Wild, Wild Webs

This last weekend I saw no less than two posts, both by people I consider sensible and occasionally brilliant, deploring the freedom of association and freedom of expression on the web.

Oh, that’s not what either of them thought he was deploring.  One of them bewilderingly taking off from what sounds like a zombie outbreak in Florida (but was, apparently one of the run of the mill effects of taking certain drugs) lamented the possibility of people with really bizarre fetishes and perversions finding each other.

The other one, (which I now can’t find because I spent the weekend in a virus-induced haze reading everywhere, yes, even that site on how to make tinfoil hats) Update, [thank you Gregq for finding link.  Boy, did I range far] here  sounding like the lords of the dying press (all kinds of presses, fiction included) lamented that anyone can say anything on the net, and people will be attracted by “the most bizarre conspiracy theories.”

This is the part of the blog in which I must regretfully inform two columnists I respect that they’ve gone insane.  The type of insanity is what I often refer to as “But it SHOULD be perfect.”

Let’s stipulate that the web will allow a lot of crazy people to get together.  I know from crazy.  I am a science fiction writer, with friends who are science fiction writers and the internet is a huge boon to us, allowing us to compare notes, to call someone with specific expertise, to commiserate and talk about our peculiar problems.  Normally, to get the type of network I command at my fingerprints, I would have to live in New York City.  And so would they.  Oh, our forebears in the field made do with snailmail, but it was a slow and plodding business.

But Sarah – you say, once more taking your life in your own hands by talking back to me before I have enough coffee – that’s not what the columnist was talking about at all.  When he talked about people with a rare perversion or fetish banding together he was talking about those real crazies who wish to eat human flesh or blend puppies into energy shakes.

I know what he was talking about.  What I’m telling you is to back up – slowly, don’t go making sudden movements around me before I have caffeine – and look at the whole picture.  Will the internet make it easier for that kind of absolutely repulsive crazy to get together?  Of course it will.  Easier, not “possible” because guess what?  One of my hobbies is reading about very weird crimes (mostly because I look normal by comparison.  I think.  Or something) and people with the most bizarre fetishes and obsessions have been able to get together and indulge them since there has been mail, transportation, or large cities.  Is it a reason to get rid of or control those things?  No?  Then why the net?

Well, because… easier.  Yes, and?  Look, what do you think the proportion of people wanting to eat someone else’s face raw is in the population?  By which I don’t mean the people who will say “I’m so mad I could eat him raw” but the people who actually want to do it?  One in two million?  Five million?  I doubt it’s more than that.  So even if the internet facilitates their getting together our incident rate might grow to… four?  Five a year?

But Sarah, you say – man are you chatty early – “Four or five a year is too many.”  Maybe.  What makes you think people who are that far gone from human norm aren’t doing it anyway, with unwilling strangers?  How do you know it’s not “increased incidents” but “increased knowledge.”  And while we’re at it, how do you know that getting together on the net and talking for hours about face-eating won’t prevent these people from doing it?  The studies on this type of thing are murky.  On one side, some people get pushed into it.  On the other, some people will be perfectly content to discuss the proper circumstances to eat face and let out their obsession that way.

Which will it be?  How can you know?  And you do realize how tiny a proportion of the population we’re talking about either case, right?

Yes, but why should we allow it at all?

Because there is the flip side.  And the flip side is very important.  The flip side actually affects the lives of the majority of the people, the sanity of our policies, the health of the republic and the ability to be free.

And this is where I read, in some astonishment, the second columnist opining that the internet allowed people to go too far from “normal” – by which he meant going too far from group consensus – and fall down the rabbit hole of weird ideas.  He thinks that the only upside of the internet is letting small groups, whose obsession is physics or some abstruse portion of chemistry to discuss it, but what about those groups that will use it to come up with some odd theory about public events, conspiracies, or history?  Those people are tearing consensus apart and making us maaaaaaaaaad.  Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaad!!!!!!!

Okay, that’s not what he said, exactly, but it’s what he implied.  This was all the more baffling since this columnist is on the right, but is clearly longing for the days of uniform media where they each repeated each other’s story until people were afraid to think – let alone say – something that shattered the consensus.  In my lifetime at least (maybe the columnist is older?) the consensus of the mass media – a consensus enforced in ways ranging from professional ostracism to professional disdain – has been at the very least “soft left.”

What do I mean they repeated each other’s story till people were afraid to think or say differently?  Well, the columnist says as much in the column.  If you came up with a different opinion people would tell you “you’re nuts” because it wasn’t something that was in the media – back when the media had gatekeepers.  I’ll go further than he did and tell you that when the media had gatekeepers, entertainment had gatekeepers that read from the same missal.  For that matter so did education, partly led by the fact that schoolbooks were slow and expensive to produce.  They ALL echoed each other.  If you put something into a novel world-building that went against the consensus of “what everybody knows” you couldn’t publish it.  So novels, movies and all our entertainment also reinforced this concept.

Which means, of course, that we were kept sane and told the truth, because journalists and editors are always responsible, admirable people in the service of the greater good, right?

Sorry.  I got a bit of irony stuck in my throat.

To begin your education, google Walter Duranty.  Second go and find some popular entertainment from the early eighties.  Not news, but fictional world building which was downstream from that.  Mystery after mystery and, yes, science fiction after science fiction novel, explains how with Reagan in power we’d be a glowing crater.  It would be the end of the world and the superior Soviet system would win.  How was that fact checking and future analysis, then?  While you’re at it, and in a nostalgic mood, go watch ANY television series from the nineties.  Gee, those militias surely committed crimes.  And they were all racist, white supremacist militias, too.  You’d think there were several arrests of those per day in every small town and city, right?  Would it surprise you to know that the white supremacist militias of the sixties nineties (though they were about the same level as in the sixties, or less.) never rose above the normal background noise they constitute in normal, civilized society?  It wouldn’t surprise me.  But then I actually knew people in the militia movement, and most of them leaned Libertarian and the one issue causing them worry was ONLY the fear their weapons would get banned.  That was pretty much it.  They liked the second amendment.  But you should have tried saying that in the nineties.  You’d have got “Are you crazy buddy?  There was that thing in Waco.  Oh, and the bombings in Oklahoma, and I see tv crime shows, and I KNOW– Say, if you’re saying that, you must be one of them.”

Want more?  Get your favorite newspaper, or the newspaper of your town, go back and count the number of headlines in the last three years that announce the economy is recovering; no, it really is recovering; the economy is totally recovering; this time we mean it, the economy is recovering.  It’s amazing with all this recovery that I’m sitting here writing this instead of out there, trying out my new Cadillac.  More?  Look up Fast and Furious, and tell me why it’s not in every newspaper throughout the land, twice a day and why the TV stations aren’t talking about it.

Conspiracy?  Buddy, you don’t need a conspiracy when you’re in an industry with a few thousand people nationwide, where publishing something that goes against the current means when you get laid off there might not be another job for you.  I know this.  I am in one of those industries.  I know how far I’m sticking out my neck.  I know very well why I’m now working for only one publishing house, itself considered a pariah by the others.  I always knew it.  I was on the blogs for ten years under a cover so deep you couldn’t penetrate it, all the while maintaining a conventional persona for my editors and agents.

Yes, having news funnel through a small number of gatekeepers kept it uniform and built consensus.  THAT was exactly what was wrong with it.

Did it keep devotees of UFOs and Space Invasions from falling down the particular rabbit hole of their own illusions?  Sure it did.  Kind of.  Here’s the thing, people obsessed with something that odd have been in touch with each other for years.  I know, because sometimes I have to research this stuff.  (It’s a professional hazard.)  As long as I’ve been writing, you could get that stuff – it might be in purplish mimeographed sheets, but you could find it and order it.

On the other hand, it kept people looking at headlines from saying “But I don’t think the economy is getting better.”  It kept people looking at raw unemployment numbers from telling the less math-advantaged “Hey, there’s something seriously wrong with the way these numbers are tallied.  I think real unemployment is closer to fifteen percent.”  Because even if people came to believe they were right, what was the point?  If they opened their mouths and said anything – oh, like, say, “the superdome during Katrina was NOT a haven of murder and rape” – people would think they were insane.  If these things weren’t true, why would ALL newspapers say exactly the same?

THAT is what the precious “consensus” was keeping.  Yeah, it might build a community (of the deluded) but it also made you lack the real data you needed to live in the real world.

At least it kept crazy ideas from circulating, though, right?  Ideas that had no plausible basis in reality and in fact went against observed fact…  Which is why the phrase Grassy Knoll has NO meaning in American pop culture.

Yes, the net is or can be wild.  Yes, it might allow consensual cannibals to gather and do their thing.  It also allows people like me and my colleagues to talk to each other and help each other to better plots or more plausible science in our books.  It also allows people like me and my friends to have a social life and not feel like we’re out there on the fringes of thought and behavior alone, because we think reading about dinosaur digs is comfort-reading and we spend our spare time comparing two obscure medieval authors most people never heard of.  There might be a danger in that.  As I’ve said in the past, by allowing outliers to meet and marry other outliers, it might eventually lead to speciation (maybe) but in the mean time it leads to less human loneliness and misery.

Yes, the net can encourage conspiracy theories and little pockets of insanity to form.  But most people have their own internal bullshit meter.  I knew exactly the moment when the geology site I was reading for information on the climate of Pangea went off the deep end – it was when it talked about the spaceship full of intelligent dinosaurs who would come back and…  How do I know that’s bullshit?  Well, because it would require WAY too much silence from too many people who have nothing vested in keeping silent, including RETIRED NASA scientists.  Also, it had nothing to do with the climate of pangea, which is what the rest of the page was about.  And how many “films” of dragons or mermaids show up every week on you tube?  Most people recognize the “grey cotton wool” look of faked or odd footage.  Heck, so many people can tell photoshoped pictures that those get outed too, including a few put out by places like Iran.     And if you think “oh, come on, Iran.  No one would take them seriously anyway.”  I’ll remind you our own CIA data – let alone what was published – exaggerated the financial (and demographic) health of the USSR right to the end.  Because, you see, they were going off official figures.  Anything else would be crazy.

But it also allows respectable, well thought out minority opinion to be heard, and to get in touch with people who will verify it.

Yes, the media and entertainment and even to an extent the scientific establishment before the net was cohesive and formed a beautiful picture.  No one ever asked the disturbing questions such as “Since every packet of international aid is predicated on the population of the country, and since even in our own country we count people we think should exist…  What makes us think that small, third world countries aren’t manufacturing statistics wholesale?  What makes us so sure population is still climbing?  Wouldn’t the world-wide economic crisis be consistent with a falling and aging population?”  (Coff, not that I mean anything by those questions, of course.)  And no one with better knowledge and more time ever set out to investigate and prove or disprove those crazy questions.  So we never knew.  Or rather, we knew a lot of things that just weren’t so.

But… what does it matter?  Go read Puppet Masters.  Devote sometime to the period labeled Masquerade.  What you think you know can kill you faster than what you don’t know.

The Wild Wild Webs is wild – it is also uncontrolled, and therefore allows each individual to think for him or herself.

Knowledge is not just power.  Real data is important to navigating times of catastrophic change, where knowing only false things might destroy you.  For instance, if you know Amazon is evil, you might never read your traditional publishing contract closely enough.  On the other hand, if you’ve read on a crazy site or two – say this one – what publishers have been slipping into contracts, you’ll read very closely indeed.

The lives we save might be our own.

