Regarding Web Forums: Elitism is everywhere; we just moralize our own bigotry

Over the course of these ten days, I’ve dealt with some rather annoying events. Most are fairly minor events but the most vexing moment of this week was purchasing a $500 Swash electronic ironer only to receive it broken. After calling the company, and repeating several start-up processes for over an hour, the machine never worked. The person on the phone then informed me that they could send a repairman to check it out but if nothing is broken then I would be billed $140. Perhaps they were being genuine but I grew immediately suspicious and asked for a refund. They informed me that I would have to take it to Best Buy, after going through the annoying process of repackaging it; I drove to my local Best Buy the next day and received a full refund with no problems. Admittedly, I expected some type of no refund policy despite the Best Buy website specifying full refunds within 15 days of purchase. I had felt increasingly negative as the week wore on. I suppose those two examples serve as examples of good and bad customer service. The Swash product was for my father as a father’s day gift and instead I ended-up wasting my time whilst my father’s happy mood was crushed.

I’ve noticed, in both web forums and small town communities, bigotry is everywhere. Web forums are probably the worst of the bunch and it isn’t just the fact that people can use anonymity to make stupid comments. Basic group psychology seems to show that forums become toxic hive-minds; echo chambers where the “correct” opinions are praised and the “incorrect” opinions are “troll attempts” because you disagree. Reddit is, by far, the absolute worst offender. All upvotes will be seen as experts, or intelligent community members, protecting the integrity of the community and all downvotes will be looked on with derision – because we are already predisposed to believing it is a troll post – and the downvoted person will be regarded under a negative lens before their opinions/arguments are ever fairly evaluated.

Does this seem like a minuscule problem? It shouldn’t. This issue is facilitating extremist viewpoints. For example, what if people went into a subforum called “r/anarchy” and politely contested anarchy with their own personal views or facts that they wished to bring up regarding the negatives of anarchy. The hypothetical r/anarchy subreddit, due to the framework of how subreddits function, would immediately begin downvoting (usually without even considering the argument) and would then begin to say that such material were clear evidence of “Troll posting” and then user would likely be banned. The prevailing argument being “why should they be posting on such a subreddit at all, if they disagree?” would be the foremost contention and the integrity of the rules would hold paramount importance. But that is the kind of mentality that creates extremism. To downvote, devalue, degrade, and despise every opinion that is anti-anarchy or shows the problems with anarchy being advocated would be seen as “trolling” in such a forum. The only opinions that would be accepted would be pro-anarchy opinions and thus extremism becomes the reality of that subforum because of the repeated exposure of viewing “outsiders” under a negative lens. Now, switch anarchy with r/redpill – a subforum that celebrates misogyny to the point that they had huge upvotes on videos of women being beaten by men. Any pro-woman opinion, including what the majority of first world country inhabitants believe to be sensible norms like a right to fair trials would be downvoted as “trolling attempts” by dissenting users. Now, switch it with any other forum within reddit and you will see the same problems because of the framework of the website.

Granted the degrees of extremism differ from subreddit to subreddit but the endemic problem is the structure of reddit itself. But again, all forums on the internet have this issue. And, for the most part, more people lurk than post content on web forums. In the end, forums are just a breeding ground for extremism and bigotry. There is also an attempt at using morality to obfuscate this bigotry. When we disagree with people, we generally apply negative characteristics to them despite the fact that we have no way of knowing what the person on the other end of the screen is like. Worse than that, moderators let their forum powers get to their heads. Many of them act like experts because of their roles as bringing moderation but they’re not exempt from these biases and often “protecting the community” can be synonymous with erasing dissent because it offends the feelings of the majority. And it isn’t just them, normal forum users do this too, usually using ad hominems, spurious generalizations, or social proof to feel this self-pleasuring righteousness. This leads to arbitrary rules, arbitrary enforcement of the rules, hypocrisy, bigotry, and angry tangents. The crux of this defeatist system is thus: fact and opinion become misapplied as equal to each other. Forum users act as if “fact” and “how this makes me feel” is equal in arguments. This is especially true for facts that we disagree with or know very little about. I had to explain the definitions of “probability”, “worldview”, “interest rates”, and the events of Operation Cyclone for people to appropriately understand what I was referring to when I used such words or explained the negative effects of US foreign policy in Afghanistan. Most people who don’t know these terminologies or don’t know the history of US-Afghan relations generally seem to view college degrees, higher education, and wealth as negatives. Although, that is purely anecdotal observations on my part; yet it just pushes me more into believing in elitism. Ignorance is just ugly to look at.

