On the Foibles of Internet Discourse

It began as usual as a forum thread, in this case related to a book on Amazon dot com. The book was of a political satire nature, and the trolling was running right from the very beginning of the thread. I noticed an opportunity to jump right in with my own “disruptive” remark as seen below.

In terms of tolerance I heard the truth of it spoken in brief on Twitter by a typical liberal leaning poser. Their quote was, “I don’t tolerate the intolerant.” My response was the use of simple logic, “It must be hard always living your life without tolerating yourself.” The use of the “shield” of tolerance is very simple to disable. Don’t let them apply their own hypocrisy without challenge. Either they are tolerant, or they are not tolerant. They can not hide behind tolerance as a stance while behaving in an intolerant manner of any opposing viewpoint. Either they are willing to tolerate everyone for who they are, or they are simply another intolerant person with no grounds for a claim of the moral high ground.
The problem has always been the false positive virtue applied to being of a “tolerant” nature. The appeasers of World War II were tolerant of the abuses of Adolph Hitler and the Nazis, and they soon fell victim to their own tolerance. Tolerance is synonymous with victim in political discourse. Don’t be tolerant of liberal hypocrisy. Challenge it for what it is, hatred cloaked in a blanket of virtue.

This remark surprisingly gathered no angry response in return. I then noted another unrelated post below it:

Yes, conservatives are such whiners! That’s why you can’t even remember the details of the only two examples of conservative whining you cited (i.e. vaguely alluded to).

I proceeded to put on my favorite preachy obsequious tone and replied as follows:

I beg to differ and correct your statement. The fact is that people are whiners. Political preferences have very little to do with a person’s tendency to whine or not whine. When you only assign negative virtues to a single group, then you are demonstrating bias and prejudice. Now you may be fine with your prejudice, or you may be ignorant of your prejudice, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a prejudice. If you consider prejudice to be a bad thing, then you may want to work on that trait. If you don’t consider prejudice to be a bad thing, then you likely shouldn’t worry about other people when they whine.

Yep, picking on a particular post with an obsequious “morally self righteous” tone did the trick. The fight was started:

I have not “only assign[ed] negative virtues to a single group” but I did sarcastically respond to someone who DID.

Yes it was my old nemesis, “Internet Sarcasm”. That frequent retreat for people who did not intend sarcasm with their original statement, but who fall back to it at the first sign of being challenged on their remarks. Well two people could fall back on the sarcasm approach, and I returned with the following:

So you are correcting your statement of “Conservatives are such whiners” then? I am glad you decided to stand corrected. 

I see your sarcasm, and raised with a deliberately obtuse remark as sarcasm in return. To which I received the following in reply:

I really cannot abide people who do not understand sarcasm. It’s like the people who hate Ann Coulter; they have absolutely no concept of the most basic of rhetorical devices like metaphors or irony or polemics in general. Yours is the kind of obtuseness I would expect from an intellectually dishonest (one only hopes) liberal–the kind who exhibits total derangement concerning all things right-wing.

But I especially loathe those who take things out of context and therefore misinterpret what is being said. What exactly do you think I meant by my second sentence? Who exactly do you think I was responding to in my initial post?

The POINT was that if whining were such a pervading occurrence among conservatives as the author of this thread suggests, one assumes he would be able to cite more recent examples than from “a year or two or three ago” and with more specificity than “or somebody,” “for some company,” “on some deal,” “or some other Democrat.”

Seriously, Obama has been re-elected; the time is now to buck up and stay alert. THINK!

I missed my mark. He detected the obtuseness, but missed that it was deliberate and thus sarcastic in nature. He actually thought it was just that I was obtuse. I took my attempt to task in the beginning of my next post:

The problem with sarcasm in writing is that it doesn’t translate well. When I used it, you detected obtuseness. Why is that? Because the written word tends to be taken at face value without visual and vocal cues, or a lot of explanation as to the intent of the delivery. I have to say that deliberate obtuseness is a way of conveying sarcasm in writing. Deliberately pretending to miss the point being made can create that sensation of not taking the discussion seriously.