Welcome Instapundit readers.  Again, I want to reiterate that I’m a huge fan of Wretchard and I’m not picking on him but on the idea of his post — which bothered me for coming from him.  And I can’t for the life of me remember who posted the other post, but it’s also someone I read and like.  Which of course, is what got under my collar.  You know in-tribe arguments are always the worst.

Crossposted at Mad Genius Club

256 responses to “Wild, Wild Webs

  1. ppaulshoward

    Off topic (slightly), C. S. Lewis in his _The Four Loves_ talked about Friendship. One of things he commented on was that the “Powers That Be” distrusted friendship groups because such groups often shared ideas that the “Powers That Be” disliked. The internet makes it easier for people to share ideas & develop friendship groups. Sometimes the shared ideas should be disliked but other times….

  2. Sarah hits the bullseye _again_.

    Yes, the ability of lots and lots of people to all talk to each other, to post stuff that can be found through a search for the subject, and, so far, very few gatekeepers.

    A few site managers who will take “objectionable” material down–from both sides. Lets not forget that one relevation of the Climate Gate emails was getting someone on Wiki so they could remove anti -greenhouse-warming material. But we’ve also got demands for censorship, prayers in school or teaching intelligent design as if it were science.

    And every side there is has a right to speak–or blog–their own opinions, and without gatekeepers, they can. And should. Even the stoooopid ones.

    Or maybe especially the stoooopid ones. Because they show that anyone can speak up, and say anything.

  3. Will go off in search of caffienne and grammar, now.

  4. I think “consensual cannibals” should become the hip new new catchphrase for groups of people with extremely esoteric common interests.

  5. Love it. Great article, Sarah. The bit about group consensus brought to mind this Foucault quote:

    “…if you are not like everybody else, then you are abnormal, if you are abnormal, then you are sick. These three categories, not being like everybody else, not being normal and being sick are in fact very different but have been reduced to the same thing”

  6. There are plenty of stories about, or mention in passing, where an alien mentions that a lot of intelligent species either destroy themselves with atomic weapons or survive that period to reach the stars. I’ve long thought about writing a story in which we assume that’s what the alien is going to say, but what they actually end up pointing out as the Rubicon for intelligent races is world-wide networks of information. Either a race survives this period and matures, reaching for the stars, or all of the negatives of a world-wide-web combine to stagnate the species; so much information available and so much of it contradictory that the species eventually stagnates, then declines and de-evolves.

  7. I think the consensus mentality in media has actually gotten worse in the past 20 years or so. Pick a national story on the website for some large media outlet, like a big newspaper or TV news station, then try to find corroborating evidence for that story that DOESN’T come from the same exact source as the story you started with. The vast majority of the time, all the stories are predicated on one source story, usually from the Associated Press.

    Then, if you question the story, someone will point out, “What are you talking about? There must be 20-30 stories about it out there!” And if you try to point out that it’s really just one story, they scoff at you like you are an idiot.

    Or they defriend you if it’s on Facebook – that happened with one of my friends when I questioned a story about Sea Turtles during the Gulf Oil spill. This boat captain, who had been doing rescue work for sea life (turtles and such), claimed that he had been prohibited from entering an area where there were still many turtles to be saved, and that they had burned the oil there, killing lots of the turtles. He also said that the turtles he had seen the most were the ones that were most endangered. When I first questioned it, I was asked, “Are you serious?”, so I did some research. EVERY mention I followed was based on the same AP story, though I was also able to find out that the Captain had a dispute with BP, saying they owed him money for the work he had been doing. So, I went back to my friend and pointed out, 1) All the stories point back to the same original, no corroboration, 2) The Captain had a grudge against BP, and 3) The likelihood that “the most turtles he was seeing were also the most endangered species” was pretty low, because if they were the most endangered, wouldn’t they also be fewer in number, therefore unlikely to be the most often seen? I admit it is possible, but highly unlikely. Next time I looked, the story was gone, and she was no longer on my friends list.

    • yep. BUT there are alternate networks. Part of the reason it’s gotten worse is defense-reaction. Hopefully this too shall pass.

      • It isn’t just the existence of alternate networks. It’s also the ability of people to take the AP story and analyze it critically, and get people to see the analysis.

        • Unfortunately, rational analysis of a situation or problem is not being taught these days. It’s all regurgitation, which does nothing but produce sheeple.

  8. Incidentally, I’m very happy that the Internet brought me here a couple of months ago. Of all the blogs I have checked out, this one is one that has most given me the “Ahhh… I’m truly not alone” feeling. Even if I get hit with a dead fish now and then, for, say, trying to substitute Sarah’s coffee with decaf. :-)

  9. (This is according to the news this morning.) There is no reason to believe that the late Mr Eugene found Mr Poppo by way of the Internet. I believe he found him on a Downtown off-ramp of Miami’s MacArthur Causeway.

    • He found him by the smell of his braaaaaaainnssss…

    • Yes, linking that particular article to that trend seemed… odd. Also, according to Robert the anthropofagemania is the result of drug taking. He said some rapper afflicted with this was shot while devouring (I swear I’m not making this up) his girlfriend’s intestines.

      • Um, better living through modern chemistry? Ain’t having a kid who can tell you such things, aside from odd, grand?

      • Eeewwwwww. Eating his dead girlfriends intestines???!! That’s the worst part. Hams, loins, shoulder, breast (no, not the boobs: all fat, no meat), abs, kidneys, even the heart & liver but the intestines are just nasty.

        • I understand when he started she wasn’t dead.

          • This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase: I love you so much I could eat you up. I will never hear that the same way again.

          • There are jokes to which not even I will sink (not many, but there are some) and this room isn’t blue enough for the ones that this circumstance prompts.

            So I am going to quietly walk away with but one word of advice: Ladies (and gents, for that matter): be very very very careful what you say to your lover.

    • >>There is no reason to believe that the late Mr Eugene found Mr Poppo by way of the Internet.

      Perhaps he found his victim through…Facebook.

    • So the victim died? I had not heard. New version of LSD, folks. Looks to be worse than the original.

      • Not the victim (that is, the one who was attacked), but the perpetrator. The police shot him several times (at least 4 – he ignored the first couple of shots) and killed him.

  10. I agree with almost everything you say. However, I have to disagree with this:

    “Second go and find some popular entertainment from the early eighties. Not news, but fictional world building which was downstream from that. Mystery after mystery and, yes, science fiction after science fiction novel, explains how with Reagan in power we’d be a glowing crater. It would be the end of the world and the superior Soviet system would win.”

    Maybe this just reflects my own science fiction tastes–at the time, I only read Heinlein, Niven, and Pournelle (I later branched out into Poul Anderson, and eventually into the field as a whole)–but I never noticed any anti-Reagan bias in sf in the 1980′s. If anything, I’d have come to the opposite conclusion–that the Campbell-type optimistic “right-wing” (yes, I know that’s a misleading term, thus the sneer quotes) science fiction was making a comeback. Don’t forget that the initial meeting that resulted in Reagan’s coming out in favor of missile defense was held at Larry Niven’s house, and had several sf writers as well as some generals and scientists.

    This was a notable contrast to the New Wave of the 1960′s and early 1970′s, which was not only leftist but usually wildly unscientific. (IIRC, one of the favorite New Wave themes was the way that LSD would make things way cooler by bringing a new groovy reality that would replace that square “science” stuff).

    It wasn’t till late in the 1990′s that I saw the left wing taking over sf again, this time with the “radical hard sf” movement.

    • Ken,
      It’s what you were reading. It was the exception, not the norm. Look at the magazines, if you don’t believe me.

      • Well, some sf writers on the left just misunderstood 1) the Religious Right, 2) Conservatism, and 3) the relationship of Reagan and Bush to the Religious Right, and thus went all Handmaid’s Tale and Laadan books. But they at least allowed as how we probably wouldn’t all die in a fiery rain of nuclear winter fire.

        And then there was the early 90′s, when everything had something to do with Nicaragua and El Salvador and such. IASFM was one big sea of literary banana republics. (Well, not really. But certain prolific authors frequently bought by IASFM, yes. It wasn’t all bad, but there were tons of months where I only enjoyed the columns.) I know this because I had a gift subscription.

        • Yes, to be honest mystery was far, far worse. My suspicion is that mystery, poor bastards, never had a Jim Baen.

          • I have much to thank Jim Baen for in so many different areas. And so much of it leads back to him being a self assured opnionated person that would not just go along with the consensis.

            *Keeping a good story as the most important thing in why to publish a book.
            *publishing non consensis political views and themes in sf and fantasy.
            *keeping millitary sf alive
            *keeping space opera alive
            *pioneeering sane ebook policies
            *being willing to talk to his reading public and listen to what they said.
            *being willing to try experements like the grantville gazzette series.
            *being willing to help train new tallent by getting established authors to colaberate with them. Not just dump them after 2 books that didn’t hit the NYT Bestseller lists.
            *the list goes on

      • You’re probably right. Nevertheless, that period being the height of my awkward and nerdy adolescence, I tended to equate nerd culture with right-wing politics, and I still do. This is most notable on fiscal issues (socialism retards technological progress), but it also extends to foreign affairs (bringing down backward regimes like the USSR and Ba’athist Iraq), and, yes, even to social issues.

        No, I never bought into the AFA-type propaganda about how the “homosexual agenda” was one filibuster away from recruiting your kids. However, being a nerd did mean that I had an *extreme* resentment of the Hollywood/Hustler nightclub culture, which basically said “we won’t accept you unless you conform to the cool kids.” Why any nerd would want to be on the same page as the Hollywood glitterati–and then, having sold themselves into conformity, *still* not get laid simply because, well, they were nerds–is beyond me.

      • Yes, I remember those days, and the bizarre claims about Reagan. I remember Gary Trudeau running a week of scathing attacks (all complete garbage) on Reagan called “In Search of Reagan’s Brain” the week of the election. The one on the day of the election was so outrageous, a lot of newspapers refused to run it – and, of course, the left cried censorship.

        General rule: do not get your understading of reality, and certainly not your political information, from cartoonists or comedians.

        • Trudeau has always specialized in blatant lies. Once he reported a “study” that purported to show that George W. Bush had the lowest IQ of any president. The study turned out to be a hoax, and Trudeau never acknowledged that fact.

          • That’s why the kid with the hidden video camera, James O’Keefe is so powerful. He totally owns guys like this and gets them on camera.

            • That, along with the drip-drip-drip tactic that Breitbart seemed to love is devastating. I just don’t want to see overuse ruin it’s effectiveness.

              • Breitbart’s tactics were not drip-drip-drip but rather a trail of breadcrumbs leading the media crumbs into his trap. Knowing what their response to any story would be allowed him to control the OODA Loop and draw them so far off-balance that their crania were well up their rectums before they knew they were caught in the spin. He was the 40 second Boyd of infowarfare.

            • Yes! The Acorn sting was wonderful, but the NPR one was even better (does anyone doubt that pretty much everyone at NPR thinks exactly like that nasty little bigot? A friend of mine, a NASA rocket engineer, refers to it as “All Things Distorted.”)

        • I’m reminded of this from Bill Whittle, from a few years ago:

          “It was an early evening in November, 1980, during my sophomore year at the University of Florida. As we were getting into costume and make-up, we were making the usual plans to head out for beers after the show, and maybe watch some of the early Presidential election returns.

          Just before we went on, a woman burst into the dressing room, sobbing hysterically. I wish I were making this up.

          ‘Reagan’s won! He won! My God, we’re all going to die! ‘

          ‘Wait, hold on, that can’t be right. The polls just closed a few minutes ago. And that’s just the east coast–.’

