T Nation

A Question For the Yanks...

I’m intrigued by much of the political debate that goes on in these pages but one of the things that has always baffled me is that the way in which these debates often degenerate into name-calling of the strangest kind.

For example the response on a religious topic where I asserted that morality is subjective instantly got me labelled a lefty and politically correct. I’m many many things but PC is not one of them!

I fail to see the correlation between my statement and the response but more importantly, this is not an isolated case. Time and time again I see people using democrat or republican as derogatory terms, as though someone’s entire personal ideology can be summed up purely by where they put an X on a ballot paper.

If this forum is in any way representative of American society (and I have no clue if it is) people seem so clearly defined by whether they are a democrat or republican, or whether they are a bleeding-heart liberal or a redneck neo-conservative etc…

Just because I might vote for someone I don’t necessarily have any loyalty to them - I just think that they will fuck up slightly less than the other candidates. Also, I certainly don’t agree with the ALL the policies of any major political party.

I’m from the UK and to be honest I’m far more likely to call someone the C-word than a ‘Tory’.

Now I wonder if this phenomenon is unique to web forums or whether it is prevalent in US society as a whole and whether such a thing as political segregation actually exists over there.

If so, is there any reason for this, or is it just on sites like this because its so easy to be petty from the relative safety of your PC?

Discuss…

[quote]1-packlondoner wrote:
I’m intrigued by much of the political debate that goes on in these pages but one of the things that has always baffled me is that the way in which these debates often degenerate into name-calling of the strangest kind.[/quote]

You and me both, friend.

To some degree, I think people have staked out a side. In a winner-take-all system, each party represents a pretty big tent. But I think people have a mix of views generally and are not hardcore platform ideologues - at least that is not my experience.

True, and interestingly enough, we Americans may bicker like crazy about politics, but in reality, we are arguing at the margins mostly. Most Americans are a version of liberal in the old sense of the word. Only rarely do we acknowledge this, but Democrats and Republicans have a great deal in common.

Without question. There are some pretty heated words exchanged in real life, but it gets magnified by the anonymity of the web. Web forums attract people who are opinionated on this given topic, and that adds to it. Most sane people can get along with people of different politics. Most of my friends do not share my political views, and we have some great debates, but we don’t actually think each other is acting in bad faith. But that may depend on the individual - some people just don’t have the confidence to have their viewpoints challenged and they reflexively become defensive. It’s a shame.

As I said earlier - without question. The tough talk - or attempts to talk tough, better stated - you see around here would rarely happen to anyone’s face, I suspect. There is a lot of wannabeism here and in other sites I have visited: like the computer dork who gets to play a big brave hero in his role-playing fantasy game online, sites like this attract folks who talk tough and try and give off the impression of toughness, all behind the comfort of the internet persona.

It stinks, because some really good people of varying viewpoints can show up and engage in thoughtful and robust exchanges from time to time. That is the exception rather than the rule anymore.

[quote]thunderbolt23 wrote:
1-packlondoner wrote:
I’m intrigued by much of the political debate that goes on in these pages but one of the things that has always baffled me is that the way in which these debates often degenerate into name-calling of the strangest kind.

You and me both, friend.

If this forum is in any way representative of American society (and I have no clue if it is) people seem so clearly defined by whether they are a democrat or republican, or whether they are a bleeding-heart liberal or a redneck neo-conservative etc…

To some degree, I think people have staked out a side. In a winner-take-all system, each party represents a pretty big tent. But I think people have a mix of views generally and are not hardcore platform ideologues - at least that is not my experience.

Just because I might vote for someone I don’t necessarily have any loyalty to them - I just think that they will fuck up slightly less than the other candidates. Also, I certainly don’t agree with the ALL the policies of any major political party.

True, and interestingly enough, we Americans may bicker like crazy about politics, but in reality, we are arguing at the margins mostly. Most Americans are a version of liberal in the old sense of the word. Only rarely do we acknowledge this, but Democrats and Republicans have a great deal in common.

Now I wonder if this phenomenon is unique to web forums or whether it is prevalent in US society as a whole and whether such a thing as political segregation actually exists over there.

Without question. There are some pretty heated words exchanged in real life, but it gets magnified by the anonymity of the web. Web forums attract people who are opinionated on this given topic, and that adds to it. Most sane people can get along with people of different politics. Most of my friends do not share my political views, and we have some great debates, but we don’t actually think each other is acting in bad faith. But that may depend on the individual - some people just don’t have the confidence to have their viewpoints challenged and they reflexively become defensive. It’s a shame.

If so, is there any reason for this, or is it just on sites like this because its so easy to be petty from the relative safety of your PC?