So if you just want to make jokes at someone’s expense, then using unexplained and unclear sarcasm is certainly one way to attempt it. If you actually want to conduct a serious dialog, then more thought, and more effort to convey your real meaning, and less sarcasm is required. You set the pace with using sarcasm instead of clear rational dialog, and I responded in kind to demonstrate how it doesn’t convey well.

Well I figured that to be mia culpa enough about my failure at sarcasm, but to be truthful his original sarcasm wasn’t brilliant either. I continued on with my post as follows:

In terms of my political position I would classify myself as a fiscal conservative and a social moderate. In other words one of the people which isn’t represented by any current political party in the US. I don’t think that bitter attacks on political positions solve any problems facing our country, but they do serve to provide entertainment and distraction for the masses while the elected officials abuse their power behind the scenes. I also think the whole two political party system is a corruption of the intent of the framers of the US Constitution. Both the current Republican Party and Democratic Party are more interested in consolidating and expanding their national power base than they are with faithfully serving the people who elected them to run the necessary business of the country.

I also think that people on the conservative side are fracturing from the Republican Party more and more as their values slide further and further toward the “center” of the scale on fiscal matters. Both Republicans and Democrats have voted for less individual freedom and greater federal government control over the last one hundred years of the country’s history. Why is it that I should “Worry about Barak Obama” when the Republicans have been just as complicit in the direction he is taking this country? If you bothered to watch the third Presidential debate in October this year, then you would have noticed that Mitt Romney’s answer across almost every question was the equivalent of saying, “Ditto, me too” on everything Barak Obama had done regarding foreign policy. There was scarcely a paper width’s distance between their two positions, yet the Republicans presented Mitt Romney as being a drastically different position to their base during the Republican convention.

The problem has long been that the Republican’s as a party have abandoned conservative fiscal policy in favor of stronger federal control. In this sense the Libertarian Party, and people like Ron Paul in particular have been speaking of the dangers of ever growing federal government. Yet the people of this country have slowly traded away their autonomy for a sense of security and cradle to grave government influence in every aspect of their personal life.

So is it really a bad thing for someone of conservative fiscal principals that Barak Obama was elected for a second term? Yes, of course it was. Yet my contention is that there was no real thought that Mitt Romney would actually take the harsh austerity like measures needed to correct this country’s looming fiscal disaster. Too many people both Republican and Democrat voter alike depend on the Federal Government to Lead them, direct them, and to control them. The people no longer own the government at this point in our history. The government now runs the lives of the people. People get the opportunity to root for their “Blue” or “Red” team in the “Big Game” every four years, while the politicians line their pockets with money from the special interest groups which pull their purse strings. Team “Red” lost this year. Not a big deal in my book. It is just bread and circuses for the masses while Rome starts to burn under the fiddling Nero.

There it was. I was past the sarcasm approach, and putting forth a political position. I figured either he would savage my political position now, agree with it, or take me to task with elements of my political beliefs. I was wrong. He wanted to fight about linguistics:

Who here believes he was only *playing* dumb?

Zmortis, I have been debating in online discussions quite consistently for a long time now, and so I know how to read people in much the same way poker players read each other’s facial expressions; furthermore, I pay extraordinarily close attention to linguistics and, therefore, because there is absolutely no indication that you were being sarcastic, I know full well that you are lying in order to save face and your ranting, off topic lecture is nothing but vast overcompensating.

Sarcasm, satire, irony, etc. have existed quite comfortably in written form for as long as there has been literature; deciphering them only requires a little reading comprehension and attention to context clues. If that were not possible the likes of Jonathan Swift, Mark Twain, and even the aforementioned Ann Coulter would not be nearly as renowned; and though I would not compare myself to them, I am fairly certain my sarcasm is quite obvious to the four people (as of this writing) who consider my initial post helpful.