          ‘He won, I tell you! Carter conceded! Oh my God, there’s going to be a nuclear war!

          • You did have that kind of reaction–a lot of it–from the Left. But let’s not forget the flip side of the coin: Reagan still won two landslide victories, cut taxes by over half, set the path for a quarter century of economic growth, and peacefully ended the USSR. It’s important to remember that HE WON. The leftists didn’t make a comeback until the Establishment GOP (read: the first Bush administration) decided to return to the “mainstream” by raising taxes. Amazingly, this didn’t endear them to the American people.

            • Ken, I believe that President GHW Bush was forced into the choice by a Democrat controlled legislature. They said raise taxes or we’ll defund the military in during the build up for Desert Storm. The Dems had a double victory, they got the taxes they wanted and they knew they would be able to take the Republicans out of the White House.

              • That was always my take, too. Domestic policy is run by Congress – if a president is of the same party as Congress, he can have a lot of influence on what gets passed, especially if he’s popular – and in that case, he can be blamed or lauded. But if he isn’t of the same party, the only way to get anything he cares done is to compromise heavily. I think a lot of opposing party presidents just give up on domestic policy altogether.

                Bill Clinton was dragged kicking and screaming to cooperate with the Republicans on the balanced budget and workfare, and now he takes credit for it. GW had to deal with a Democratic Congress – especially Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank, and is unfairly blamed for the mortgage meltdown they are responsible for, despite warning about the danger in just about every State of the Union address since he took office.

                • Ayup. As the sage said: You could look it up.

                  The incredible rise in the Dow that generated billions in Capital Gains taxes and helped balance the budget? Began pretty much the day after the 1994 Congressional results became known.

                  The Bush ’43 deficits only began to really get out of hand after the 2006 election put Reid & Pelosi in control of spending.

              • They did threaten to defund the military, but he didn’t have to buckle under. Bush II was threatened with the same thing–when he was in a much worse political position–and didn’t give in.

                Only somewhat on topic: wouldn’t you expect GOP war vets to be better candidates? Yet they inherently hem and haw their way to defeat and oblivion. The Republicans who have less stellar military records are the ones who stand up to the Left.

                I know, it makes no sense to me either. But there it is.

                Maybe it’s a generational thing. Pre-Baby Boomers tend to think of the military as being non-political, so that may cause them to value political consensus. More recent vets, like Allen West, know that it’s the Democrats who want them to die in combat.

                • Each President Bush choose their battles. GHW Bush still holds the record for sustained vetoes in a single term, I believe. GW Bush cut deals elsewhere to get the military funded.

                  Pre-baby boomers have memories of much worse times. People whose earliest memories are of the Great Depression and then saw WWII don’t look at our national government the same way we do. They grew up with posters that exhorted them to pull together for the nation, and it seemed quite reasonable to them.

                  As to Republican candidates that were once military: Eisenhower. Jimmy Carter was the first nominee who had not served in WWII, he was at Annapolis at the time, graduating in ’46. Bill Clinton was the first since WWII to be elected who had not served in the military.

                • I’m not sure if I am reading this right, but you seem to be saying that Allen West has a less than stellar military record. While some democrats would doubtless agree with you, the fact that he stood up for his men, and did what he considered necessary for their well-being; regardless of the personal consequences to himself, resonates very well with most troops. The vast majority of vets (and many non-military) consider his record extremely stellar, regardless or even because of that.

                  • NO NO NO NO NO.

                    I’m saying that older vets suck at politics because they’re too accommodating, and that he might be representative of a new generation that are not too accommodating.

                    Anyone who picks a fight with West over his military service (as opposed to his politics, which are fair game) picks a very literal fight with me.

                    • I think the older vets are inclined to view political fights as principled disagreements and are incapable of recognizing they’re Charlie Brown being teed up by Lucy. Again.

                      Part of this is a respect for customs and honors of the body politic — they exhibit a certain refusal to engage in politics destructive of the principles of our Constitution and thus often fight with one hand tied behind their backs. They see the other party as their opponents, not their enemies and are not willing to play Samson in the Temple.

                      Another metaphor might be that in what they see as a family fight they may break a bottle over their brother’s head, they won’t jam the broken bottle into his face or his gut. Consider Thor’s handling the problem of Loki in Avengers as representative of the limits to what one will do to one’s brother.

                    • Sorry, for the misunderstanding.

                      I’ll agree that some of the older vets, especially some of the ones currently in politics, are to accomodating. Some of those formerly in politics were not so accomodating however, like Eisenhower, or Reagan. (I know he didn’t serve in combat, but he wanted to, he was medically DQed and served how he could, unlike some of the draft-dodgers on the other side of the aisle)

                      RES, I believe you are correct, unfortunately if your brother is pyschotic no matter how gently you treat him, he will just see it as weakness and have no compuctions whatsoever with picking up the broken bottle and using it on as soon as your back is turned.

                • A warning, not all vets are equal. Especially officers in the last two decades or so have a high chance of being just freaking politicians who went military. (Yes, it’s possible. Sadly. Especially common in women, I’m sorry to say. Heaven knows I got burnt by enough of them for just following regulations that kept people alive.)

              • And Bush the Younger gave us the Federal Employee TSA, and DHS, because of a similar threat on responding to 9/11. Some things never seem to change,,,,

          • C’mon dude, we are all doomed to die from acid rain and overpopulation in 1983 anyway. Just ask Paul Ehrlich.

            • I’m hoping global warming will counteract the Nuclear Winter.

              • i just read that Greenland glaciation was increased by sulfur dioxide emissions that were outlawed by the Clean Air Act of 1963. Before and after that glaciers were melting. We seem to live in a more dynamic world than what we hear about on the news.

            • I still remember my then-favorite aunt– I didn’t realize she was an immature flutter-er because I was eight at the time– scaring me to death because she saw me getting excited about a rain storm and sticking my tongue out to catch rain drops, and she hauled me back inside and told me about acid rain.

              I knew what acid was, my mom etched metal and glass– it took a LONG time before I went outside again when it was raining, since she got really pissed when I asked why it wasn’t hurting the cars.

              Really, really hate science based lies.

          • I remember as a kid hearing from a friend’s mom that she was voting for Mondale. When I asked why, she replied, “Well, because Reagan is going to start a nuclear war.” I asked her who said that, and even then I thought it was a bit odd when she answered, “Mondale said so.”

        • As Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

    • And it’s the new version of LSD that is beginning this “zombie apocalypse” rash of nomming live human flesh. How…apropos. In a cringing, horrifying sort of way.

  11. The consensus mentality in media is a whole topic unto itself, as you know and have talked about many times (and thank you for that! How many here have felt alone in our own heads for years?) If it weren’t for the internet, criticism of the consensus media wouldn’t exist.

    As far as the wild and wooly internet – ain’t nothing of benefit ever invented that hasn’t been abused as well. As you say, the consequences of limiting it are far worse. This is why I’m bothered by people who want to prosecute hate speech (granted, these types often spit out hate speech of their own). Actions can be criminal, but when they want to shut you down for bad thinking, that’s scary. I don’t have a problem with someone not allowing something on their own website, but that’s different from silencing it altogether.

    And, speaking of criminal actions, yes, the extremist crazies can get together, but the rest of us can see ‘em, too. The internet allows pedophiles to share tips, but the FBI can monitor them. In answer to whether the websites encourage more criminal behavior, the person I saw interviewed said probably not that much, and the ability to watch (and catch) them was worth far more. Certain kinds of honey traps bother me, but not ones involving someone showing up expecting to find an under-age child.

    Let people speak the unspeakable. Let it all out into the open, even the dangerous thoughts. (Or something like that. I haven’t had caffeine yet.) Or as Pratchett says: Let there be a thousand voices!

    • It’s easier to see the idiots when they’re grouped, too. Call that a ‘target rich enviorment”.

    • If it weren’t for the internet, criticism of the consensus media wouldn’t exist.

      POPULAR criticism. My mom was teaching us to always question the story we were fed as far back as I can remember– usually using stories on the radio or TV, the usual “A kid got in huge trouble for not doing much of anything” type stories and asking us to think of what the rest of the story might be.

      Man, I wish I could bottle that and give it to folks.

      • Many of us were taught to question news stories, even some of us who had rather liberal parents. But this left each of us as individuals questioning. What the Internet has allowed is greater contact with people who have all different kinds of knowledge and skill sets who are also questioning — and a greater chance that more of the pieces of the answer can be put together in a timely manner.

        • Mmmm … Monica Lewinski’s White House Adventure … Dan Rather’s “Fake but Accurate” flameout … Anthroprogenic Global Warming … Breitbart’s media jujitsu … any of us can cite, off the tops of our heads, a half dozen media deflations due to the internet’s development of a back channel.

  12. One thing I’ve noticed is that there’s a huge disconnect between the establishment Right, like the NRO that carried the article Sarah mentions, on the one hand; and the online Right and libertarians, on the other.

    I suspect this is partly due to the large number of expatriates from the United Kingdom, and other Commonwealth nations, on the establishment Right; they are forever fighting the French Revolution, which means that they become apoplectic any time someone acts like a human being instead of a philosopher king.

    The online Right bears the same relation to the NRO types that the New Left bore to the Communist Party. Like the New Left, the online Right is a conglomerate of various causes, most of which have sympathy for one another but are most concerned with their own issue. Examples are the Tea Party and the Second Amendment activists–and note that these are not 100% identical, but they tend to heavily overlap. This is mostly because the Establishment makes things easy by pissing both groups off.

    The NRO types are notably devoid of passion, mostly because they come from the perspective of someone who is already doing well and is worried about losing what they have. Many of us online are coming from the perspective of people who are *not* making it in a left-dominated culture and want to change that. The NRO article’s author probably has never had to shelve a book he wrote, simply because a publisher didn’t like his politics. He’s never really had to worry about the ATF kicking down his door because he ran afoul of some obscure gun law. He hasn’t had a small business go belly up due to regulations, or worse yet, been sent to prison for violating some bureaucrat’s interpretation of some obscure law.

    This comes out in some of the things they say. For instance, one of the establishment conservatives once said that conservatives think liberals are wrong, but liberals think conservatives are evil. The unspoken assumption is that “liberals” (actually highly illiberal extreme leftists) are just impractical sweeties who are so full of love that they can’t handle it in the real world. To which I say: tell that to Erick Erickson, who just had a leftist call a SWAT team to his house, in the hopes that he and his family would be shot. Or to the people who go to prison for transporting guns through states that restrict them, in spite of the fact that said prosecution is in violation of the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986. Or to countless other *victims*–there, I said it–of the *evil* vindictive Left. (True, it does not pay to dwell on your victimhood–but that doesn’t change the fact that there are millions of victims of the Left nevertheless).

    • You folks are confusing me. The first thing I think about when I see NRO is the National Reconnaissance Office, which until 2002 was still classified. It took awhile for my mind to shift gears (lots of sludge up there) and understand you meant National Review Online.

  13. Everything Sarah is saying here is spot on.

    I saw an interview in the mid ’80s between Pat Robertson and Francis Schaeffer, a Christian philosopher and cultural observer. (His son is an idiot.) Robertson asked Schaeffer if the media bias was some sort of conspiracy and Schaeffer said it was not. He said that everyone in the newsrooms shared the same basic world-view and this colored the way they perceived everything without having to talk about it. Thus they all came to the same conclusions about things.