Generally speaking, I’ve realized that I really can’t change anyone’s mind should they come from a lower economic background – for the most part, it’s increasingly more difficult to find open-minded individuals from lower educated backgrounds. I just have to tell the lower income people what they want to hear because of their own predisposed views on life, economics, politics, and religion. I’ve tried, I’ve tried for years, and it never worked. I was a fool for trying in the first place. From now on, I won’t bother. This is true for both people in real life, outside of my educated friends and professors, and especially for people online. There just isn’t any point in trying to have discussions on complex thought with such people. For anyone reading this, do yourself a favor and don’t waste your time. Only the higher educated classes will ever truly give you the time of day.

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4 thoughts on “Regarding Web Forums: Elitism is everywhere; we just moralize our own bigotry

  1. I have to say I feel like you havn’t thought this subject out all that well. My opinion is that “lower class” people have no need to for anything outside their own lives because they don’t have that luxury. You work, support your family and survive and many are happy doing it. Not only that but we need people who aren’t educated and take more undesirable jobs for the country to function. At a certain point I feel like ambition would be the downfall of this country if everyone had it.

    But don’t make the mistake that just because they are uneducated and content with their lives that they are any less intelligent or intolerable. In fact your sweeping generalization and elitism is no better than what you exuse them of. You seem unable to look through their perspective and insult them freely. Your’re putting a line in the sand and marking a clear distinction between you and them. Even if they marked it first you are agreeing to those borders. It’s how we get elitism, nationalism, xenophobia, etc. You seem to deplore the apathy people feel towards others they don’t consider themselves close to her I feel your way of thinking engenders that exact thing.

    You place your self above them and then criticize them for getting tired of looking up. I don’t think all people are created equal but if you make it clear you think yourself superior you will unsurprisingly find it hard to have any of the “lessers” want to hear what you are saying.

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    • Your opinion about the downfall of civilization has merit, up to a certain extent. In the near-future, when automation takes their jobs, they will need to improve themselves or be left behind. Although, that issue is true for the educated class as well. But the working hard argument just isn’t valid. After seeing third world poverty, I cannot make that excuse – it would be an insult to the people suffering in third world areas.

      The fact is that people really could do better, if they were willing to work harder. The delusions about daddy’s money, rich people going on vacation, and whatnot are just that: delusions to make their mediocrity seem better. It isn’t a sweeping generalization because those people who can improve their lives are doing so.

      Regarding apathy, I will admit that there is some merit in that. However, outside of people in genuine poverty (including the scant few in the first world that exist), there is a purposeful blindness to the ignorance and spitefulness of the majority of these people. I can concede that some people is suffering and they absolutely need help even in first world countries – but those people are scant. The majority simply don’t know how to manage their money, they believe in magic thinking and apply it to the lottery – the lottery is known as a stupidity tax because of how ignorant they are about the odds of winning. Worst of all, most of the racists, xenophobes, homophobes, and hateful bigots come from lower income communities but even in this we act as if they’re victims. They’re not victims; they’re creating their own self-fulfilling prophecy and living in an equality that is based on nihilism.

      To most – not all – of these people, they see every form of power as tantamount to evil, they have no concept of higher philosophies from economics to politics to their laws, they see life as a nausea and can only say “I’m alive” about their day, and – whether you believe it or not – half the people I talked to agreed with me about it being their own fault. When I was perceived as an in-group, they agreed that they were lazy, had no ambition, and didn’t do enough in their lives because of it. What does that tell you?

      This attempt at making people “equals” under the presumption that they’re “fallible human beings” who need to accept their limits before they grow a big head is just a modernized form of nihilism. Perceiving every great human achievement and every great human being as unimportant and spitting on the idea of people who work harder for their wealth is just nihilism.

