Note: The following originally appeared as a series of Tweets, regarding me trying to dial back on oversharing-while-infuriated.
Apparently, I’ve lost some follows by being politically angry on social media. If that’s news to you, congratulations – you don’t follow (or haven’t drawn the attention) of self-righteous trolls who collect angry-sounding sentences and spread them around out of context to rile others up against users whom they object to in some way.
My instinct on that is to be “whatever” about it, because A.) In the broader context of what I do, I honestly don’t consider my particular “angry” brand to be all that poisonous, and B.) I’m not sure how one is NOT supposed to be angry when the people you’re railing against are, increasingly, literal Nazis.
I’m also not inclined to “apologize” for the broad strokes of my outlook: I believe in intelligence and the morality of reason. I believe that demonizing this country’s (or any country, really) geographic centers of art, culture, science, education, knowledge, invention and – not unrelated – demographic diversity as “elitist” while at the same time propping up prideful mediocrity as some kind of idealized “Real America!” is a shortcut to cultural suicide.
More specifically, I believe that the so-called “urbanization” of U.S. economic and cultural power (i.e. the increased concentration of cultural and economic power in the “coastal liberal” so-called “Blue States”) is an overwhelmingly positive long-term evolution – and that violent resistance to this by outdated movements/cultures/ideas that cant “survive” in that evolved climate is what’s driving “Trumpism” (e.g. nativism, nationalism, isolationism, etc.) Moreover, I don’t think it’s particularly “bad” to take pride in being culturally, professionally or philosophically part of the “evolution” side of that dynamic.
That having been said… it’s possible to see that this is the world, and to be angry (and/or just “worried”) about it and to reject false compromise with the other side without also being a gigantic asshole who doesn’t recognize the various complexities and nuances within movements and communities they condemn. And while I happen to believe, perhaps immodestly, that the breadth of my output proves handily that that isn’t me. But, this is an era where you’re expected to be “on brand” at 140 characters at a time, and you can’t (fairly) blame people for not seeking out the background when they see something that otherwise “looks the part.”
You can’t be Mr. My Anger Is My Authenticity and then blame people who say “If that’s authentic, I want no part of it.” If anything, a “catchy” strident statement should invite people to your greater context; not make it a requirement for understanding that you’re not “really” an asshole.
Of late, I’ve not been great at that. And catharsis that doesn’t actually expel anger isn’t really cathartic. I’ve verbalized complex thoughts in simple/angry terms, and can’t blame (most) people for reaching “wrong” conclusions therefrom (excluding dishonest concern-trolls who only “pretend” to have reached bad conclusions, obviously). That’s some shit I’ve got to curb, in no small part because the world has never been a place where being right is a silver bullet that annihilates being checked or criticized (if only…)
In any case, I’m working to be a less “grim” social-media presence. If you’d been concerned by that, it’s being addressed. If you’d “quit” my feed/output because of it, I get it and I hope some can be “won back.” That’s the long and short of it: Not an asshole, recognizing I’ve occasionally come off as one, trying to do better. Whether I pull it off or not? I imagine you’ll be the judge of that.
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10 thoughts on “Catharsis”
I don’t really see the point of this, but I don’t follow you (or anyone) on Twitter, so maybe you’ve been more annoying than I would imagine. Generally, I think it’s ok for people to have strong opinions, and if seeming pleasantly neutral or inoffensive is what makes people marketable, that just seems kind of depressing. However, I’m not really worried about you becoming inauthentic, because you called your opponents Nazis in your apology post, which suggests that pleasant neutrality isn’t really a gear you have anyway.
On Twitter, there indeed are plenty of literal Nazis.
Some of them will self-apply the label. Others still try to hide behind Godwin but directly argue for America or some portion thereof to be a white ethnostate, a longtime core tenant of American neonatzis (see: 14 words). Dude is not talking about Republicans here.
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I appreciate this Bob, I really do.
Let me explain why (if you care) I’ve been a viewer/listener etc for a while now. I know you’re an incredibly bright bloke. It’s why I’m a view/listener etc. But, I’ve seen a lot of your tweets, and sometimes shake my head. They’re really boiled down and often angry.
And, personally, I think, in part, that anger is part of why we’re in this mess. I’m a left leaning social progressive type person. Believe in equal rights for all colours, faiths sexual orientations and gender identities. Period, full stop.