    My wife worked in a local radio station news department and she was the only Republican in the office. (And this station carried Rush Limbaugh.) She’d start each day thinking, “nothing’s happening in town today what’ll we spin into news?” She’d pick up the Wall Street Journal whereas others would pick up the New York Times. Whatever appeared in those papers would determine local news coverage. No collusion. They just all looked at the same places for ideas.

    Nowadays things are a little different. People goto different places to look for ideas. Sarah Palin wasn’t necessarily a moron because she didn’t read any lamestream papers, because she could be much better informed in half the time by just skimming Instapundit, Ace and Drudge. Your mileage may vary.

    When everyone in the room goes to the same info sources for ideas, you will see a consensus emerge that’ll appear on the outside like collusion or conspiracy. The Internet enables a lot of really, really diverse cocoons. Sarah’s remarks on tribalism apply here.

    I have seen several instances of what I’ll call Stalinist behavior. Using whatever power is at hand not to answer opposition, but to silence it. “Shut up” is not healthy political discourse. I’ve seen instances where the demand to “shut up” redounded negatively, but in every case the person told to shut up had to have big brass balls and the cleverness to turn the attack against the attacker. Sadly, there aren’t enough Andrew Breitbarts in this world.

    • While Schaeffer was quite reasonable in that interview, he wasn’t entirely correct. I don’t know about the 1980′s, but there certainly was a journalistic conspiracy in recent years. Ever hear of Journolist? Also, the Clinton administration regularly issued “talking points”–that was the origin of that now-common phrase–to the media, which they faithfully regurgitated.

      Granted, the media doesn’t *need* a conspiracy to all be on the same page–but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

      • Jounolist is certainly a smoking gun. During the Clinton years Rush started playing montages of all the libs reciting identical talking points. He even created a parody song using the word “gravitas.”

        Its pretty easy to trace verbatim repeats of tweets from White House operatives to their minions. I suppose someone with money and desire could do an analysis to ID the nets.

        But the fact that we KNOW Journolist & Axelrod coordinate overtly does not detract from the fact that like-minded people need little stimulus to all sing the same tune.

        • Axelrod made his pile providing astroturf campaigns for big business. His company, ASK Public Strategies, developed “grass roots” campaigns on behalf of ComEd and Comcast, among others. [ http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/content/mar2008/db20080314_121054.htm ]

          But it is important to distinguish between active conspirators and useful idiots. The Mainstream Media is mostly comprised of useful idiots, parroting press releases from their friends. As Humbert Wolfe observed:

          You cannot hope to bribe or twist,
          thank God! the British journalist.
          But, seeing what the man will do
          unbribed, there’s no occasion to.

          That also holds for American journolists.

        • I think the greatest threat from the Internet is already manifest and cannot be rooted out: the tendency of people to cluster. F*ck. Folk who habituate Daily Kos and Dem Underground are not likely to run up against the folk who read their Web through PJMedia or National Review, just as a Venn diagram of the audiences for MSNBC and Fox News would present two spheres tangentially touching. (Look, I’ve seen six-year olds in the back of a station wagon do more touching than those audiences.)

          Living in our echo chambers and having our news predigested exacerbates the hazards of group think. Unfortunately, the only solution is for ME to choose everyone’s news feeds. Or Sarah … well, perhaps Glenn Reynolds. But that’s it. … although … I am beginning to have my doubts about Ms Hoyt; sure she blogged about The Avengers but I haven’t seen word one about The Pirates: Band of Misfits from her …

          • What in the world would I have to gain from reading sites which advocate killing Sarah Palin’s Down Syndrome baby because “Darwin said survival of the fittest, man. What are you, a judgmental Christofascist hypocrite?”

            Note to leftists: evolution is a scientific theory, not a handbook for your life decisions.

            • Is THIS the part of the blog in which we diss Malthus? I was saving that for the weekend…

            • Did not Sun Tzu advise the importance of knowing your enemy?

              More importantly, there need to be people in all web forae (including this one) able and willing to say Bullshirt, Twaddle or even Do you really think so? else we all end up residing in the little echo chambers of the world. Among other things, such presence tends to cause people to think twice before spewing nonsense.

              And before you ask: No, I don’t waste my time in such dens of iniquity. Follow my advice, not my actions. Cripes, does I look a fool?

              • However, Res, doing so on a Leftist site quickly gets you banned: I know. I’ve been banned from a hatful of ‘em. Lefties LIKE their echo chambers; they certainly can’t stand dissent. The “tolerance” and “diversity” people don’t tolerate diversity of opinion.

                • Me, too, Bohemond. I’ve also been banned from Real Clear Science, which, as far as I can tell, isn’t real, isn’t clear, and has about as much to do with science as Dante’s Inferno. There are some on the fringe that will accept “contrary” thoughts, but most of them are about as closed-minded as you can find anywhere in the planet.

            • Want to infuriate somebody using that argument? You can explain that Natural Selection is explanatory, not prescriptive, and that Down Syndrome sufferers are actually perfectly adapted to an environment which includes an active Down Syndrome research and care community.

          • Haven’t watched it.

            • The Pirates: Band of Misfits

              Well, was made by Aardman Animations, the people who made Wallace and Grommit and Chicken Run. It has pirates, Charles Darwin and Queen Elizabeth and is delightfully silly. Voice actors include David Tennant as Darwin and a lovely cameos from Lenny Henry and Brian Blessed.

          • I’ll admit that I occassionally read DU and Kos, if only to get a gage on what some of them are thinking. I usually walk away with a good belly laugh.

            What? You mean those aren’t humor sites?

          • Folk who habituate Daily Kos and Dem Underground are not likely to run up against the folk who read their Web through PJMedia or National Review, just as a Venn diagram of the audiences for MSNBC and Fox News would present two spheres tangentially touching.

            Yes and no.

            I talk– or talked, for *does the math* nearly a decade in most cases and over a decade in a couple of blood cases with people who worship MSNBC, while I recognize Fox News as being more centrist than right-wing, but with a strong contrarian streak that makes them look “right” compared to everything else.
            There are a handful that are willing to just not talk about stuff they know they disagree with me about; the rest would talk about it, I’d– POLITELY!!!!– disagree, and they’d insult me. Eventually, I got tired of quite literally being called names by adults.

            There’s running up against, but exchange of ideas is pretty dang one-way.

    • The media was bent out of shape that President GW Bush did not read the media. Funny thing, they had every reason to know that President GW Bush got daily briefings from better informed sources. He knew more and sooner, but that did not matter to the door-keepers. He didn’t know what they thought.

  14. Let’s see, as I recall, fetish clubs under a different name existed in Victorian days in London and other big cities. “Naughty pictures” circulated then, too. It took more effort to find fellow Odds (or odds), but people always manage to find a way.

    • For that matter, science fiction fandom preceded the World Wide Web by six decades.

      • are you saying we’re strange? ;)

        • If you’ve ever been to a sf convention, which I expect you have, you’ll know that *we* (i.e., the people on this forum right now) are downright mundane compared to the majority there. :)

          • No, in fact I have never attended a SF convention. I have been to Comics conventions with The Spouse. I go to Anime Conventions with The Daughter. (I even staff one of those.) Weird? Odd? Peculiar? Pathetic? I have seen all of the above.

            But I have never bee to a SF con, that is something reserved as a Father-Daughter activity and my time off. (Although The Spouse and an author have made me a standing date to meet and pay our respects to single malt if and when she comes to the local SF con. And for that I will give up my time off…)

            • I only started to go to cons as an author. I’m not very social in person. If I’d found the Baen bar in the nineties, I’d have been ALL OVER that, but cons… meh.

          • I was an active volunteer at west coast cons long ago, and was even on the board for Comic-Con for a few years when Shel Dorf was running it. I thrived on the strange. Mrs. Temnota is a steadfast Mundane, however, she would Not Get The Point of a con, so I haven’t gone to one in a great many years. Sob.

            Ann Crispin keeps trying to talk me into hitting a show in Baltimore, maybe I’ll go next time.

            • Tem,
              You should go they are still a lot of fun and a lot of good energy. There was a big Comic show in Houston last week that I only missed because I am going to A-Kon this weekend. Even good energy can be exhausting.

          • I’ve never been able to go to one(they’re rare in HI). When I get back to the mainland, getting to several things not available out here is a priority.

            My only pseudo experience was a Star Trek convention in Columbus, GA(yes…a Star Trek convention in GA…not as bad as you’d think). I was a brand new officer back then, so imagine my shock when my platoon trainer showed up in Spock ears. :-P

            • Don’t diss Georgia. I hear that Dragon Con in Atlanta is not only big, but can be one of the wilder cons.

        • Just for the record, I think of myself as Odd, but the average person probably would be only slightly aware of that. Just because I self-identify with [a fairly specific subclass of] nerds doesn’t mean that I don’t use shampoo or deodorant, or that I go to formal business meetings in Captain America sweat pants. I am usually considered good-looking, even though I am a lifelong bachelor, and I occasionally have been known to kill time by shooting pool at the local biker bar.

          The thing is, though–that doesn’t encompass the whole of my personality. I also kill time by reading good sf, and occasionally by making private lists of the central scientific disciplines backing the plots of stories of my favorite authors. (Poul Anderson’s TAU ZERO, for instance, would list “relativistic physics,” to give a fairly simply example). So yes, I’m a weirdo, but I’m a reasonably presentable weirdo.

          That’s one thing a lot of Odds don’t get–some “normal” activities are normal because the bullies have cruelly forced people to accept them as the norm; and some are normal just because they are the most efficient way of doing things. People don’t avoid smelly nerds because they’re nerds; they avoid them because they’re smelly.

          • To be honest, fandom in general is a lot less smelly than even ten years ago. I think because it’s older. Packing five to a room so cheap the shower won’t work is a thing of extreme youth. As is the fevered rush of finding your kind the first time and not sleeping for three days.

            But I know what you mean. I can “pass” too. Unless I’m in a mood and bring odd stuff up in conversation… Yesterday the boys and I had an argument over Newton’s Cooling Law, for ex.

          • doesn’t mean … that I go to formal business meetings in Captain America sweat pants.

            Well, duh – everybody knows you wear purple stretch pants to a formal business meeting.

        • Uh, you did notice there were over 500 comments on your Odds post, right?

  15. “I think because it’s older.”

    That’s not a good thing…

    Maybe the Human Wave will change that?

      • I’m trying like hell to do so with my work. The problem is my work needs more work and my ethic isn’t all work-y yet. It’s been said that habit trumps inspiration every time because habit will get the work done. I’m still trying to develop that habit.

    • Sure it’s a good thing.

      My mom’s a geek, but she never had a chance to express it.

      Now? There are 30 year old men– I’m married to one– that go to geek-centered social groups, and— *thinks* — all of the happily married folks I know are geek/geek couples. Everyone else is divorced or in Uncomfortable Situation #2/3/4/etc.

      My daughters and any future kids will be raised with the assumption that they’ll be as open about their geekdom, should they get it, as they are about their Catholicism.

      A healthy sub-culture has multiple ages in it.

  16. people with the most bizarre fetishes and obsessions have been able to get together and indulge them since there has been mail, transportation, or large cities. Is it a reason to get rid of or control those things?

    Yes. To the desperate, ANYTHING is a reason. I dislike transportation and large cities, so I think they contribute to GLOBAL WARMING … or maybe anti-semitis …. oh, no: Sexism, Racism and Homophobia, so no more transportation (Australia’s getting overcrowded, I hear) and no city may be more than 10 square miles.

    it leads to less human loneliness and misery.