As for the remainder of your garrulous, extraneous retort, you said nothing that I do not already know; but I acknowledge that Mitt Romney, once he received the nomination, was the only one with a realistic chance of defeating Obama in this election; and since there were no angels running with any hope of winning, given the choice between a heathen or the devil, I would have preferred the heathen had won for the purpose of, at the very least, buying this country more time.

This was what he wanted to fight about. How his sarcasm was clear, and my sarcasm was invented after the fact. Well since he wouldn’t disagree with me on a political discourse, it was time to put out some credentials and see if he actually knew anything, or whether he was blowing some hot air.  I used the my education as position setting knowing that if he had a masters degree or higher in literature my goose would be cooked on that score. He had mentioned Mark Twain, and I knew that was one of my strong suits however.

You are a master at detecting sarcasm in writing, but you can not detect that being deliberately obtuse is a form of sarcasm. Can I see your degree in sarcasm detection? My bachelors degree is in Rhetoric from the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana with an emphasis in Narrative Short Fiction. I have taken numerous courses in English Literature, including enitre courses on just the works of Shakesphere and the works of Mark Twain. I have studied Homer, Aescalus, Virgil, Joyce, Falkner, Conrad, and Campbell. I am fairly good at reading as a result, and moderately adequate at writing.

I am telling you that your sarcasm was not masterful by any means in my personal estimation. Perhaps you may want to stick with serious discussion while brushing up on it some.

p.s. garrulous and extraneous is my chosen writing style. I hope you enjoy it.

Ah I was right. No literature credentials were evident in his reply. His expertise was arguments on the internet. A point was scored in the credibility sector.

Spare me your argumentum ad verecundiam fallacies; I’m not impressed. I know as well as anyone that deliberate obtuseness is a form of sarcasm; my suggestion is that you have not employed such sarcasm. On the one hand you tell me that my sarcasm is unclear; but apparently it is clear enough for you to, on the other hand, respond “in kind to demonstrate how it doesn’t convey well.” That’s right, when you read my initial post you said to yourself, “This person is using sarcasm which is probably totally unclear to the masses lacking my credentials. I’m going to demonstrate why such rhetorical amateurs should just keep it literal by pretending I did not get the point.” Yeah, I totally believe that! (That was me being sarcastic again, for the record.)

You are a terrible liar and if you had any integrity you would admit that you misunderstood me instead of blaming your own incompetence on me. If you did not pick up on my VERY commonly structured sarcasm, that is YOUR problem.

And please don’t lecture me on “serious dialogue” while we are in a discussion related to a book by name removed of all people!

P.S. By “garrulous, extraneous” I mean “rambling non sequitur” which is an indication of BAD writing; so no, I don’t enjoy your “style.”

Ah very good. I was handed a nice gotcha statement in his remarks that he didn’t like rambling non sequitur. Mark Twain is of course quite famous for his characters displaying fine examples of rambling non sequitur as a method of humor in his writing. A “Mark Twain” fan who didn’t like it as a form of humorous writing style was in trouble with that position. Time to let him know of his slip-up while pressing the double advantage I had been given.

I do understand that garrulous, extraneous meant rambling and out of context in your use of the terms. Yet Mark Twain often used that approach in his humor as well. It is a legitimate writing style, and I am sorry you don’t find it amusing or entertaining. Yet I am not writing to amuse or entertain you as much as others who may bother to read this exchange. My point would be you first replied to my sarcasm by saying, “I really cannot abide people who do not understand sarcasm.” Which I thought was quite funny in the hypocrisy it presented. Either you understood my original sarcasm of using deliberate obtuseness, or you didn’t. If you didn’t then by your own admission you must not be able to abide yourself.

