I've been observing the 'culture of the internet' in 2012 USA. What was once, briefly, a place where people could politely engage in discourse and learn from eachother's disagreement -- with occasional 'flaming' -- which indicated a flare up of anger where people lost their cool -- it seems the pre-eminence of commentary by readers/viewers is of a sort of foul-mouthed hate-speech which generally attempts to discredit the content makers by name-calling or insults but avoids mentioning the actual content.
As a self-proclaimed Radical Evolutionary, ie an (*R)Evolutionary, I am regularly surprised by people who claim high-level degrees (PhD's and Masters) and then say things like "Put down your crack pipe, you Liberal moron!" and so on.
What I find saddest about the loss of nettiquette is that the internet is a pathway to dialogue, but this type of attack -- which doesn't touch on the subject -- really lowers the quality of discourse. It's funny to write this knowing that my last blog post was titled "fuck sports news", however I did provide many rational reasons for why it's upsetting (just today CNN News just covered a story about a US soldier going on a killing spree in Afghanistan killing 12+ civilians, and then followed this story immediately with a 'Sports News' story that Tiger Woods hurt his foot) and I didn't just call sports fans 'dipshits'.
When I'm engaging in a dialogue with these folks who are throwing insults into the conversation as if they were adjectives, my tools are humor and calm rationality. While I'm merely dealing with hate in a typed medium, I'm inspired by many visionaries like Martin Luther King Jr and Gandhi (among others) who had to look hate in the eye and still found love, compassion, and hope.
While no doubt I find these Sophist name-callers offensive, I also feel like an ambassador of the good potential of humanity. I choose to let these verbal assaults slide gently off me like soapy water. More amusing are the insults which are so far off-base that it's almost like they are insulting someone else -- I just don't fit the bill.
While I've mentioned that name-calling is not a higher ground, when someone says they have a PhD and proceeds to call me an asshole, moron, fuckwad, or similar -- I tend to respond with inquiry such as "I doubt you got your PhD in polite debate or considerate discussion" and often finish the conversation with something like "are you a sour grouchy person in real life, or just online where no-one can call you out"?
And I admit, I do frequently wonder if these people are paid agitators by some type of CIA-backed community-shattering 'divide and conquer with fear and hate' strategy for fracturing the resistence to oppression within the USA. Another CoIntelPro Operation designed to harm progressive self-aware leaderless personal empowerment?
And lastly, I do wonder what these people are like face-to-face? I'm a 6'2" former martial artist who has a kind heart and disposition, generally. Would any of these people even have the courage to engage me in a conversation, let alone a dispute? Would they berate me for my low intellect, for being a "liberal" or a "sad hippy" or a "crack smoker", or would they even be able to look me in the eye?