    You say that like it’s a good thing. Human loneliness and misery have probably been the greatest contributors to our inventiveness, responsible for the development of fire, flush toilets and microwave ovens.

    • One addendum: if it weren’t for human loneliness and misery hardly anybody would read SF/F or mysteries. Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it.

    • I don’t know what your personal habits are, but I happen to LIKE being alone when I’m using my flush toilet…

      • Romans and old style Portuguese both built bathrooms with two and sometimes three toilets (in family homes.) Apparently, it was a social activity. I’m glad to say that had changed when I was growing up. But that’s how odd cultures can get.

        • *****WARNING, MOM HUMOR******
          Apparently, it was a social activity. I’m glad to say that had changed when I was growing up.

          YOUR MOTHER COULD ENFORCE THAT?!?!? I wanna meet her… I don’t know I’ve got to the lady’s alone at home since I first gave birth…..

          *****WARNING, MOM HUMOR******

          • Repeat this mantra. The time will come, the time will come.

            I spent some time wondering what magic was contained in a bathroom door. Just close that door and a world that was perfectly peaceful and content with itself suddenly and immediately seems to need your attention.

  17. A wonderful essay. Thank you. I hope these quotes contribute to it.

    “Labels are a wonderful substitute for thinking, which explains why
    they are such a popular feature of the American Press.” ~ Louis Rukeyser

    “Media power now is acknowledged as having moved beyond the Index to
    the Inquisition, whereby the media decide who is to be sustained, who is
    to be elevated, who is to be rejected, who is to live and die in the
    public eye.” “They are like birds on a wire. One flies off, they all fly off.” ~ Eugene McCarthy, Let Us Prey

    “If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed,
    if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.” ~ Mark Twain

    • I miss Louis Rukeyser. His was a voice of sanity in the financial world and we don’t seem to have another with his combination of experience, knowledge, and humor.

  18. Well said Sarah. If you start to run low on coffee just send me your amazon wishlist link, us caffeine addicts must stick together.

  19. Stephen J.

    Without disagreeing with the basic point being made, I wonder if there is room in this analysis for the notion that a difference in *degree* *can* eventually accumulate to become a difference in *kind*.

    Yes, all the things the Internet facilitates were there before it, and people would find them/ fall into them without it. But the facilitative and magnifying effect of the ‘Net *does* make a difference. Human behaviour is not static; it does evolve in response to increased opportunities and broadened access. Sarah says “how do we know it’s not ‘increased knowledge’ rather than ‘increased incidents’?”, and it’s a valid question but it also misses the point: after a certain point, increased knowledge *leads* to increased incidence, with a documentable statistical inevitability. Markets *can* be distorted by misleading advertising. Pernicious ideas *can* succeed out of proportion to their rational merits, when the signal-to-noise ratio is too low. People *can* be drawn into destructive and unhealthy lifestyles when they realize others exist who will welcome them in. The Internet makes all of these things easier to do, more powerful, and more pervasive.

    It may be that that is simply a price we have to pay for the benefits afforded by its use, just as the price of our unparalleled mobility thanks to cars and highways is the 100,000+ deaths annually worldwide in car accidents. (I always like to wonder which government would have legalized private cars, if some future visionary could persuade them that that would kill so many.) If that is the case, and if we deem the price worthwhile, then so be it — but we should not act surprised or smug when someone who has personally paid that price finds it hard to see as worthwhile, nor look too far down at those who are honestly trying to forestall suffering as they see it.

    • Kate Paulk

      Sure there is. That it’s easier for those I shall for convenience describe as sick bastards to find other sick bastards and share their sick bastard fantasies – and potentially inspire escalations – is the price we pay for not being stuck with the stifling consensus “reality” of mainstream thought.

      Since everything that’s made our lives qualitatively better (soap, clean running water, cars, countries, democratic forms of government, flushing toilets…) was at one time unthinkable, closing out the freedom of the internet stands to also block or at best delay the next improvement, and the one after that.

      The difficult part – and the one I’m not sure anyone’s got right yet – is to tolerate a certain amount of sick bastard fantasizing without letting it become normalized. Since there was a time when cross-racial marriage was a sick bastard fantasy, separating the sick bastard fantasy that’s actually a good thing from the one that isn’t is a little more difficult than it looks.

      • separating the sick bastard fantasy that’s actually a good thing from the one that isn’t is a little more difficult than it looks.

        The HEck!!! It is EZ!

        Mine are good, yours are bad. That is because I am an enlightened soul, anointed to draw the world into a glorious future. While you are a degenerate pervert, corrupter of morals and a reactionary Phillintheblankophobe, opposed to forces of light and progress. Except, of course, in those areas where you agree with me.

        • Kate Paulk

          Oh. Okay. Thanks for enlightening me. And here I thought it was the other way around ;-)

    • Your wondering makes me wonder: I wonder what percentage of the world population, before there were private cars, were killed in trains annually? Or by horses, oxen, donkeys and mules?

      • I wonder, I wa-wa-wa-wa-wonder … oops; sorry. How many lives are saved by cars every year? How many people live (and live longer) by virtue of having cars so widely available?

        • Me. Sorry I didn’t see this. Me. I was born severely premature. (I fit entirely in my dad’s size eleven shoe) I was not given a place in an incubator because, well I was born at home, something Portuguese doctors were trying to discourage, and what was a dead baby or two in the greater good. I didn’t die. My family thinks this was due to an excess of p*ssiness. They’re probably right. HOWEVER my lungs were/are caca. This meant asthma till puberty, bronchitis still occasionally and tb before six. If our neighbor across the street (now gone, hopefully to a good place, if nothing else in consideration of this) hadn’t owned the general store and therefore had a van to allow him to bring in stock, and if he hadn’t been willing to be awakened at all hours of the night to take me to the hospital to the oxygen tent, I would not be here today.

          • Those of you of a religious persuasion whisper a prayer for a kind and gracious soul who died a few years ago of Alzheimers. I was not the only recipient of his kindness, and he never made a big deal out of it. The van was part of his needs for making a living. BUT putting himself to trouble for unrelated strangers (in a culture that relies heavily on family ties) wasn’t. And the fact that he never made a big deal out of it, and treated it as “of course I’ll do it. Because you need it.” makes him what a man should be.

            • A whisper here. I was surprised when I left my home and religion how many good people are out there who don’t make a big deal of their good deeds. I pray for them all.

              • I’m a small town kid, but I’m still shocked at how many total strangers have shown me and my daughters kindness– including a very large, protective guy who showed up when a really big, obviously on drugs guy was pressuring me for cash. Never seen either of them before.

                There are good people. You just might not often see them because nothing goes wrong, and they don’t want to freak you out.

            • Will do. But I suspect I should be asking his prayers for us. It says here that taking care of your neighbors is something the Big Guy approves of.

            • My grandmother, who raised me as much as my parents did (she lived next door), said something to me once that I’ve kept with me ever since. She said some people were born family, but there were others that were family out of love and respect. Some of the latter are greater than many of the former. Some people are able to love more than others, and have a much larger “family” than those that declare they’re blood kin. I think your former neighbor is one of those.

            • If “no greater love hath a man than that he should give up his life for his friends” is true, then surely “it is a great love that a man hath that he should give up part of his livelihood for his neighbors” is also true.

          • … and what was a dead baby or two in the greater good.

            Welp. I have just discovered that I am not a berserker. When I get really, really angry, I get icily calm: my brain shuts off my emotions and goes into pure calculation mode. Right now my brain is trying to figure out if there’s any way those *!^$@%s that called themselves “doctors” can be punished for such wanton disregard for human life. Of course they can’t — it’s been far too long, and some of those who made that decision are already dead (and the others are untraceable)… but I’m still calmly furious about it.

            (Note: I realize that sometimes a doctor will have to let someone die in order to save someone else. Triage, and so on. That doesn’t make me furious, just sad at the necessity. But that’s not what happened here.)

            • One of the prices paid for being in certain professions is a deadening of certain sensibilities. I wonder how police can stand people, given the nature their primary professional interactions, I marvel that pastors, priests, therapists and such don’t whap more people upside they haids, and I am not surprised that doctors and nurses become indifferent to the realities of human suffering and the limits of their abilities to do much about that.

              • I was in a kidney ward in Germany when I first became ill and was treated by exclusively German and Russian nurses. They were definitely overworked, but the kindest people I have ever met. It was my first time to realize that the people who take the job as a profession (there were male and female nurses) did so because there is a need inside them to help people.

              • As a young girl I milked a dairy cow and goats. My hands can give a really good squeeze even when I don’t realize it. I was shaking hands with a fourteen year old boy in our congregation and he said “ouch.”

                Means to me that the kids are not getting enough exercise – and work.

                • Hallelujah! Someone else that knows the “joys” of getting up at o-dark-thirty to juice a Jersey or two… Even after two surgeries on my neck and a three-level fusion, even after the damage to the nerves to my arms caused by osteoarthritis around the nerve roots, I have a powerful grip. The only way I can tell it’s not like it was 40-odd years ago is that I can no longer pop tennis balls by squeezing them.

              • I wonder how police can stand people, given the nature their primary professional interactions,

                Same as prosecutors, they cycle responsibilities.

                Family friend works for the county over coast side. The two years he was on juvenile crimes–he had two small sons at the time– was bad when he’d come visit the ranch, nearly killed himself with physical-work-as-distraction.

                The domestic violence focus wasn’t much better, even though his wife is a good woman.

                If you don’t move folks off the battle-front, you’ll burn them up.

            • I do that sometimes too – :-) (icily calm) It can be scarier than the red rage.

              • Well, to an extent one had to see their issue. You see, these d*mn village women kept having kids at home, and then they had to deal with the fall out and from what I understand some of it was horrific. OTOH I don’t think there were ENOUGH doctors or hospitals for everyone to be born in hospital then. Still, what they were trying to do was ensure that those born in the hospital had first access to emergency facilities, so that any woman who might have thought she’d have a problem, would dutifully go to the hospital. Honestly, I THINK they were doing it to save lives… in the long run. For me, though, since it was me, I have to say I resent the idea of being an object lesson.

                • I would resent it too, Sarah. My hubby was a two month premie and at almost 65 he still has problems with his lungs sometimes. BUT he is like you in that I can’t get him to rest unless he can’t move.

                  • I think it takes a certain type of personality to survive being a premie by that much, with the medicine pre-sixty five (I was born in sixty two.) Sorry? My older son says when I die, the undertaker is going to need to beat me into the coffin and nail it shut, or I’ll still be popping up to write just one more story, make sure they have ironed shirts, or clean the kitchen.

                    • He has this sense of duty that is ten miles wide lol. Plus he was a foster kid. He has had more knocks than any person that I know (plus a Vietnam Vet). He keeps me going when I would have died.

                      LOL about the coffin. Yea – he talks about being sick for the first three years of his life. He was lucky he survived or just plain stubborn.

                    • Just, whatever you do, please: DO NOT Twinkle.

                • “Break a few eggs”…. except that the “eggs” are little babies….

                  If I’d been a poor birth, I might’ve been that. (I was a perfect baby. Last time I was ever perfect, but I hold to it– perfect birth, perfect sleep pattern, etc.) They closed our local hospital to help Cali save money two weeks before I was born. Re-opened a year or two later when they figured out that it wasn’t getting the money they’d expected to the next town over, but really sucked for those who died because the only emergency response was the volunteer fire fighters, eh?