I’ll give you credit for this instead. What you likely actually meant was, “I don’t like people who won’t appreciate my own use of sarcasm.” That seems a more honest statement of what you meant to say. As far as whether my obtuseness was deliberate or unintentional all you have to go on is your feelings vs. my statements of deliberation. You don’t exist inside my head, only your own. I also don’t exist inside your head, but also like you I can inaccurately ascribe any numbers of faults to your presumed intent without being correct about it. You are welcome to impugn my character, call me names, invent any kind of unlikely or untrue scenario you like to make yourself feel better. I won’t mind because ultimately it does not matter to me, it only matters to how you feel about yourself. If you feel good in being that person, then you are welcome to it. Personally I feel better giving people the benefit of the doubt when they make a statement of their intent.

The funny thing about this whole exchange up to this point is that we probably differ very little on political views, but conversely differ quite a bit on how to handle a political discourse with people who disagree with our positions. I prefer to challenge people using their own methods to demonstrate their logic from a different perspective. You seem to prefer impugning someone’s character and honesty in order to demean and reduce the impact of their argument. You are of course welcome to correct that impression, but you might have to rescind words you have used already to impugn my character and honesty to disprove my assertion.

This of course is very little new in debate or argumentation. It always seems to come down to two people either standing steadfastly in their corner pointing fingers at their opponent in falsely manufactured positions of “high ground” vs. the other person’s “morally inferior” position of mudslinging. Otherwise people can set aside trying to be “right” and instead look for compromise between their two positions. I’m willing to bet that being “right” is more important to you than seeking an amicable settlement here. If that is the case, then you can be “right”, while I join the libertarians and refuse to vote again for another Republican candidate. You have proven to me that Republicans are no longer willing to deal fairly with people, but instead prefer lashing out at everyone who doesn’t step in line with their world view. Most especially those with whom there could be ground for common cause because you’ll want everything your way with no compromise to other points of view.

Oh wait, I did it again. I acted like you did (do you get the sarcasm yet).

There it was. I called him on his mind reading, his accusations of dishonesty, and his lack of understanding of Mark Twain’s approach to humor. I also pouted and said if he wanted to win, I would grab my ball and go play with another political party. For full disclosure I also posted the following in the immediately subsequent post:

Just for full disclosure this discussion will be featured on my personal blog site if it continues. I will of course change your name to protect the innocent. In order to prevent any accusations copyright violations I’ll of course have to lie about your remarks to make you seem dumber and me seem smarter than you. I hope you don’t mind, but as you consider me a liar already you probably expect me to behave that way anyway, so I guess it doesn’t matter.

Of course I haven’t actually changed his remarks beyond removing any attribution to his name or the names of anyone else still living being used. So in that sense I did actually lie to him in saying that I would. I’d hate for him to be a self made liar when he called me a liar when I wasn’t one. Now he could feel good that I had lied about at least one thing in my posts. Now comes his return serve.

“I’m willing to bet that being ‘right’ is more important to you than seeking an amicable settlement here.”

Seriously? You just admitted that in your first response to me you thought I was literally negatively whitewashing all conservatives; when I *politely* corrected your false assertion, instead of saying, “Oh, I’m sorry; I misunderstood you,” you said, “So you are correcting your statement of ‘Conservatives are such whiners’ then? I am glad you decided to stand corrected.” Corrected? By whom; you? That implies that I reversed my position; I did not. That is not sarcasm; it is just untrue. If it were meant to be sarcasm, what, pray, should have tipped me off? Let’s be honest though–that was not meant to be sarcasm. At that time you still did not know who I was initially responding to and did not realize who I was referring to in my second post; it is clear you thought I was just a “typical liberal leaning poser” who you were trying to condescend to. My sarcasm was not evident to you until I harshly spelled it out.

If the clarity of my initial sarcasm is still in question, again I ask, who do you think it was directed toward? Did you not click on the “in reply to an earlier post” option at the upper right corner? Secondly, even if there were some other way to interpret the “That’s why you can’t even remember…” part than I intended, surely my next post clarified my meaning beyond dispute thus rendering your next reply wholly unwarranted regardless of your intentions.