As I said earlier - without question. The tough talk - or attempts to talk tough, better stated - you see around here would rarely happen to anyone’s face, I suspect. There is a lot of wannabeism here and in other sites I have visited: like the computer dork who gets to play a big brave hero in his role-playing fantasy game online, sites like this attract folks who talk tough and try and give off the impression of toughness, all behind the comfort of the internet persona.

It stinks, because some really good people of varying viewpoints can show up and engage in thoughtful and robust exchanges from time to time. That is the exception rather than the rule anymore.[/quote]

Hi Mate,

Thanks for replying. I’ve spent time in the US as I have family out there but I have been informed over and over that Chicago is not representative of the US as a whole so thought I’d ask for a broader picture.

Like you, my friends all have various political leanings but as a group I like to think that makes us stronger than the sum of our parts.

Kewl… So it’s just your typical everyday run of the mill household internet banter then? Excellent. It just makes me laugh how people manage to type the word liberal or republican as though they are spitting the word onto the screen.

Right, I’m off to start my ‘Why Islam is the best religion’ thread. Surely no-one can flame me there…lol

The people who are drawn to these conversations online are kind of extremists…or at least very passionate in their views.

Not too mention, we all “know” each other here, so there grudges that are carried over threads. It’s just the internet though.

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:
The people who are drawn to these conversations online are kind of extremists…or at least very passionate in their views.

Not too mention, we all “know” each other here, so there grudges that are carried over threads. It’s just the internet though. [/quote]

Valid point. I seem to find people following me through various threads just to pick a fight. V sad…

The weak minded need a boogey man to fortify their beliefs.

It is very sad.

I agree with the points about the internet magnifying people’s aggression toward unlike viewpoints.

However, it seems to me that American politics have gotten progressively more contentious over the last 10-15 years.

I readily admit that this opinion may just be the result of my getting older and having more politically related experiences.

[quote]toddjacobs13 wrote:
I agree with the points about the internet magnifying people’s aggression toward unlike viewpoints.

However, it seems to me that American politics have gotten progressively more contentious over the last 10-15 years.

I readily admit that this opinion may just be the result of my getting older and having more politically related experiences.[/quote]

You might be right but in the ‘real world’ have your conversations about politics led you to not want to be friends with someone anymore, as is often the case on here?

The only time this has happened with me is 3am at a bus stop when the seemingly normal guy I’m talking shit with while waiting suddenley comes out with ‘I think we should kill all the Pakistanis’ or similar over the top craziness.

Off-topic but honestly, London night buses from 2am onwards are filled with the most extreme people you could ever hope to meet. All the goths, strippers, tramps, clubbers all seem to wait just until I need to get home before sitting next to me and regaling me with their life story. It’s really funny but often a pain in the backside when you just want to turn off and stare out of the window because they WILL get your attention.

[quote]1-packlondoner wrote:
toddjacobs13 wrote:
You might be right but in the ‘real world’ have your conversations about politics led you to not want to be friends with someone anymore, as is often the case on here?

The only time this has happened with me is 3am at a bus stop when the seemingly normal guy I’m talking shit with while waiting suddenley comes out with ‘I think we should kill all the Pakistanis’ or similar over the top craziness.

Off-topic but honestly, London night buses from 2am onwards are filled with the most extreme people you could ever hope to meet. All the goths, strippers, tramps, clubbers all seem to wait just until I need to get home before sitting next to me and regaling me with their life story. It’s really funny but often a pain in the backside when you just want to turn off and stare out of the window because they WILL get your attention.

[/quote]

I have seen some potential friendships go south in the real world due to political differences.

I do not recall the words democrat, liberal, republican, and conservative being used as epithets in the past. I see and hear this regularly now.

[quote]toddjacobs13 wrote:

I have seen some potential friendships go south in the real world due to political differences.

I do not recall the words democrat, liberal, republican, and conservative being used as epithets in the past. I see and hear this regularly now.[/quote]

That last point is so true, and one of the reasons I started the thread. Definitely a new one on me. Although the terms over here are slightly different, labour/tory (interchangable at the mo), socialist etc…

[quote]1-packlondoner wrote:
toddjacobs13 wrote:

I have seen some potential friendships go south in the real world due to political differences.

I do not recall the words democrat, liberal, republican, and conservative being used as epithets in the past. I see and hear this regularly now.

That last point is so true, and one of the reasons I started the thread. Definitely a new one on me. Although the terms over here are slightly different, labour/tory (interchangable at the mo), socialist etc…[/quote]

Some redneck hillbilly off this board called me a Liberal ? Ah yeah, I always had Paddy Ashdown posters up in my room as a young lad.

