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franklinfranklinAug 2, 2016

The Pee-Filled Kiddie Pool; Or, Why I Deactivated Facebook

Several people in my social circle reposted a meme on Facebook in which "white dudes" wonder whether Clinton or Trump is worse. LGBTQ people, black people, undocumented immigrants, Muslims, and women reply in turn, "Trump." The "white dudes" then shove their collective head deeper up their collective ass and wonder again which is worse. The End.

The Trump campaign is odious. It no doubt attracts a lot of white dudes with their heads up their asses. But to understand the success of the Trump campaign, you have to consider the possibility that patterns of disenfranchisement from the economy, electoral politics, and the media - patterns that any good liberal, sensitive to the plight of minorities and women, would recognize - cross racial and gender lines in ways that they don't want to acknowledge. The joke buffers them from that consideration.

I have IRL social contact with two Trump supporters. One of them is a millennial woman whose parents were born in India.

But there's another problem. I wouldn't stand silent while someone posted a joke that concluded with a "black dude" shoving his head up his ass, as if this typified a wider phenomenon. Or a woman. Or a Muslim. Obviously, the power dynamic is different. White men need no remedial defense. I'm not going to leap to one. Yet the part of me that finds those hypothetical examples repulsive finds the actual example repulsive, for the same reason. The smug satisfaction you get from indulging in prejudices is a vice. Consequentialist ethics justify staying silent about that when it's aimed at white men, but deontological ethics don't.

At which point I have arrived at a conversation that I can have with, maybe, three people I know on Facebook out of a thousand "friends" and "followers."

On Twitter, limited to 140 characters at a time, you know you're going to have a stupid argument if you engage in one. Facebook doesn't prevent a good argument, but it creates incentives against it that are subtle. Notes like this one appear as a wall of text, while links to articles with clickbaitey headlines - as long as the site manager knows how to exploit the Open Graph Protocol - look rich and enticing. (If you don't know about the Open Graph Protocol, you're missing important technical information behind Facebook's mindshare, and its ambitions not merely to be on the internet, but to be the internet.)

Over time, behavior coalesces around incentives. Repeated behavior becomes a habit. Habits become automatic. Eventually Facebookers are thinking in terms of clickbaitey headlines without even recognizing it. Since the energy behind such thinking is visceral, any counterargument you might bring against it is going to hit your interlocutor in the gut before it ever reaches his head. People who think of themselves as informed and reasonable get on Facebook and succumb to lizard-brain reactions. The same process of confabulation that gives dreams an appearance of continuity supplies them with justifications about why they're right and you're just an asshole.

As Zen master RuPaul put it recently,

Life is not to be taken seriously. Most people are dumb as fuck. If you look at their voting habits and their eating habits, you realize people are stupid. So we could talk about stupid people or we could just stay with smart people who know how to have fun and not even focus on what dumb people do. It's not worth it. I tell you this as someone who's a smart motherfucker: Don't waste your time fooling with dumb people or trying to figure them out or trying to educate them. It doesn't work. It's a lose-lose situation.

That goes double for smart people devolving into stupid people on Facebook.

Eventually I'll be obliged to reactivate my account for professional reasons - I have a gig handling social media for a nonprofit, and my art has gotten a certain amount of attention by being posted there. But while it might be a kind of minimal public service to pour some fresh water into that pee-filled kiddie pool, I'll be damned if I'm going to lie around in it. There are life-filled, infinitely wide oceans out there.

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What do you think? Reply to franklin.
Infinite DissentInfinite DissentAug 2, 2016294 views
The Pee-Filled Kiddie Pool; Or, Why I Deactivated Facebook Several people in my social circle reposted a meme on Facebook in which "white dudes" wonder whether Clinton or Trump is worse. LGBTQ people, black people, undocumented immigrants,

Although I haven't seen the cartoon in question, based on your description I can think of some pretty good consequentialist reasons to reject it. Just consider the messages it is (subtly or not-so-subtly) sending:

All white men are privileged.. Materially false, and instantly alienating to the white men who are poor, unemployed, gay, have health problems or any of the other myriad issues which affect people regardless of race but the regressive left don't give a shit about because they are too busy shouting at you for the crime of being born with insufficiently-pigmented skin.

White men don't care about women or minorities.. Instantly alienating to all of the white men who have wives, mothers or daughters, female friends, black friends, Muslim friends, or just basic compassion for other humans regardless of identity.

Women, black people and Muslims are a homogeneous hive-mind with identical opinions and voting preferences.. Goodbye anyone who believes in treating people as individuals (which in my experience is most people), along with any members of the aforementioned minorities who don't have the pre-determined set of opinions and are tired of smug lefties presuming to speak for them.

The main reason not to vote for Trump is "muh minorities!". So if you are a white man who doesn't care about minorities, go right ahead. You have nothing to lose, apparently, and Trump will represent you all the way.

Those of us who harbour all these repugnant prejudices against you will be really upset if you vote for Trump.. So don't do that, OK? I'm sure you wouldn't want to make us sad, even though we can hardly stop talking about how much we despise you.

Which, all told, is a pretty impressive range of people that the artist and his cohorts have given a giant "fuck you" to, despite many of them being possibly-undecided voters whose vote counts as much as anyone else's. Perhaps the cartoon was never intended for consumption outside a progressive circle-jerk like Facebook, but if the goal was actually to persuade people not to vote for Trump, it seems spectacularly self-defeating.

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franklinfranklinAug 2, 2016319 views
The Pee-Filled Kiddie Pool; Or, Why I Deactivated Facebook Several people in my social circle reposted a meme on Facebook in which "white dudes" wonder whether Clinton or Trump is worse. LGBTQ people, black people, undocumented immigrants,
For the record, one of the people who posted this thing read the above, and admitted in public that he regrets putting it on his wall. That speaks well of him.

Again, unlike Twitter, where you can easily distinguish shitposting from argument, Facebook gets you caught up in a steady flow of little outrages that look a little more fact-based and reasoned out than they really are. Next thing you know you're spreading them.
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