But I feel like *a lot* of what I see on social media from people I agree with is angry and blast-y. And I fear that if we, the thinking liberals can’t try to talk and convince those who disagree with us and far more importantly those who *can* be convinced then those who are (for reasons I honestly don’t understand) not married to one side or the others might go to the side of hate. I think that’s partly why Trump won. Even if he didn’t win the popular vote.
More and more, I feel like liberals are becoming angrier and the faces that represent us have more in common with people like Anne Coulter than Martin Luther King. And I do worry that it drives people away.
That said, I TOTALLY get the desire to angry tweet and the need for catharsis. This Daddy o’ Five story is big right now and all I want to do is tweet all the hate at them. I was abused in similar ways to these kids (minus the YouTube.) But when tweeting at them or on their videos I try to be more reasoned. Maybe, probably not, but maybe that moderate tone will change minds. If not the family itself maybe someone reading my comments. And at the end of the day, if I can change someone’s mind if I can open their mind I think that’s a good thing.
I mean, I don’t go to Twitter all that often, but when I do your angry tweets are definitely more of a highlight than a downside.
I used to have your tweets in a tab on tweetdeck. I think I removed your tab about three days before I straight up quit twitter for a couple months. Turns out the problem isn’t you, it’s … all of it.
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Note to person invoking “Martin Luther King was nice”: He wasn’t nice. That’s what I liked about him, and what a lot of nowaday liberals seem to miss the point of. He stood on his principles, and he became quite disappointed in the white moderate, as he called it—which is basically where most liberals actually stand. “I don’t want things to get too turbulent, that will turn people off.” Read King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” in full if you don’t believe me.
These days King is quoted out of context all the time by people who believe that the only way to fight is to be gentle but firm; and yet, for those of us in the trenches, who are actually threatened by police violence (I’m Vietnamese, you bet the police don’t treat us nicely, and of course we don’t have it nearly as bad as other marginalized groups), who are afraid every day for our lives, these causes aren’t some kind of intellectual exercise.
It doesn’t even matter whether you’re peaceful or not anyways; people will always quote a person out of context if they want, will always declare someone isn’t being reasonable enough if they want (that’s called tone policing, and that’s exactly what people want Bob to do—to police his tone down so they don’t have to hear his shouting), will turn your good deeds into bad ones to the media. Look at the history of the Black Panthers—they’re considered a terrorist group by so much of society, including much of liberal society, and yet they didn’t do anywhere near the amount of evil things historians claim they did.
You want to talk about how excess of anger turns people off?
Then you apparently think those of us who ARE angry, who need to know someone has our backs and is willing to be angry with us, someone who is willing to fight with us because we, those of us whose lives are on the line, would like to not be alone?
I can’t trust people who aren’t angry about what’s going on, to be quite honest. Someone who cannot express that anger, who wants to tamp it down to make more comfortable those who don’t want to hear sordid truths when such truths will not actually kill them?
I’d unfollow you.
But I know no one would miss me, because I’ve been called angry and unreasonable when I ask for non-white authors to appear in genre-wide anthologies, as well as had legal action taken against me for saying that in the first place. People call me a troll for bringing up #BlackLivesMatter and people want me to stop talking about the murders of trans women, especially trans women of color.
People will do whatever they want to you, regardless of what positions you hold, regardless of how nice you are.
This is why I generally state what I’m angry about on my Twitter. Mind you, I do fill out my tweets with more art stuff than angry stuff, but when I’m angry, I don’t hold it back. I also don’t explicitly target people, and I won’t quote trolls to bring them down because that actually hurts the people following me, because I expose them to the trolls in the first place.
What censoring I do is for the care of people who are marginalized, not for the care of people who aren’t.
Do what you will. You’ll make the majority happy, and you’ll only lose a few stragglers like me, who will probably die quite soon anyways.
I watched a group of white authors cajole an upcoming black author into killing herself, and they laughed when they got the news. No consequences for them, though. People were being rather polite about what they had done, and unfollowing all the “angries” and praising the next books that come out.
That is what white supremacy is. And it’s so easily reinforced.
Anyways I’ll just unsub and unfollow for now. You won’t miss me. I wasn’t who you wanted to follow you anyways.
I’m the chap who mentioned MLK. I’m not going to argue with you about how he actually was. I trust your knowledge to be superior to mine. I will say that the image I’ve had of him, since I was young has always been a powerful one. A man who can encourage change by his words and motivating others. It’s always been important to me that we can change the world through education and conversation rather than violence and anger.
