Here’s a thing, a link to a piece which, as I type, I’ve not read yet.
Never conversed with or even met Andy Martin face-to-face, but I know Andy’s writing (in the biblical sense) and thanks to a few Twitter and other on-line exchanges I believe I know him and his thinking pretty well.
So I’ll risk it.
Spent a bit of time the last couple of weeks tidying up many previous references to practical rules of rhetoric (and humour) – the point being that, unless you already know (and love) someone pretty well, we really must care enough to follow some rules of engagement. (And furthermore, there is no point attempting to fully objectify those rules; to make them “idiot-proof”. Like all rules, they are there for the guidance of the wise, and evolution by the creative, so long as that creativity is not simply abused to win or derail an “argument” – see love and proper dialogue. The last thing we need is the set of lowest common denominators that support idiocy.)
From the snippets already noted about Andy’s piece, eg …
“After one or two hundred thousand years of talking to one another, we now resort to the keyboard & the screen. It’s the apocalypse of the oral. Maybe it’s easier that way. No eye contact. No contact at all. The verbal equivalent of safe sex”- fascinating piece @andymartinink 🙌 https://t.co/I45a3y79tv
— crimethrillergirl (@crimethrillgirl) March 31, 2018
… we can see that as well as the rhetoric of talking to each other, at least part of his topic is the remoteness of keyboard warriors that don’t have that investment in personal (oral and visual) contact.
The reason I’m writing this without having read the subject piece is because I already had several on-line exchanges this week on this topic. The idea that too much free expression is degenerate, when it comes to knowledge and life in general, is fundamental to my long-standing agenda, a warning compounded obviously by the whole rise of social media and “fake news” in that same time. Exactly a week ago I wrote using This Week’s treatment of the Cambridge Analytica & Facebook fall-out, that we seemed to have reached a watershed – a tipping-point in recognition of the problem.
I could write the same again using this week’s This Week piece by Andrew Neil on drawing the attention of the whole Labour “anti-semitism” holocaust deniers to the brutal anti-semitic murder of holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris, also this week. Last week’s social media outrage was CA/FB. This week’s was anti-semitism. Outrage inflamed and misdirected by freely-expressed, ill-informed and largely anonymous opinion instead of the kind of care for the subject displayed by Andrew:
“That, dear viewer, is anti-Semitism. At its deadliest and most depraved. Which is how it always ends up. Which is why it can’t be tolerated. Those still in doubt need to educate themselves. Fast.” @afneil opening #bbctw pic.twitter.com/MFi7pYorkB
— BBC This Week (@bbcthisweek) March 29, 2018
When I wrote the piece above on CA/FB maybe being a tipping point, I suggested:
All that technology has done is up the scale and speed of possibilities.
Well in a single sentence, that “all” is, as it always is, fundamentally wrong. What it has done is scale-up and speed-up the possibilities of faceless, anonymous interaction. Interactions without active investment of interpersonal relationship (ie love) can never represent proper dialogue in a free-for-all environment.
I had a rather telling exchange with Jim Waterson prompted by the Labour anti-semitism row:
Just another day in the faceless online politics cesspit. pic.twitter.com/pX7iSb6YjI
— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) March 28, 2018
The key word being “faceless” – remote from humanity: https://t.co/E0i4XWbiTq
— Ian Glendinning (@psybertron) March 28, 2018
Actually I meant to type factless and made a typo. But I’ll take the more literary option.
— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) March 28, 2018
That entire exchange sums up the point. In a world where the “news” comprises so many possible facts and opinions in disjointed (if any) contexts, it’s not that the news is fake – factless – but that its communication is impersonal – faceless.
In many ways, this XKCD cartoon about unhealthy conversational dynamics already says it all :
A final example from this morning, I use Giles Fraser as an archetype of the problem, particularly for the irony that he espouses a church built on love. He never – in my empirical experience – offers the love and respect in any dialogue (whether on social-media or on BBCR4’s Moral Maze) to abide by any rules of rhetoric. Simply destructive and dishonest behaviour:
You have my sympathy Jeremy, Never seen an exchange with Giles that didn’t get broken up by straw-men and whataboutery. Dishonest dialogue.
— Ian Glendinning (@psybertron) March 31, 2018
Followed by the strawman of all strawmen:
Good to know you think banning Judaism reasonable. Forgive me if I continue to be suspicious of your appeals to reason.
— Giles Fraser (@giles_fraser) March 31, 2018
“Good to know you think … <strawman>” – <roll-eyes>
And, as I type this final paragraph, I’ve still not read Andy Martin’s piece, but I will and so should you. He’s a much better writer than I am, and the fact is that we judge people on their voice.
[Post Note: I’ll be back when I have.]
Also published on Medium.