If after my third post you had simply deleted your posts relating to our correspondence I would have gladly done likewise and thus sparring everyone of this petty, longwinded debate (which, by the way, is a terrible representation of our mutual ideological leanings). Instead, you felt it necessary to drag this out by concocting this pitiful lie so that you might say, “See, YOU messed up too!”

But please, by all means continue claiming that you were being “deliberately obtuse” in order to “demonstrate how it doesn’t convey well,” and rest assured in the knowledge that it does not sound REMOTELY like backpedaling.

An accusation of backpedaling, that means it is time to switch tracks on this train. Another fine example of how to derail someone bound and determined to make someone admit they are “right damn it”. In this case declare them the winner. Don’t attempt to refute their argument any more. Instead accuse a group they associate with of being guilty of their own particular individual faults.

You win. I’m not voting for a republican again. Republican’s can not understand why conservatives are fleeing their ranks. This is a pretty good example. They have to be “right” about picking a “winner” as more important to them than seeking common cause with people of a similar view. They will bicker, fight, call people names, and impugn their character if someone does not step in line with their choice. Even when someone says, look our values are pretty much the same, but your choice doesn’t reflect those values, they will double down on it being more important to win, than it is to uphold their values.

So you win. Yet you also lose. You’ve driven even more people away from your side because you do not play nice with others. Well hey, you really didn’t want a liar, a cheat, or a literary idiot who can’t even understand the brilliance of your writing on your side anyway. So I guess I am wrong. Republicans do stand up for their values, it is just that they are not actually the conservative values they declare in public. Their values are simple – “winning is what matters” more than any kind of inclusivity or conservative values.

I am also curious as to where you got your degree in mind reading.

Yes, I have gone from sarcasm to full whiny snark now. I’m curious if he can tell the difference. I have also given the original person he was being nasty (err, I mean sarcastic) to above yet another fine example of conservatives whining at each other.

Later on came the reply as the attack continues:

You really are a self-aggrandizing, elitist jerk! I’m sorry I snapped at you in my third post, but I really am tired of people making conservatives look dumb and I truly believe there was absolutely no excuse for not being able to pick up on my sarcasm; and instead of proving me wrong by picking apart the case I have articulated–or even remotely acknowledging it–you consistently trail off on these patronizing, projecting lectures which only prove you to be hypocritically presumptive and whitewashing–the very kind of whitewashing that started this whole conversation. Despite your grandstanding, you are far from a saint here. THIS is what is impeding the advancement of conservatism–few are capable of articulating its values or effectively ANSWERING CRITICISM!

I will ask once again, am I wrong in thinking that my second post indisputably clarifies my initial sarcasm? If not, and you really were being deliberately obtuse, why could you not just trust that everyone else is smart enough to understand it as well? And here is something that just occurred to me: you mock ME for not picking up on YOUR sarcasm WHILE you are telling me that you “responded in kind to demonstrate how it doesn’t convey well.” In other words, you were TRYING to be unclear; you were TRYING to hide any indication of sarcasm. You know, it is common knowledge that people who are lying frequently contradict themselves.

I’m not a mind reader; I just know how to read. More than you realize, it is what you have written (or not written) that has betrayed you.

I respond with small words in what I know will be a vain attempt to move on with as little said as possible. This is the Last Word battle now. No matter how many times he replies, I will return and return to have the last word.

You are also a sore winner. I said you won already. What more do you want?

Thus begins the battle of the non-sequitur terse replies:

Andrew, don’t forget; be sure and tell them it was just a bloody game.

A bit of non-sequitur tit for tat then in the Battle for the Last Word.

Bob, you can come out now. The parents are finally done fighting.

An underhanded move claiming the uninvolved readers are like traumatized children after a parental spat. I’m thinking this will go on for several more days at this pace. The game will be to make it more and more unrelated to the preceding text. Also the more terse and concise until it gets down to single word replies like a marital spat broken down into single word communications. 

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