      • I don’t have statistics, but I have a name: Pierre Curie was killed when he was crossing a wet street, slipped, and fell under a horse-drawn cart. The wheel ran over his skull and crushed it.

        Imagine what might have happened in the worlds of physics and chemistry had he lived to continue working with his wife.

        • Horse wrecks and disease were two of the biggest killers in the American west and Midwest. I’ve read more “so and so was a great guy until his horse ran away and killed him/ horse panicked and threw him out of the wagon and killed him/ he was struck by lightning while riding/ horse stumbled in a prairie dog town and killed him/ and was training a young horse and it killed him.” Oh, and firearms and nervous horses are a bad combination.

          • Run away horses are still happening on the ranches that use horses for herding (young horses are the worse). We were told cautionary tales on how to stop a horse or at the very least steer the horse away from danger when it panicked. I know of two deaths when I was young attributed to spooked horses in the 1970s.

          • People these days, decrying the fumes spewed from burning petroleum, tend to be unaware of the byproducts of hayburning. It has been long since I saw figures on the amount of feed consumed by the horses in a middlin’ city, much less the end result of that feed, deposited in great steaming mounds for the convenience and delectation of the townsfolk. Mounds which drew flies and other insects. Some people would be well served by three days of mucking out a stable — it would disabuse them of certain romantic inclinations.

            • Oh yea – flies, smells, methane, and disease just from a pile of horse feces. My hubby likes to point out that pollution decreased when we started using cars instead of horses. I like horses– but it has been years since I have ridden one.

            • I’ve been saying for a while now that people should, sometime while they are in the age range of 12-21, have to spend 2 weeks living in bronze age conditions, doing the work of those who would have been their ages in those times (12 may be too young, it might have to be raised to 16). This would tend to restructure the thinking of a lot of people who want to send us back to an agrarian society.

              • Endorse with a proposed amendment: doing the chores and tasks of a person half their age. A person in mid-teens was functionally an adult and, more importantly, had grown up with a base of knowledge and conditioning that a modern adolescent lacks (lacks even the knowledge to appreciate how much they lack.)

                The conditioning is a key element — I read sometime ago about a Major League Baseball pitcher whose superb curveball derived from hand strength built as a boy in the Dominican Republic milking the cows and goats by hand. There is a quality to the muscle fiber when it is built up that way that no amount of pumping iron can match.

                • Good point on the age thing. I hadn’t thought of that.

                • My parents took us to the boonies when I was 13. We had to haul in our own water, no electricity, and we did a lot of handwashing of clothes in the irrigation ditches. When I met other children of my age group I was surprised at how childish they seemed. It was a hard life, but it did change us. I am not in favor of a childhood that lasts to 26.

                  • twenty six? Most of the kids seem to still be kids at thirty. They’re getting white hairs and they act like high schoolers in my day.

                    • Yea – do you remember that book “Grass” where the teenagers of a certain species never grew up and were quite violent? (Sheri S. Tepper) I think it was quite prophetic … I am seeing such violence from our teenagers (who never grow up) today.

                • It doesn’t have to be Bronze Age. Just have them live like their great-great-xtimes relatives did in the 1830′s through about the 1880′s. Let them live for a year where the only food they ate was what they helped produce. Let them learn to hunt and trap animals for both meat and skins, to work from dawn to dusk to grow enough food to survive, and battling the weather, insects, and other animals for their harvest. Let them learn to gather every edible thing they can find, and preserve it for the times when food is scarce. Let them learn to raise cows and horses, pigs and chickens, and other animals, to slaughter and preserve the meat for later. Let him have to dig an outhouse, and fill one in, and to dig a well by hand. I HAVE done those things, or helped do them, and I am deeply grateful for the experience. I’ve hitched up a mule and plowed a few acres – not well, but not bad for a first experience. I’ve pitched hay, picked wild fruit, and helped my mother can just about everything that can be put up at home. I’ve helped one of my uncles build a smokehouse, and the fire in it. I KNOW what the meaning of ‘tired’ is! It gives me a great appreciation for the easy life we live today.

                  These skills will either have to be preserved, or re-learned once we begin colonizing other planets, which we will HAVE to do sooner or later, or our civilization will collapse.

                  • Except for the smokehouse – I have done all of these things too Mike. And, tiredness? The last time I felt that tired was when I became ill with a Vasculitis disease. During the summer, we worked over time. Winter was the rest period.

                  • I’ve never been required to work as hard as some of the people I know, but I have done quite a bit at various times. Boy, I would HATE to try to dig an outhouse where I live now. Way too many rocks.

                    Your suggestion of a whole year is good, because then they would get a real appreciation for modern food preservation and the availability of out-of-season foods in modern times, and take them less for granted.

              • you know, that would make a heck of a YA along the lines of Tunnel In The Sky

              • Please don’t make me write it!

              • Bring back a full summer break, and get rid of minimum wage for those under…oh…21, so that they can get a FREAKING JOB. It’s not so much the not knowing where food comes from (although that is a problem) as the not having a notion in heck of what a job is really like. It horrifies me that I’m nearly 30 and there are folks my age still going to college, never ending from high school.

                • Actually, the intent of my comment was not so much to show young people where their food comes from (though that’s a good idea), but more to show them how much their lives are easier than they were in the past. The reason I would like to do that is because of these lunatics who have decided that in order to “save the planet”, we need to go back to an agrarian society.

                  I have an addendum to the above, too: At the beginning (it would have to start in early spring), every participant would be told that all the clothes they started with would be taken from them in mid-fall, so if they hadn’t MADE new clothes by then, they would have to go through winter naked. This would be incentive to make sure that part of the program got the attention it deserved.

                  • Wayne, the only way they could have made their own clothes by fall is from skins. Your time frame does not allow for the collection of fiber from either wool (sheep sheering is done in early spring – and is not a beginner’s task) or from plants (planted in ground prepared during late winter and harvested at the end of summer) — no less learning and doing the processing. It takes more than a couple of months to become competent at the skills involved, from processing, to spinning, to weaving, to sewing to make the clothes. (Are you going to provide the skills or, heck there is an argument to building the necessary tools yourself.) And, opps there is learning how to tan hides. And this time they would also have to be stock piling firewood, food, etc.

                    I worked as a mother’s helper on a farm the year after I graduated from high school. While you can learn about what it takes to sustain oneself in a year, it is highly unlikely that you could master it well enough to do it from scratch on your own without an intensive boot camp experience.

                    • Well, none of it could be done on a TRUE sink-or-swim basis, unless you spent 2-3 years before hand teaching the skills needed. Basically, for everything that required more skill than being able to walk without falling down and carry up to 40 lbs, everyone would have to be an apprentice, but they should be convinced of the fact that, if it were completely real, they would all die if they didn’t work hard.

                      For the clothing, there would be learning HOW to tan hides, spin wool and cotton, shear sheep, thread a loom, etc, but the actual making of clothing could be from pre-made stock of leather, wool, and cotton cloth.

                • The lack of a full summer break TRULY pisses me off. I had three and half months of glorious freedom. Yes, when I was older this meant getting jobs and going on trips around the world, BUT as a kid it meant summers of building gadgets, reading and exploring Roman and Celtic ruins in the fields around us. I realize this last would be a little difficult for my kids from here, but the other stuff is what actually allowed me to develop an independent mind. My poor kids had a month and a half with luck.

            • IIRC, there’s a clip from the NYTimes floating around projecting that at current rates of growth, NYCity would be knee deep in horse droppings in X years. Not sure if it’s a hoax, been a while, but the math is decent.

          • There’s always the not-killed-by-horses-but-caused-by-horses deaths, too.

            My folks are ranchers, and the beatings they take…without modern medicine and a lot of sense, they’d be dead already. (Average age below 60.)

          • Just yesterday a friend of mine was telling me, “there are only two types of people that ride horses, those that have been injured, and those that are going to be injured.”

            This is just a couple weeks after a horse broke his brothers leg, and not to much longer since one fell on his girlfriend and tried to crush her.

      • Stephen J.

        Do we mean only killed in train accidents? Or do we mean had their health damaged and death accelerated by the pollution trains generated? And even if it was a higher *percentage*, was it a higher *absolute* number of deaths? (My favourite rhetorician’s trick with statistics: Figure out whether the absolute number or the percentage sounds better for your point, *and never ever admit how the statistic translates the other way*.)

        The car accident deaths are something of a red herring, of course, and you’re right. The issue is simply how we define “responsibility” in any kind of a collective or contributory sense, and how we define “acceptable price” for collective activity when it is (as it always is, in the end) individual people who pay that price, on a person-by-person basis. People’s definitions of “acceptable” social costs change radically based on how likely they think they are to pay that cost personally.

        One of the reasons I remain Catholic is my growing recognition that it is impossible to live morally, in a society as large and interconnected as ours where you can find out easily who pays the price for any collective choice, without trusting in Providence that all things have a purpose, and trusting that the cost of doing right as you understand it is worth it even when raw indignation urges one not to think so.

  20. I’ve been on the web for about 15 years now, maybe longer. I’m also probably one of the older members of this august group at 65. I also spent most of my life in a VERY tightly controlled group that got its news about 20 minutes after it happened. That goes back to punched card message transmission in the late 1960′s, the first high-resolution secure photo data transmission, and some of the earliest electronic networking. I started reading Analog in 1964, and subscribed to it up until the early/mid 1980′s. I finally gave up — there just wasn’t enough there to keep my interest – or the expense- any longer.

    The former gatekeepers are worried. They’re afraid the revolution will take place on the web, and they’ll miss out. What they don’t know is that the revolution began ten years or more ago, and is now beginning to make serious inroads into all walks of life. It passed them by, because it occurred on all those “ucky, right-wing, hate blogs” they can’t bring themselves to read.

    The fact that “odds” like most of us can get together and chat among ourselves, or that two hundred former members of some obscure military unit chat with one another regularly, or that half of a high school graduating class of 30, 40, or even 50 years ago can talk about things that happened “way back then” in real-time IS a revolution. We get UNFILTERED news from where it happens within minutes. We can congratulate a new grandpa within an hour of his grandchild being born. We can read just about anything we want to virtually in real-time.

    Yes, it affects politics, but think of how many “dirty tricks” have failed to make an impression because they were exposed within a day of taking place. Yes, it affects religion, such as the Catholic Church’s recent lawsuits becoming common knowledge within hours of being filed. I don’t know any details, but supposedly Amber Alerts spread on the Internet make the chance to find missing children much greater.

    It also blows the He$$ out of certain groups trying to manipulate the population for illicit gains — I.E., Glowbull Warmening.

    Sure the gatekeepers hate it – it’s made their job impossible. They want to put the genie back into the bottle. They may be able to do that in a few locales, but for the rest of us, I don’t think it’ll work.

    • ” What they don’t know is that the revolution began ten years or more ago, and is now beginning to make serious inroads into all walks of life.”

      The revolution first became glaringly obvious to me in 2000. No, not the presidential campaign of 2000; the fight over Clinton’s gun control agenda in 2000.

      If you recall, Clinton in late 1999 sued the gun manufacturers in an attempt to bring them to heel, and give them a choice between bankruptcy and surrender. Smith & Wesson surrendered.

      This was expected to be the beginning of the end for gun rights in America. The rest of the companies would presumably surrender, and then over the next few years the government would impose harsher restrictions, before quietly banning guns altogether.

