The Goading & Provoking Class

I’ve noticed something of late – a sort of sullen nastiness by people who seem to relish goading and provoking people to anger. In public, certainly – as the Clive Bundy case is the most recent example. Everyone in the government, the press, and around the blogs seem to be just screaming at each other over their opinions with nary a fact to be seen. They FEEL! They BELIEVE! Yes, well, so what? What do you know? What are the particulars of the case? What are the surrounding details? The facts, the mitigating factors, the logic? Anything but your “Feelings” and “Beliefs” – egad, are we mere emoting children? All Ego and the rest of the Ids to go to hell? Seems so.

But it’s also amongst total strangers on the Internet to folks like me they don’t even know. These people seem to relish causing grief. Oh, I suppose they’ve always been around. It’s just that maybe I’ve become more aware of them of late. It’s like they live in a soap opera – where drama is done for – well, for drama – but it certainly doesn’t solve anything.

In the public sphere they seem to surface daily. Guys like Bill Maher – who I admit I don’t watch – precisely because of his goad & provoke attitude. But the man makes the press often enough to not be able to avoid him. There he is, saying something else outrageous just to get a rise of anger out of someone. Dan Savage is another. That guy seems to love just trashing people he really doesn’t know. Not that guys like Phil Robertson of the Duck Dynasty isn’t cut from the same cloth. This is not a ‘left-right’ thing – for they seem to be on every side of the political divide. They just say stuff that is purposefully rude, nasty, insolent, dismissive. How many others in our public culture is perhaps uncountable. But they surface with alarming frequency now. They say things with the intent of enraging people. They have this “I’m perfect, you’re an idiot” mentality and they no longer shy away from saying whatever comes to mind.

But what comes to their mind is not some reasoned argument marshaling fact, reason or logic, and certainly not wondering if there is some other perfectly valid perspective. No, what comes to their mind is taunts, of a schoolyard sort. Our opinionated news is filled with such people. Sport figures do it. Politicians certainly flip their mouths off at people they don’t like. Even preachers get into the act. They accuse people they don’t know of lord knows what: racism, homophobia, being an idiot, dangerous, destructive – anything – for the ratings perhaps. Perhaps to get their 15 minutes of fame. Shock jocks on the morning news radio say stuff. Rush Limbaugh purposefully says things he has to know will enrage people – and then his followers and listeners get all excited at the school yard taunts.

I can’t for the live of me divine the difference between Maher and Limbaugh – both are opinionated blowhards who dismiss anything someone says as “stupidity.” These two see everything in such black and white terms – and they wield the paint brush – that no one is safe from the invective. They both do the same thing – they state some outrageous proposition and then heap calumny on anyone not agreeing with their take – as if they themselves are the only two with considered thought on a matter. Why, how could anyone with a different experience or perspective possibly be good – shush and listen to your betters – that’s what they both do. And they both have their legions of fans who are then at each others throats elsewhere. The goading brigades come trash any who have a difference of opinion! – And the other side is always “evil” of some kind – in need of correction, and Maher and Limbaugh, with their legions, the ones to give it.

In the past decade or so the bullying by utter strangers has escalated to the point where I marvel at the audacity. Someone doesn’t like what you say? Immediately they hurl charges of racism, of destroying society, of misogyny, of being against all that is good – of being mentally deficient even. They start to tell you what words you might be allowed to use. “I don’t like your attitude,” they intone, as if they are fathers disciplining young children.

Sports stars say some other player is an “asshole” or he’s a wuss or this one or that one is some horror that needs to be corralled. “I’ll punch his lights out,” perhaps is said. And then the news reports this as some sage information everyone should be aware of. Preachers start to tell people they don’t like that they are anti-god and anti-this or that – they’re just short of screaming “heretic” half the time. Politicians join in the fun by calling for arresting people – or accusing them of being “Domestic Terrorists.” Harry Reid, leader of the senate Democrats has joined in the nastiness by accusing anyone who disagrees with him of being domestic terrorists. The president himself infamously said “if there’s a fight, bring a gun, not a knife.”

The climate “debate” is filled with this – the slightest questioning I make of vague data – and all of a sudden I’m a “denier” and an “idiot” who “doesn’t understand.” I point out the relentless snow and cold? I’m all for destroying society and some stooge of the Koch brothers for wrecking humanity.