      Besides which, if people truly cared about this subject, then where are the donations for the third world? Only rich people have been forming charity drives with the explicit mission of ending world poverty and unnecessary human suffering.

      Oh, and there is a pervasive myth that the Rich don’t pay their fair share in first world countries. At least for the USA, this is totally false:

      http://money.cnn.com/2013/03/12/news/economy/rich-taxes/index.html

      http://www.cnbc.com/2015/01/15/do-the-wealthy-pay-lower-taxes-than-the-middle-class.html

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  2. I think you are mistaking the people you associate yourself with as the majority of the wealthy. To give some background, until I was 14 I grew up fairly wealthy. My father is a doctor and we never worried financially. I was in a couple of private schools where I saw plenty of kids who felt entitled because their parents were rich. After my parents got divorced my mom. two younger brothers and I all moved. My mom never got her degree because my dad insisted she drop out of college to raise me when I was born and even though she wanted to, she never worked. After we were on our own she ended up taking two jobs to support us.

    Now my mom is one of the hardest working people I know but she struggled early as she got back into employment for the first time since she was a teenager. My father never helped out and we lived in a 1 bedroom apartment for the next 2 years. We went to what would be considered “ghetto” schools that were nowhere near up to par with what we had been used to but we had no choice. When I turned 16 I immediately got a job to help my mom. I took all advanced classes and worked full time. Eventually my grades began to suffer and by my senior year I barely passed all my classes.

    Now before I go on I want to explain why I believe you to be completely incorrect with how you feel about the lower class. I admit that it took a bit to get used to my new environment but I eventually adapted. To my surprise I actually got along better with my new peers than the ones I had at the private schools. They honestly just felt more real to me. These kids had struggled and knew that life wasn’t easy. Yes there were kids who you could tell would grow up to be bums just like their parents and would try to get by life taking every short cut they could. Yes there were drug dealers who saw it as the best way to make money in an unfair system (more on that concept later) but still there were more that saw the live their parents lived and knew they didn’t want that. Some of them didn’t go to college but did very well for themselves after high school. A few of them got scholarships and grants and went to college to better their lives. But all of those kids, no matter what they went on to do, only knew struggle from the day they were born and saw making it into adulthood as an accomplishment. You have to understand that these kids only knew that life, many thought they had no hope of escaping that life because they had never been given a reason to believe otherwise, and none of them had the support and structure that their wealthy counterparts had to plan out their lives. Yes there are plenty of people that don’t do anything with their lives besides live but given that they thought that’s all there is, and that many are perfectly content with that, I don’t judge or blame them for it. Of course the criminals and people that just try to work the system are not the paragons of society but I believe that they make up a much smaller percentage of the populace than you insinuate.

    So back to my personal story. After high school I didn’t have the grades to get scholarships and had pretty much given up on the idea of college. As someone who loves to learn and test my limits intellectually this hurt but I thought if I made enough money maybe I could go back some day. I had worked fast food throughout high school and as soon as I graduated I took a management position in the company. By the time I was 19 I was the assistant general manager and by the time I was 21 I was offered my own store. This was a tough time in my life because I felt stuck in this job I’d had for 5 years and didn’t feel like I was ever going to get out. I was going to take the position even though I didn’t want to but then a miracle happened. My father came to me and expressed regret in how he abandoned us before and offered to pay my first year in college and help me out further if I showed promise in school. It’s been a year since then and for the first time since I was 14, I feel like I have a future. I’m currently working towards a journalism degree which is something I’ve aspired to since I was a kid. I’m lucky I have a father has helped me get back on that path and I’m lucky that I was sold on the idea of getting a higher education at a young age. The problem is that the people you disparage, the poor, do not have the luxury. Having been in that situation I can tell you that it feels impossible to get out of. You sacrifice dreams you had to make sure there’s food on the table and all your utilities are turned on. I worked about 60 hours a week as a manager and barely got paid over 20 thousand a year. I’ve known plenty of people that have worked two jobs to make sure they can spoil their kid just a little because they never had that as a child. How many people do you know that work construction 50 hours a week in the hot sun only to be told by corrupt employers that they aren’t getting paid that week.