      Instead, *individual* gun owners organized a boycott of S&W that caused them to lose almost all their stock value. The rest of the gun manufacturers saw the writing on the wall and refused to deal with the Clinton administration, so that Gore (and for that matter Bush) realized that gun owners were a political force and shut up about the issue. The Bush administration subsequently dropped the lawsuit.

      That’s one reason I’ve never bought into the absolute despair of some on the Right, like Mark Steyn. I fully expected Clinton to begin the banning of firearms, and it didn’t happen. I think a lot of conservatives are inherently skeptical of the Internet, and as such fail to see how it can help their cause. Not me. This stuff is golden.

    • Opposite end here– I got online in late ’96 at age 13, and one of the things I notice is that it makes “city kids” a lot more like “small town” people. The nearest town to where I grew up was under 400 people, and if you added up all the towns in the valley it was about 700 people. Hour and a half to two hours away from a McDonald’s, as I explain.

      The net seems to be the same as the small town, but writ large. There’s the folks who do crazy crud, but the basic instinct to fact-check what you’re told is WAY more common than among the folks I’ve met that aren’t involved in the net. (Not to be confused with being common– still way too many folks that make “gullible” a charitable complement.)

  21. (Hope you don’t mind my jumping in, I wandered here from Insty.) If I can stick up for Brother Geraghty–when I read his post, I didn’t read him as saying “here is a problem, and something should be done about it”. I just read him as suggesting, “Thing X (ease of ungated communication) may have had unintended, and unfortunate, consequence Y (crazies finding and reinforcing each other)”. There doesn’t seem to me to be any contradiction in saying, “Thing X is good, but it has bad consequence Y, *and we just have to live with that*.” (Speaking as a conservative, I’d say that’s a key part of the conservative POV–that there are tradeoffs all over the place, and that even very good things are likely to have some bad unintended consequences. (To coin a phrase, it’s a very good wind that blows no ill.)

    • And it is important to acknowledge the negatives. Hailing something as perfect, and attacking anyone who sees anything wrong, is a sin of the left.

  22. “…the internet allowed people to go too far from “normal””?

    Isn’t that part of the point?

  23. How do you know it’s not “increased incidents” but “increased knowledge.”
    In the science community this is known as a selection effect. It is only one of many kinds of selection effects, but such it is.

  24. I can toss in a little bit of relevant experience from the medical side. Three years ago I had a heart attack, caused not by the usual risk factors, of which I had none–diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, clogged arteries, smoking, genetic predisposition–but by an underdiagnosed thing called a spontaneous coronary artery dissection. After my week in the hospital, and having docs tell me basically that it was rare and I was lucky to have survived, I got home and started doing some research.

    That led me to a patient community online, where I found some other SCAD survivors. Some were several years past their events, and could provide reassurance that life would eventually return to some version of normal.

    One of the women was focused on getting someone in the medical community interested in researching our condition, because there really wasn’t any research being done on it, that we could tell. Her chance came when the two of us attended a symposium at Mayo Clinic that was a four-day intensive volunteer training event. 65 of us went in as just female heart disease patients; we came out the other end as volunteer heart disease educators and advocates. While there, she took the opportunity to talk to Dr. Sharonne Hayes, who agreed to take us on as a research project.

    This other woman and I reached out to the women on the messageboard; we split the 70 or so people who self-identified as SCAD patients and she contacted half and I contacted half.

    The initial study had room for 12 patients; within a week of announcing the study, there were 18 volunteers. The study results came out in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings back in September, and there are now two additional studies under way.

    All of this is patient-initiated research, not pharma or industry, but pure, no gatekeepers, “this is what patients are interested in finding out,” research. Right after the pilot study results were published, there was (and continues to be) a good bit of interest in what the “SCAD ladies” did and how other patient communities can achieve the same thing.

    These studies exist because of patients who ignored gatekeepers, and I hope we see more of it in the future.

    • Just hearing about your project does my heart good.

      On behalf of all humanity and its treasury of medical knowledge, thank you!

    • Great to hear – I belong to an organization (Vasculitis Foundation) who have initiated research on specifically Wegener’s Granulomatosis (my disease) and other similar Vasculitis diseases. We aren’t sexy like “breast cancer” etc, but we have gotten a couple of new drugs approved for the disease. Our problem has been that we are a rare disease – it used to be 1/100,000 people were diagnosed with this disease. Because of the effort of the patients who founded this organization, we are now getting 1/30,000 people diagnosed with this disease.

      In the 1970s before medication was found to stop the immune system from attacking our bodies, the minimum time for life after dx was 6 months. Now we have people who have had the disease over 30 years. (some of these people had the first drugs to prolong their lives.)

      So yes, patient initiated research is the way to go if you want the pharma and doctors to treat rare diseases and not just the major diseases.

      • I probably should get involved in the “eczema community” — that too is a legacy of being seriously premature, I think, but it gets worse as I get older.

        • Interesting – my mother has eczema, but she says she wasn’t a premie. She has severe spring allergies too. Asthma does run in my family. Hubby has rough elbows, but not other stuff. And yes, it does feel good to help those who are scared… and need some calm help.

          • eczema is an auto-immune disorder, and I think it is related to the messed up immune system of a premie. Not one else in my family has it…

            • Auto-immune diseases also goes with dyslexia. So do allergies.

              • I didn’t know that Laurie

                • There are a lot of weird dyslexia/ADD correlations with other things. The oddest one is poor fine motor skills – the kid who couldn’t color within the lines without taking a lot of time and care.

                  • me. Though it got better around 14

                  • I was one of those – (couldn’t color in the lines).

                  • Rich Rostrom

                    Me too. I could read at four, but my parents were told I could never learn to write with a pen or pencil. I did anyeay, but actually what I do is draw letters – a work-around that requires conscious focus, unlike normal writing. (I can’t take notes.)

                    No dyslexia, ADHD rather than ADD. No significant allergies or auto-immune problems.

                    • You’d have never survived my 7th grade Social Studies class, then (I barely did – I write rather slowly). The teacher wanted us all to basically take dictation. He wanted us to write down everything he said or put on the board, then turn in our notes each quarter. And then he snapped at us when we asked him to slow down.

                      When he got in trouble for inappropriate contact with a student several years later, I cheered. Not for what he did to get in trouble, of course, just that he had gotten in trouble. Although I would have preferred if his bus (he was also a part-time bus driver, and that’s where he got in trouble) had rolled over his leg or something.

                  • Interestingly, my sister, who is ADD/dyslexic and has allergies (which are an auto-immune disease) and poor fine motor skills was also a breach baby and had to be delivered by Caesarian. Sarah’s story makes me wonder if there’s a connection.

                    • Labor for me was 23 hours until the doc decided to do a small slice so I could pop out. I wonder how much damage that does to a baby.

                    • Robert took three days to be born. He seems to be okay.

                    • Glad to hear it ;-) One of my brothers took 30 minutes after the first labor pain. But he was number 7 of 9.

                    • LOL. Marshall took an hour and a half. It’s perhaps fortunate I didn’t have any more. Think about it. I’d probably have delivered wherever I was…

                    • Cyn Bagley | May 31, 2012 at 5:41 pm

                      - a dear friend lost a child after the nurse tried to hold him in until the doctor got there.

                      50+ years later, she still has no idea if it was just because, or caused by the nurse. And it comes up every time anybody has a baby, or mentions having a baby. (She’s a wonderful woman, so that only makes it tear at my gut all the more.)

                  • The Daughtorial Unit was full term — the late end of it but no induction required. DU is also ADD with most of the available App packages: dysgraphia, speech impedimenta, HIGH IQ (4SD high) — she was trying to output a supercomputer through a slow dot matrix printer … until she got a keyboard. Woo-Hoo!! Still gets frustrated but not in the same league.

                    • Marshall was a month late. Robert might have been, except he was induced because I was pre-eclamptic. cooking a month long seems to be Dan’s family thing

            • My wife has an autoimmune disorder called hidradenitis suppurativa, which produces large, boil-like acne anywhere that skin rubs together. It’s another orphan. It seems to have mostly cleared up now, but I don’t recommend the treatment – it mostly went away after the chemotherapy (breast canceer) and the surgery which removed a large group of lymph nodes from her underarm.

              Her immune disorders, though, appear to be genetic, as her mother shared some of them.

              • It seems that auto-immune diseases run in families (from talking to other patients). I have an aunt who has addison’s disease and others who have asthma. Interesting, I know one patient who successfully sued her school for cleaning abestos in her room, while she and her children (special ed children) were in the room.

                I think that my problem with Vasculitis was caused by chemicals I used to clean components in the Navy in particular tri-chloroethelyne. Silica can cause Vaculitis in certain families. But, officially they don’t know what causes our type of auto-immune disease. There is a genetic and environmental trigger (need both) to cause the reaction.

                Interesting stuff though.

                • Kate Paulk

                  Auto-immune does run in families. Precisely how it manifests can vary but it will hit multiple family members. I got narcolepsy and all the fun that cascades off that, one of my sisters got MS, and all bar one of the five of us is on antidepressants. Brother has asthma, I have bad seasonal allergy issues.

                  So far (thankfully) I seem to have missed Dad’s sides weakness for skin cancer. He lost both parents to metastasized melanomas, and gets a batch of assorted skin cancer types taken off every few months.

                  • Back during the HillaryCare debate the single most interesting comment I heard was an observation that the main effect of all of the advances in health care was to greatly increase the number of damaged people still alive. They cannot cure but they do great work keeping people from dying.

                    The testimonies I am seeing here support that contention.

                    • Hey, I’ll have you know it is an important part of my goal NOT to die. So far so good.

                    • It is important to have goals, but it is also important to have reasonable goals. My goal is to get caught up on my reading before I die. I conservatively estimate that, if I buy nothing more and don’t reread more than one book in ten I should be caught up in, oh, about … seven centuries, give or take a decade. If I don’t stop acquiring new material to read … well, you’ve doubtless heard of the Marching Chinese?

                    • YES. My dad is now retired, reading full time, and says he should be done in another 100 years, if he buys NOTHING else.

                    • Hey – I should have died 9 years ago. I am so glad I didn’t. I would never have gotten anything published.

                    • They cannot cure but they do great work keeping people from dying.

                      ….What does it say that I initially bristled at this statement and felt the need to defend the “damaged” as normal– there are few alive who are not damaged in some way?

                    • What does it mean that such is your reaction? It means you are a decent person and you’re young. I am neither. My father is on his second hip replacement, I have Diabetes and have lived with a rebuilt knee longer than you’re alive. Would neither of us be described as “undamaged.” The fact we still live is by virtue of modern medicine. But it is an important perspective on what medicine achieves.

                      Always keep in mind that, generally, the “most cost effective copurse of treatment” is letting the patient die. Which is why cost alone is not the primary determinant of the course of treatment.

      • Hi Cyn,

        I think you’re right, and the more patients are able to find each other online and band together, the more–I hope–we’ll see of patient initiated, dare I say it, crowd-sourced, research.

        One of the real benefits of the computer age is the ability for people with rare diseases to finally find each other and start working toward common goals. So yes, we medical freaks and weirdos are actually banding together. :)

        • So true Laura. When I first had my first crisis, I couldn’t find good info or even other patients. Now we are all over the place. Plus I put up research and info on a blogspot dedicated to the disease. I have helped several people find help in the last five years.

          Makes me feel good anyway.

        • Not just rare diseases. Rare reactions.

          A friend was being treated as per standard for a digestive system problem. She kept getting worse, so her doctors treated her condition more aggressively. She bounced in and out of the hospital. Finally her husband, a doctor himself, with a very different specialty, linked into the net and found records of a couple of other people who had experienced the same reaction the medical regimen. The doctors treating her finally listened. It took her a long time to recover from the treatment for her initial problem.