Just last night on Facebook – a guy I’ve known for 20 years posted a picture of the Princess Kate in New Zealand speaking to a 90% naked Maori man. Here’s the picture:




And well, it’s an odd picture – the juxtaposition simply so obvious that one can’t help but comment. So my friend posted it. Then some woman I don’t know – never saw her name in my life – not on one of my friend’s posts – but I assume they know each other – simply dismissed it as “It’s not gay at all.” Well, who said it was? The word “gay” didn’t seem to appear anywhere, except perhaps in the name of the group from whom my friend got the picture. Well, I’m sure the picture went worldwide – how could it not? A princess all in proper frock talking to an literally butt naked Maori warrior – well, two traditions meet in a British Commonwealth nation. I don’t doubt that every newspaper in Australia, England and New Zealand published the picture. For all I know it was taken by the Royal Photographer himself and approved by the Queen – what am I supposed to do, track down every happenstance of the thing? But why be so dismissive of the messenger – some group with “gay” in it as if gay guys are putting the warrior up to it. It has nothing to do with gayness – but this woman was just so churlish in her dismissing any gay man from mentioning or showing the public picture.

So I wondered in print about her concerns – I merely pointed out that it was the juxtaposition of such frock and thong that was the point of the picture – I’m sure the photographer saw it – I’m sure everyone in the world could see it was just a picture for publicity of the Queen’s good messenger seeing about the denizens of her dominions. The picture is comical for the juxtaposition – but no one is allowed to mention a thing about it except in terms that this cranky broad I encountered deems correct? Who is she to demand such things?

And all of a sudden this woman who I don’t know accused me of attacking her through some “passive-aggressive hate” – and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what she was talking about. So I mentioned my confusion. Then she had the audacity to track me down through FB and private message me scurrilous accusations that I was mentally deficient, in need of psychological counseling, attitude correction and lord knows what. So goading, so provoking that I exploded in rage. How dare someone I don’t know just up and enter my life and accuse me being insane because she didn’t think I had the right to say something? Why would she do that? I don’t know.

I don’t know what “passive-aggressive” means. Frankly, I don’t think it means anything. I’ve yet to see any satisfactory explanation of the term. What it seems to be is something to hurl at people you don’t like so as to belittle them and tell them they need to see a psychologist – because they – after a mere 20 words or less once on FB have determined you are a danger to society! The sheer chutzpah of it was amazing.

A day or two earlier I was explaining my take on what I see as the absurdity of the LBGT “community” – I’m not shy in saying there’s no such thing – it’s a political construct for fund raising by people who have lumped together disparate people into one “community” in ways I don’t like. I have 40 years of experience in this vaunted “Community” – and I can’t for the life of me figure out how Transgendered are gay at all – or what I have to do with them. And as for “Bisexuals” – everyone in my 40 years of observation turns gay over time – they’re just slowly coming out. So I related my experience – which some guy decided I couldn’t have. No, I had an attitude problem, he declared. And I was to change immediately to something more to his liking. Instead of telling me anything factual or logical or rational or reasonable – he impugned my motives, my mind, my decency, dismissed me as hateful and uncaring – and I was like – you don’t know me – how can you simply declare this?

And it’s not just the “Left” that does it – as the “Right” likes to say of late. I have ample proof from the comments sections on blogs where articles of mine have been published. Indeed, the “right” seems to be well up on the personal attacks as the “left” is. I’m not so sure they’re on opposite sides anymore anyway – I think they are on the same side – Attack first, burn the bridges, and screw you!

I admit I’m not so sure what I’m getting at here – except that there seems to be a coarsening of discourse – and a dismissing of what anyone who disagrees with you as some threat to thought. Instead of saying, “Well, interesting point, but have you considered …” it’s “You’re hateful,” “stupid” – “I don’t like your attitude” – “change your ways!” — and other demands by people who don’t know each other.

It’s not “live and let live” anymore among these people – it’s diktat do as they say or suffer. Is it “political correctness”? – I’m not sure. Is it just some rudeness that has been brewing for sometime, or something that’s been around humans for a while but is now more noticeable with the quickness of the web? I’m snot sure – I’m really not. But it is certainly something that I’m beginning to think a lot more on. I’m trying to discern some reason for this viciousness. I’m trying to figure out why people don’t just say “Well, in my opinion it doesn’t seem to be – have you thought of this …” instead of “You are evil and racist and obnoxious for daring to think other than the way I think!”

Well, it’s a conundrum – but really – it’s tiresome. Still, it’s yet another idea for a large expose, a book, an in depth investigation of what is going on. But to be the victim of the attacks sure grates on my nerves. I dislike being goaded and provoked – and well, I can return the favor a hundred-fold – not a problem. I don’t like it – but if that’s what you wish, you’ll get it.


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