The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Things in my Inbox

Some articles:

Today's other tasks include cleaning my house and writing code for about four hours.

They have to be monsters

Jeff Atwood blogged yesterday about the emotional abuse people heap on others over the Internet:

I admired the way Stephanie Wittels Wachs actually engaged with the person who left that awful comment. This is a man who has two children of his own, and should be no stranger to the kind of pain involved in a child's death. And yet he felt the need to post the word "Junkie" in reply to a mother's anguish over losing her child to drug addiction.

Isn’t this what empathy is? Putting myself in someone else’s shoes with the knowledge and awareness that I, too, am human and, therefore, susceptible to this tragedy or any number of tragedies along the way?

Most would simply delete the comment, block the user, and walk away. Totally defensible. But she didn't. She takes the time and effort to attempt to understand this person who is abusing her mother, to reach them, to connect, to demonstrate the very empathy this man appears incapable of.

As one Twitter user said, "falling in love, breaking into a bank, bringing down the govt…they all look the same right now: they look like typing."

Difficulty understanding the arguments

I've had some strange online conversations recently. Just today, one of my friends posted quote from comedian Michael Che:

You can’t have whatever you want, all right? I know the Forefathers said you had a right to own a gun, but they also said you could own people!

One of my friend's other Facebook friends commented: "Check your facts. 'Slave' and 'slavery' were never used in the Constitution." Well, that is literally true but irrelevant to Che's point. The 3/5 compromise and the return of fugitives are both in the original document, and then, not to put too fine a point on it, the 13th and 14th amendments both refer to slaves rather directly.

Of course, for all our fretting about stupid people on the Internet, it turns out that stupid people have always been with us. At least once a month I think about Mark Twain's essay "Corn Pone Opinions:"

"You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I'll tell you what his 'pinions is."

I can never forget it. It was deeply impressed upon me. By my mother. Not upon my memory, but elsewhere. She had slipped in upon me while I was absorbed and not watching. The black philosopher's idea was that a man is not independent, and cannot afford views which might interfere with his bread and butter. If he would prosper, he must train with the majority; in matters of large moment, like politics and religion, he must think and feel with the bulk of his neighbors, or suffer damage in his social standing and in his business prosperities. He must restrict himself to corn-pone opinions -- at least on the surface. He must get his opinions from other people; he must reason out none for himself; he must have no first-hand views.

Today we have the same truth in a different medium. One just hopes, despite the evidence (!), that people whose opinions have no data to support them would come around to the truth if only they could see better data. But if the people in question can't even engage on the argument you're making, it's hard to have hope.