And I am angry at the so easily fixed injustices in our world.
But I choose not to *only* express that anger. I choose to be, as I say a social justice ambassador. Because, as far as I’m concerned calling Trump and his administration a bunch of Nazi’s and saying everyone who voted for them is awful doesn’t accomplish anything. And it just drives people who may want to listen away.
I’ll give an example from my life. I’m an atheist, and the reason for that is because I see so many religions and religious leaders (particularly Christian ones in North America) using what is supposed to be a system of faith that exhorts charity, kindness and love as a wedge to divide and stigmatize those who are different.
More than anything else that drove me away from Christianity.
So my fear is that those with whom I agree on the left being faces of anger and seemingly seeking to divide us does worry me that it’s driving people away.
And I think someone, like Bob, who has such a large platform will do far more good than ill by being a voice of calm.
I think this is a good move Bob–your intelligence and ethics often don’t come across clearly on Twitter, while your longer pieces and videos are always compelling. 140 characters doesn’t do anyone any favors.
It is the horrible dichotomy of the internet and social media in particular that only way to beat back misinformation is with sources, reasonable debate and facts, while at the same time., Please, please, please, please stop feeding the trolls, Bob. Stand up for what you believe but don’t offend people. It is horrible because the midwest is dying, because those that are smart enough to get out of here are fleeing to the cultural centers. Those that aren’t… well… you ever go into a bar and mistake it for a Klan rally. Thing is it’s not even actual racism, sexism, or bigotry it’s ignorance. I don’t know how you fight willful ignorance. And that is what it is. Some of the kindest people, the most hard working, generous, intelligent live in the midwest. They will help out a stranger, make them feel welcome, not give a bad about race, sex, or beliefs but as soon as you take away the stranger, that person they can be kind to they will spew hate, while still not hating the stranger. My own sainted mother has ranted about gay marriage while on the way to a gay wedding that she couldn’t wait to get to. Cognitive dissonance I believe it’s called. I don’t know keep fighting the good fight man.
If you have to pull a Trump, “I never said that.”
“More specifically, I believe that the so-called ‘urbanization’ of U.S. economic and cultural power (i.e. the increased concentration of cultural and economic power in the ‘coastal liberal’ so-called ‘Blue States’) is an overwhelmingly positive long-term evolution – and that violent resistance to this by outdated movements/cultures/ideas that cant ‘survive’ in that evolved climate is what’s driving ‘Trumpism’ (e.g. nativism, nationalism, isolationism, etc.)”
But the above progressive sentiment isn’t the least bit accurate–or at least, not nearly as accurate as progressives think. Population growth and economic growth are trending strongly in favor of the South and West. That “Blue States” (specifically, the blue Midwest and Northeast) hold the most cultural and economic power in the U.S. has been true historically, but that power has been decreasing, not increasing, for a variety of reasons.
More importantly, even assuming the above sentiment is true, it’s only true to some degree. Increased regulation at the state and local government levels in blue states is positive in some aspects but detrimental in others. For example, I moved from a deep red state (think KY/TN/AL/GA) to a deep blue state (think PA/NJ/DE/MD) and was actually surprised at the backwardness of the deep blue state in many respects, particularly economic development and cultural insularity. For all the Northeast’s claims to top-notch educational and arts institutions, the Northeast struggles to maintain livability with respect to affordable housing, quality grocery stores, low crime, etc.
Put simply, progressives aren’t evaluating places with the same criteria as conservatives. An engineer in Huntsville, Alabama, can live a nice life making $60-70k/year, notwithstanding the lack of Ivy League institutions, the New York Times, or the Met. Your difference of opinion on that score is just that–a difference of opinion, not fact.
I suspect your mental response will be “Well yeah, but I’m arguing against literal nazis,” but your Twitter feed and blog posts (and those of other progressives) betray a broader disdain. “Elite” progressives don’t like the simple-minded folk of flyover country, where people work at distribution centers, listen to ICP, and never go to college. Progressives readily express those feelings when they are a few drinks in, and flyover country folk aren’t stupid. Despite her overwhelmingly calculated campaign, Clinton couldn’t check her own disdain for flyover country, and that’s why she lost. And if progressives don’t learn from that mistake, they will lose again.