The Internet Judgement Machine

Remember this Reddit news item, wherein a bunch of people pushed their morality on someone?

At one point Mori asked “do you think the Internet should perch like an angel of conscience on your shoulder?” My response is — sure, why not? The internet is just other people…

Noah Berlatsky

To which I noted,

in no way want to get comfortable with the suggestion that listening to what other people claim to think is “the right thing” on an Internet forum necessarily bears the slightest resemblance to the best course of action.


Well, now we have a real crime for Reddit to react to, and the “mainstream press” like The Atlantic are gleefully skewering it for its reaction:

The amateur investigators from the site — having served as a kind of unofficial proving ground for theories that made their way to the mainstream media, jumping on the clear photo, despite the Post story that had also spread on Reddit — were tying the FBI photos to a 22-year-old Brown student and this ABC News report about his having gone missing last month. There was pushback, even on Reddit — “Leave the missing guy alone” — but it was too late; the trolls on Reddit had fed an army of all-nighter trolls in the media.

Indeed the Internet is just other people – and this is what other people do. They are undisciplined, they jump on a quick solution to a complex social problem, and they find it easy to blame those who stick out – those not like them – because it feels right.  By and large, people do not serve the truth because it is hard to serve the truth.  They would much rather believe that the truth exists to serve them.

If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing. – Anatole France

For those who were not misled by the hoopla, I applaud you.

And for those of you affected by the bombing, particularly those who lost friends and loved ones, you have my deepest sympathies.

Published in: on April 20, 2013 at 7:56 PM  Comments (1)  
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Of Privilege and Meta-privilege

People talk a lot about privilege.  But is the ability to talk about privilege – that awareness, coupled with being in a societal position where one can get away with discussing privilege – itself a meta-level privilege?

Reddit exploded recently with comments about Shit Reddit Says (SRS), a subreddit that calls out redditors for making insensitive, normative statements.  Their usual M.O. is to flood the comment with extremely vituperative replies calling the poster hateful filth, or “cis scum.”  For those singled out after making careless remarks, the experience can be disorienting and bewildering.

Their defense for the whole, sawcasm discrimination don’t real thing is that without institutionalized discrimination you can’t have oppression. Which is fine, I understand that cracker is never ever going to have the same sting as the n word or whatever.


The issue, of course, becomes “what is institutionalized?”  For those whose daily source of talk about non-business matters is a board on the Internet, or say, reddit, having an organized group of people jump on them to ruin their day can feel awfully like society is against them, even if it’s a trick of the light possible only in such a microcosm.  And yes, certainly, that won’t change the fact that if we have to pick one person to have sympathy for in this whole mess, it won’t be the person sitting in a 4 bedroom house with a platinum card.

But who says we can only pick one person to feel sorry for?

Just because you aren’t as bad as something else doesn’t mean you’re good. Hating any entire group based on superficial characteristics is wrong, fundamentally. Hate the system that gives them the privilege, hate those that use the privilege against you or refuse to acknowledge it, but don’t hate everyone.

I’d go a step further, actually, and say don’t hate those who use privilege or can’t see it: use their blindness.  Hate isn’t productive, and while productivity may seem to be a concept forced upon us by industrialization, it is useful to everyone.  I don’t hate the physically deficient, those incapable of performing tasks the rest of us take for granted. Why would I? Those kids have it rough.  I don’t hate the mentally deficient, those incapable of grasping the lessons schooling seeks to impart on us.  Why would I? They are stuck in a world they can’t understand, and offend us without realizing what they do.

Similarly, I don’t hate the morally deficient, those incapable of understanding that what they do is immoral.  Again . . . why would I? You can only ask someone, in all reasonableness, to go along with things when they see the reason for those things.  Otherwise you are simply resorting to force.

not to mention, using another person’s life as a weapon to punish someone for behavior you disapprove of is a pretty big dick move.


Privilege discussions can veer into negativity and inescapability.  Rather than focus on what you don’t have that others do, sometimes – for the sake of your own sanity and ability to get things done – it is important on what you do have that others don’t. I’m not saying anything about the nature of class warfare or privilege denial.  I’m only asking – what do you get out of spending time on it?  I’ve seen some brilliant people fall to despair and inaction due to obsessing over the map rather than crossing the map. And if you believe that you are oppressed, and allow it to cripple you – doesn’t your awareness become their tool? Aren’t they then using it to further your oppression?

“Life is 10% of what happens to you, and 90% of how you react to it” said people in first world nations


Published in: on September 17, 2012 at 12:50 AM  Leave a Comment  
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