    Now can you imagine why people would spend 10 dollars a week on the lottery with big dreams of not having to live pay check to pay check anymore? I mean it’s just 10 bucks which isn’t a ton of money and if they do win big then it’s worth it. You and I know that statistically there’s next to no chance of winning big but if you’ve been living that way for 25 years and have two kids that you don’t want to grow up like that can you not at least understand that dream? Is it not possible to see why a guy who’s grown up around gang life, who’s lived in constant fear for his life because he wasn’t in one, would see the appeal of joining? Security, people that have your back, money opportunities. Or why someone would start dealing when he started to try to go straight but nowhere besides minimum wage jobs would higher him because he has a drug record from growing up in a similar household? I’m not making excuses for criminals but I think understanding why people do what they do is the way we find a solution to the problem. It’s why I don’t hate the black man who hates white people when 90% of the successful people he sees on tv are white. It sure seems like a conspiracy at that point. Or when a black teenager goes into a convenience store and the cashier treats him like he’s going to steal something. I’ve seen that happen and living an entire life where people expect so little of you will not produce success most of the time. Now I do know the people that pull the race card or blame their problems on others when it’s all their fault and I can’t stand them. The thing is that I haven’t seen that nearly as much as I’ve heard people say that they do that.

    I’ve often found it interesting how much people are prone to group think. It was funny to me that it was such a weird coincidence that people from the same place and race so often just happen to have the same beliefs as each other. Republicans just happen to dominate the south and Democrats the east. People that are born to be Muslim always seem to be born in the Middle East and Western Asia while Christians are born in Western cultures. My point is that people develop how they think and what they believe based on their environment. So it’s in no way a coincidence that wealthy people (no matter what race) tend to go to college because they learn its importance at a young age and are given the opportunity while the destitute tend to go straight to work. The problem isn’t that people from poor backgrounds are incapable of learning complex social issues and deeper understanding of psychology (which you clearly value) but there is a deeper issue that must be fixed. By belittling them you are saying exactly what they have always been taught, there is no point in trying to get a higher education because it’s an impossible goal to reach. Instead of treating them as stupid, lazy, racist or whatever, we should be giving hope for the future and some people will take that opportunity. Then when others see their success they know it’s possible. Look at how many African American youths aspire to be athletes or rappers. They see how many men of their race have done it and know it’s possible to succeed in that field. Do the same for education and the results will come.

    That is why I have a problem with your stance. Like I said before, all people are not created equal. There are unintelligent and lazy people of all walks of life. But you will find that most poor people grew up poor and you are dismissing their potential because they were not given the same starting playing field that you were. Your thinking can only lead to a stagnate lower America that will never get better. In this sense you are not their superior, you are their cage that refuses to let them grow.

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    • But they can grow, if they really wanted. I wouldn’t discount psychological problems but these people do have better opportunities than the farmers I met in India who have no education to provide for their children, no healthcare facilities, and not even normal houses or trailer homes to keep their children warm.

      Also, why are we so predisposed to stereotyping all rich people but uncomfortable with the poor? It’s always okay to insult the rich for any minor offense but the poor – no matter how AWFUL – must never be insulted. Because apparently, they can be as rude, racist, bigoted, and vile as they want and we must NEVER give them criticism while they leech off our tax dollars. They do have opportunities to gain loans to pay for college and yeah, that means paying it off for the next 30 years but that’s a relatively small price to pay to accomplish what they want. I would also point out that you yourself are proof of my argument. The ones stuck in poverty can eventually get out. It takes a long effort and persistence. If your father had never aided you then you may have had to wait a few years but if you saved enough money from your managerial position then you’d have enough to go for your dreams. Granted, it may have cost you 5 years or so, but I think you had enough persistence to accomplish such a goal.

      Which raises my other point: people who have persistence enough to gain better for themselves will eventually accomplish their goals. The poor aren’t stuck in a void of poverty, and that ideology is largely false. I was living in poverty for most of my early life but my parents worked hard with my dad working 3 jobs and my mom working 2 to eventually made it to an upper middle-class lifestyle. Only a scant few in America are stuck in perpetual poverty and even then only for a relatively short period of time.

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