Okay, so here’s the thing. I don’t actually know everything, and oftentimes, I’m wrong.
This can put me at odds with leftist people on the internet, because they’re usually always right. Which is ironic, since they’re leftists as in the direction left, which is not the direction right, and that’s a joke that I just made. Haha.
Before I came to college, the only reason I used Facebook was so all the older people in my life could see my face sometimes and know that I’m not dead. Now that I’m here, Facebook has provided me a portal into a world of internet activism I never really knew existed.
Leftist groups, often sporting some taggable group name in a “sounds ______ but ok” format, make up an unofficial subset of Facebook called “Leftbook.” The groups are similar in purpose, meant for sharing memes, discussion, and experience among like-minded individuals, but for students at UR I’m sure this isn’t news.
Our campus leans pretty heavily to the left, which I often find mirrored in online exchanges I see among students here. The exchanges usually go well until someone disagrees.
Not a big sort of disagreement, though. Trust me, I think Nazis are unpardonable and that anyone being openly hateful on the internet, whether they intend to or not, also opens themselves up to receiving angry responses back. My problem lies with more subtle disagreement, which people on Leftbook prefer to leave out of the discussion.
I’ve been thinking about this more as of late, in the wake of the now infamous T. Florian Jaeger and all the allegations against him. As an aspiring psycholinguist and current brain and cognitive sciences major, I have been more vocal about this controversy than I have been about almost any other issue that has recently floated to the surface, and I think we all know the surface is currently plenty full.
But I ultimately find that Leftbook’s response ends in the same path of regression. The initial reaction usually starts out perfectly reasonable, often just a reporting of events followed by completely justified public outcry. And then the Regression happens, usually through a crescendo of emotions and knee-jerk opinions mixing together to form one giant wave that crashes into the original goal, setting a movement off course.
Nuance is lost in the wave, and if you dare question the movement in any way, you’re on the side of the oppressor. You’re a rape apologist. Or Nazi sympathizer. Or something. Regardless of your intentions and how benign they may be, the wave leaves only two categories: black and white.
In the case of the Jaeger accusations, I saw the wave crash in real time during Tuesday’s town hall. The town hall was three hours of palpable tension between those in attendance and University President Joel Seligman, with lots of sighing coming from both. I know because I was there. I was angry and I asked questions.
As angry as I was, though, I knew there were some things he couldn’t give me. A lot of those things were answers, and by the way the administration has been handling it thus far, I didn’t expect to regain peace of mind that night.
Maybe some people did. Maybe they didn’t, and anger just displaces quickly. Regardless, following the debate, anyone that defended Seligman in even the slightest amount became the automatic target of vitriol en masse. They were belittled for providing an opinion, sometimes even blocked and prevented from defending themselves at all. There was also the throwing around of “cis white male.” I know white guys are the worst, but if calling someone a “cis white male” is the best counterpoint you can think of, whatever you’re arguing probably isn’t as rock-solid as you think it is.
Speaking of rock-solid, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, right? That’s my transition sentence.
Now I’m serious again. I’m often disappointed in how easily internet leftists like to cut people out of the conversation, especially as a group that supposedly totes diversity and unapologetic self-expression. I don’t know when hearing someone out and having a discussion became “emotional labor,” or when failure to “self crit” (read: agree with everyone else’s half-baked, monolithic opinion) started leading to public shaming.
There’s a certain hypocrisy that pervades online leftist groups, and I think the only way to remove it is by first recognizing it for what it is. I also think that many people may not want to recognize it for what it is for fear of being the next ostracized dissenter. Maybe you’ll get banned from the group. God forbid.
Regardless of where you lie politically, no one likes being wrong, and people like being alone even less. There’s a part of me that does understand the need to think collectively and to feel like you belong to something, and to eliminate anyone that seems to threaten that.
There’s a bigger part of me that hopes we can all stop being so horrible to one another, online or off.