  25. Sorry, but I must differ (I won’t beg, because I don’t do that sort of thing).

    The authors you cite are not complaining about free association, they’re complaining about the false sense of community that the internet fosters.

    I’m a conservative gun owner living on the south shore of Massachusetts. If I let myself, I could spend my time on internet forums for other conservative gun owners and wind up believing that, because there is a strong web based community, then I am in a majority or sorts. This may even be true for a large enough subset of the American population.

    But I still live less than an hour from Boston. I’m still surrounded by people with Kerry, Obama and (in one case) McGovern bumper stickers on their cars. If I allow myself to believe the internet echo chamber, I would dismiss everyone around me as being either a liar or a dupe. But try getting a job in this area with these politics and that attitude. No, I still have to talk to real people in the real world without a keyboard and a username like GUNzRgr8 to hide behind. I can’t be strident or rude, like I would have to be on twitter where there is no room for subtle arguments or spared feelings.

    It’s not about consensus, or longing for the mythical Cronkite days when everyone agreed on everything. It’s about basic courtesy and remembering what actual community means. The internet ghettoizes people in self selected enclaves, and outright encourages them to think of people outside those enclaves as “other.” I’ve spent enough time in enough internet forums to know what happens when someone has a contrary opinion to the local hive mind. It’s never pretty, and if the disagreeable person is too persistent or stalwart, they find themselves cast out with a banned account.

    It’s fake community building. The kind of community building that Gated Communities often get chastised for. (I have to reject your application to live in the Sleepy Grotto apartment community. You’re not our kind of people. Now please excuse me, I must file a lawsuit against someone who hung a wreath on this front door.) It’s the lesson of Pauline Kael (who famously said that she didn’t understand how Nixon could have won, as she didn’t know anyone who voted for him) writ large. How could anyone not be in favor of my hobby/preference/fetish? Everyone I meet online loves it too!

    The authors you cite aren’t lamenting that people of similar interests can find each other, they’re lamenting the fact that the online communities foster a kind of attitude that discourages actual, real life community.

    No, you don’t have to move to New York City to find other like-minded writers anymore, and that’s wonderful. But you also don’t have to bother learning to be polite to people who are not like-minded writers, nor even to writers who are not quite as like-minded as you hoped.

    Finally, I’d like to point out that it is fatuous to conflate saying that a thing hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows with saying a thing is inherently rotten and must be banned. Acknowledging the downsides of something that is largely good is an important tonic against wanton disruptions. It shows thoughtfulness to say “You know, as much as I like X, it does have it’s downsides which cannot be ignored.”

    • As a relative newcomer to this group I may be all wrong. I have not noticed anyone here ‘begging’ anyone’s pardon for differing in opinion except for an occasional tease. Do we all agree with one another? Good grief, no. What charm or what interest would there be in that?

      You are correct, neither Croatoan author Fernandez or What Fuels Irrationality in Our Public Life? author Geraghty call for limiting the net. Both do make the argument that the net has become a source of major social problems. Fernandez, for example, opens referring to his wife’s assertion that we are seeing a result of the net fueling aberrant behavior. (I am more inclined, in reference to the Miami case, to conclude that illegal drugs fueled Mr. Eugene’s breakdown and particular aberrant behavior.)

      This a community of writers (and readers), primarily of SF/F. One traditional theme of SF is examining what happens IF / WHEN? We have been SF/F readers for so long that we accept that every new technology comes with consequences that can be anticipated, should have been anticipated, or are unforeseen. In terms of quality the results can good, neutral, bad, or a combination. We like to think about how things might work out. I expect one of the few things you might get full agreement on in this forum is that if something involves people the results will be mixed.

      • Okay, so in that case what was the point of Hoyt’s post?

        I fail to see how Geraghty or Fernandez assertions are without merit or, frankly, even that controversial. The social network industry relies on grouping people into self-selected ghettoes of taste/opinion. If you happen to have a dangerous taste/opinion about things, the internet enables these people to think they have a bigger following than they do, which emboldens behavior (because there is strength in numbers). As social creatures we are less likely to openly act upon impulses that the community we live in disapproves of, and the internet allows people to remove themselves from the actual community they live in and hide in an echo chamber that will not only disapprove, but encourage potentially dangerous behavior.

        But let’s ignore dangerous behavior (we’ve always done before). Even everyday facebooking separates and alienates people from the actual community they live in. It’s only natural that it would; If you’re a person who craves human interaction, why go to the trouble of going out and trying to meet a few dozen people to make small talk with when you can open your laptop and tell millions of people what kind of sandwich you ate for lunch. It’s like the advertisement for a social networking ap on the iPhone says; There’s always a party.

        I read a news article recently about how moms are unable to switch off the internet even when they’re husbands are crawling all over them. In a survey of 1000 women, 21 percent have used their smartphones in the boudoir (I’m using that as a euphemism, by the way).

        http://tinyurl.com/6u57bnk

        So for these women; who are wild aberrations I’m sure and do not represent a sizeable minority of real women; the internet is a distraction that is not just preventing them from connecting with their own neighborhoods, but preventing them from connecting in their own beds.

        But whatever, they’re freely associating and building communities on the internet, even if it’s shallow, fake ones that they construct because they’re easier than dealing with real people and having actual emotions. Same diff.

        The world is getting smaller, thanks to the internet. But somehow all the people are getting further apart.

        • Even everyday facebooking separates and alienates people from the actual community they live in.

          No, the community they live in alienates them. There have been lamentations about alienation since I was in single digits, well before the net was any sort of big deal.

          And sorry, there’s nothing amazing about answering the phone that’s in your pocket while you’re in the restroom, especially if it’s a text message. That said, I’d question any article that goes “Oh, 12% say they’ve used phones during sex, and they have at some point used it for shopping, so they probably used it for retail therapy!!”
          Warning sign of pop theory, there. BAD pop theories, too.

          And, hey, there are reasons to be on facebook besides loving it: things like several of my 60+ year old cousins are using it to collect photos for the 100 years in the country family reunion. How non-tech-savvy are they? I’ve already had to download a shared picture and email it to an aunt….

          • And, hey, there are reasons to be on facebook besides loving it: things like several of my 60+ year old cousins are using it to collect photos for the 100 years in the country family reunion. How non-tech-savvy are they? I’ve already had to download a shared picture and email it to an aunt….

            Irrelevant. Like the authors Hoyt cites, I don’t claim the internet is without merit, I claim merely that there are non-trivial problems attendant to the benefits.

            No, the community they live in alienates them. There have been lamentations about alienation since I was in single digits, well before the net was any sort of big deal.

            From dictionary.com: Alienate: 1) Verb: To make indifferent or hostile. 2) Verb: To turn away, transfer or divert.

            It can certainly be so that the community a person lives in may leave that person feeling like nobody understands him. That’s not alienation, that’s being a teenager. Being part of a community in the real world isn’t about personal validation. If people think it is, they’ve been spending too much time in the self esteem echo chamber.

            And sorry, there’s nothing amazing about answering the phone that’s in your pocket while you’re in the restroom, especially if it’s a text message. That said, I’d question any article that goes “Oh, 12% say they’ve used phones during sex, and they have at some point used it for shopping, so they probably used it for retail therapy!!”
            Warning sign of pop theory, there. BAD pop theories, too.

            Fine. It’s bad pop theory. But it still illustrates an inability of people to exist with the people around them without some kind of 4G umbilical cord feeding them a constant stream of whatever they want instantly.

            So maybe the woman in the sack is using it for facebook and twitter, (What’s the hashtag for that?) or maybe she’s using it to shop, or maybe she’s using the vibrate function in a creative way. The point is that this woman is so attached to her phone that she can’t put it down even for something I would consider to be very intimate.

            You see it everywhere. People in the malls surrounded by “friends” who are completely ignoring each other to enter something or other into a phone. I see people texting on the roads, and am horrified (though for the record I believe the anti-texting-and-driving laws to be a waste of time at best). People don’t have to be aware of anything that doesn’t completely pertain to themselves anymore. They don’t have to know anything because google and wikipedia are always at their fingertips (yes, I’m aware that ancient philosophers said the same thing about the printing press. Just because one group of people is wrong about one kind of new technology doesn’t mean some other person is wrong about some other kind of new technology.) They’re surrounded by an impenetrable bubble of vapid self interest, and while the internet is merely a tool for enabling that behavior, it’s an exceptionally good tool.

            I don’t want anything done about it, from a legal perspective. I’m just pointing out that these things don’t matter is foolish.

            • Alienate: 1) Verb: To make indifferent or hostile.

              Yes, I’m aware of the definition. And that describes what I see. Other folks might not phrase it that way, but go read the stories on the recent post where people shared horror stories about work they had done.

              It’s bad pop theory. But it still illustrates an inability of people to exist with the people around them without some kind of 4G umbilical cord feeding them a constant stream of whatever they want instantly. So maybe the woman in the sack is using it for facebook and twitter, (What’s the hashtag for that?) or maybe she’s using it to shop, or maybe she’s using the vibrate function in a creative way.

              Most likely, the women surveyed stopped and answered the phone. But that wouldn’t get headlines and head-shaking and hand-wringing, would it?

              • Yes. Greg, do you have a link to that survey? It would help to see how the questions were phrased. People answering the phone “in the boudoir” was not horribly uncommon even before cellphones, so if Foxfier is correct, that statistic may not be as surprising as it sounds.

            • It can certainly be so that the community a person lives in may leave that person feeling like nobody understands him. That’s not alienation, that’s being a teenager. Being part of a community in the real world isn’t about personal validation.

              We have a peculiar idealized myth of community in this country.

              Go back and check out such books as Betty Friedan’s early work, which slammed what was happening to woman — and their families — in the new and growing suburbs in post WWII America, all because of the pressures for conformity.

              My Momma loved the ballet, the symphony, the opera, theater and going to art museums. She actually looked forward to reading. The other women of the neighborhood viewed those things as something you did, if you did them at all, because they were ‘good for you.’ They certainly were not viewed as enjoyable. My parents both thought that if I wanted it and worked hard there was no reason I could not pursue most any activity (I was not built for football or the ballet) or profession I wished. The social doyens believed that only certain professions and activities were appropriate for young ladies. The social pressures brought to bear because my parents would not conform were quite real. Believe me, I quail when I hear the phrase, ‘It takes a village.’

              Funny, now it is my parents ideals that are the ones the doyens enforce in much of this country. ;-) I still don’t like ‘It takes a village.’

              • ppaulshoward

                “I still don’t like ‘It takes a village.’”

                But but that’s Racist!!!! [Wink]

                OK, got that out of my system. [Smile] The funny thing about “it takes a village” was the saying reflects the small town social conformity that Social Liberals “loved to hate”.

        • Note particularly the sentence that starts the second paragraph of the blog post:

          This last weekend I saw no less than two posts, both by people I consider sensible and occasionally brilliant, deploring the freedom of association and freedom of expression on the web.

          Oh, that’s not what either of them thought he was deploring.

          You speak of a loss of community and loss of personal connection. You mention cases of those who have not dealt with this new reality in a healthy manner. There have been calls for restrictions and prohibitions because some people among us who cannot deal with the technology, citing such behaviors as you have. What then would you suggest be done?

          While we discuss the negative consequences of the Internet and we consider ways of addressing them, we should also consider the results of the proposed solutions.

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