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Jewish World Review
Jan. 26, 2006
/ 26 Teves, 5766
Simple rules for making a fool of yourself on the Internet
The Washington Post had to suspend comments on the ombudsman's blog because flame-belching trolls overwhelmed the conversation. Apparently she made the mistake of writing something contrary to received wisdom, and was strung up and burned in virtual effigy.
Disclaimer: The ombudsman, Deborah Howell, is a former employer of yours truly; we go way back. Ms. Howell, it should be noted, could dress down the drill instructor from "Full Metal Jacket," so the fact that the blog commentors are still breathing is a testament to the anonymity and distance the Web allows.
But why the surprise when dissent took such a nasty turn? Potty-mouthed jerks have been part of Internet discourse since they hooked two UNIVACs together and the second accused the first of being a !$&(\;? John Bircher. Great swaths of the blogosphere are rich and smart and civil, yes. Other areas are infested with people whose hatred for George W. Bush is so intense they keep a squeegee by the TV to wipe the spittle off the screen.
Ever since Bush imposed martial law and shot the cast of "The View" -- sorry, since Bush won the last election, hard-left nuttery seems more mainstream. Bob Dole did not post on bulletin boards that claimed Bill Clinton would soon use FEMA to herd everyone into U.N.-run camps where everyone would get Mark of the Beast bar codes on their necks. John Kerry, on the other hand, has posted at the Daily Kos, whose neck-vein-popping contributors seem to think Bush spends his nights getting hammered and ordering Halliburton to poison Iraqi water so he can get kickbacks from the Pepto-Bismol Crime Syndicate.
The good news is that you, too, can be like Kerry, and rant as you please in unmoderated comment sections. But you have to ask yourself, punk: Do you have the chops to truly make a fool of yourself to disinterested observers? Well, do you?
Here are some rules for being an idiot on the Internet. Clip 'n' save:
Make Up Funny Names. If a right-wing figure's name starts with K, like Kate, by all means call her KKKate. Everyone on the right probably shares the values of the Klan, anyway. Especially if they're against affirmative action and don't believe in judging people on the color of their skin. (This goes for the other side, too: Hillary Clinton is so much funnier as "Hitlery." Wanting single-payer health insurance, wishing to enslave Europe under Aryan yoke -- what's the diff?) Remember: Boil down the object of your hate to a single phrase that betrays your incomprehension of the fundamental issues, but lets others know where you stand right away.
Swear angrily. Not just the classics, but the ones relating to excretion and genitalia. Nothing shows you're a serious thinker like a torrent of obscenities. It's the reason Courtney Love is invited to speak to the U.N. so often. Added bonus: Lots of cursing means no one will suspect you're a Christian. If you are a Christian, you'll be one of the cool ones who listens to Howard Stern spank lesbian midget strippers. Which automatically means you're pro-choice, so whatever with the G-d thing.
Hyperbolize everything. Granted, everyone punches a little too hard sometimes; everyone throws too deep. Feisty debate is energizing. Nothing is more boring than the torpid droning you get in the Senate, where solons are duty-bound to call each other "my good friend" even if they were stabbing each other with Bic pens in the cloakroom five minutes before. But the pestilential keyboard pounders had best realize they're just screaming to the choir. Persuading the middle means acknowledging that the opposition is not composed of subhuman Moorlocks who hope global warming drowns coastal-dwelling gay stem-cell researchers. People on the right may be wrong, but it's quite possible they don't actually want a fascistic corporate state where the elite tour the country in giant hovercraft, vaporizing Wal-Mart labor organizers with microwave rays. You could treat them like fellow human beings. But where's the fun in that?
Now go out there and give Google something vile to cache for your kids to see someday!
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JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.
© 2006, James Lileks