a particular political affiliation, or any other number of “things” to keep us apart and separate.

As much as I like George, I do find him to be a touch cynical, I think it can be turned around, I actually have some faith in mankind.  I heard George say that every cynic was a disappointed idealist, I am still there, no matter how cynical I come across.

Respect and Racism

If there is one thing that is pretty undeniable, for whatever reason President Obama has probably faced the onslaught of attacks like no other President to date.  The Right likes to say President George W. Bush received similar treatment, but questioning one’s motives and intentions is not the sheer defamation and insult that they have sent Obama’s way.

On the “Conservative” Right there has since the 1960s been an undercurrent of racism.  They like to deny it, but the South has quite conservatively held onto its heritage and culture.

Though President Johnson did not actually declare that by signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 he had  “…lost the South for a generation” a long history of racism continued to play through.

I think the worst on my experiment was not when he was referred to as “Liar in Chief”, but when someone referred to him as Obammy, wow…

I remember the treatment of President Clinton by the Republicans during his presidency, it was pretty brutal.  I always thought they came off as a bunch of spoiled children.  The Republicans did not get the President they wanted and they spent endless time and money investigating every rumor and innuendo.  To me, it was like having the National Enquirer running Washington.

To a certain degree, I expected more of the same when President Obama won the election, but there seems to be a seriously dark undertone, I think it is likely largely attributable to racism, but it is also likely the media madness of partisanism that has taken over the media.

The next Poking of the Dragon?

It has been commented by some political analysts and more than a few comedians that the current Republican Party stance is to be against anything and everything that President Obama stands for.

I think I may have to petition the President to be for Oxygen, no not Oprah Winfrey‘s cable channel, the element we breathe.  If the joke is true, how many Republicans will asphyxiate?

The post at the time of this writing has 75 likes, 61 shares, and 81 comment threads – not bad for 54 hours.

Written by R. A. Burgener

After finishing the 850 mile trek of self-rediscovery on California's El Camino Real from San Diego to Sonoma, California, Robert continued, via Greyhound, to Portland, Oregon, where he is becoming familiar with the concepts of weather and seasons after 30 years in Los Angeles.

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