[quote]1-packlondoner wrote:
I’m intrigued by much of the political debate that goes on in these pages but one of the things that has always baffled me is that the way in which these debates often degenerate into name-calling of the strangest kind.

For example the response on a religious topic where I asserted that morality is subjective instantly got me labelled a lefty and politically correct. I’m many many things but PC is not one of them!

I fail to see the correlation between my statement and the response but more importantly, this is not an isolated case. Time and time again I see people using democrat or republican as derogatory terms, as though someone’s entire personal ideology can be summed up purely by where they put an X on a ballot paper.

If this forum is in any way representative of American society (and I have no clue if it is) people seem so clearly defined by whether they are a democrat or republican, or whether they are a bleeding-heart liberal or a redneck neo-conservative etc…

Just because I might vote for someone I don’t necessarily have any loyalty to them - I just think that they will fuck up slightly less than the other candidates. Also, I certainly don’t agree with the ALL the policies of any major political party.

I’m from the UK and to be honest I’m far more likely to call someone the C-word than a ‘Tory’.

Now I wonder if this phenomenon is unique to web forums or whether it is prevalent in US society as a whole and whether such a thing as political segregation actually exists over there.

If so, is there any reason for this, or is it just on sites like this because its so easy to be petty from the relative safety of your PC?

Discuss…
[/quote]
I have to admit I have definitely said some “Ranty emotionally charged” comments on this forum, Because people try to get you fired up, and take personal shots at you, and I feel obligated to defend myself and my beleifs, its pointless though…like others have stated that should be saved for “face to face” interactions. I have tried to keep my posts somewhat objective recently.
To answer your other question about America and politics in general. Yes people love to place others into categories and use “Liberal” or “Conservative” as an insult, both on web forums and in real life from my experience. I think this has to do with folks needing a sense of “Belongingness” or “Affiliation” with a group. Because once you have established “I am a Conservative” and vote Republican or “I am Liberal” you can have “advocators” think for you. hence, the many Rush Limbaugh regurgitations that transpire (just an example.) Its funny because I dont consider myself either, and would not describe myself as Political, which begs the questions why the hell am I on the political forum. It fascinates me how fired up people get about certain issues. its kind of like The “Literary Jerry Springer Show”

on the flip side I have read some really intelligent, well thought out, funny comments. It’s entertainment while I am at work.

[quote]Meddyg Stigg wrote:
Some redneck hillbilly off this board called me a Liberal ? Ah yeah, I always had Paddy Ashdown posters up in my room as a young lad.[/quote]

Lol… Also been called a ‘democrat’ because I’m not religious and I was supposed to know the intricacies of how many non-believers voted for Kerry!

When I responded I was British and why would I give a fuck about who voted for Kerry I was told it was because I should want to know all about the leader of the free world. So I was STILL a democrat…

No winning with some people. ha ha

[quote]cram2012 wrote:
It fascinates me how fired up people get about certain issues. its kind of like The “Literary Jerry Springer Show”

on the flip side I have read some really intelligent, well thought out, funny comments. It’s entertainment while I am at work.
[/quote]

Too true. lol

You gotta understand, the internet is not conductive to Taoist masters.

[quote]1-packlondoner wrote:
Meddyg Stigg wrote:
Some redneck hillbilly off this board called me a Liberal ? Ah yeah, I always had Paddy Ashdown posters up in my room as a young lad.

Lol… Also been called a ‘democrat’ because I’m not religious and I was supposed to know the intricacies of how many non-believers voted for Kerry!

When I responded I was British and why would I give a fuck about who voted for Kerry I was told it was because I should want to know all about the leader of the free world. So I was STILL a democrat…

No winning with some people. ha ha[/quote]

Just wish we did not have a leader who gad delusions of greatness and wanted to suck proverbial US dick all the time.

Thatcher was the Iron Lady for a reason and when Ronbo needed to be told, he was told !

[quote]1-packlondoner wrote:
… Although the terms over here are slightly different, labour/tory (interchangable at the mo), socialist etc…[/quote]

We used to tar and feather Tories around these parts.

Well, a good summary of the Presidential Pageant can be found here:

Mix the zeal of competing sport teams, complete with fanatical supporters, and you have American politics.

[quote]Zap Branigan wrote:
1-packlondoner wrote:
… Although the terms over here are slightly different, labour/tory (interchangable at the mo), socialist etc…

We used to tar and feather Tories around these parts.[/quote]

Yep. They’re called Canadians nowadays…

[quote]Zap Branigan wrote:
1-packlondoner wrote:
… Although the terms over here are slightly different, labour/tory (interchangable at the mo), socialist etc…

We used to tar and feather Tories around these parts.[/quote]

We still do where I live…lol