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.