Archive for April, 2015

When Corny Viral steals the show: in praise of Toya Graham (but where is Mr. Singleton?)

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

I’ve been rather amused by the whole Toya Graham corny viral saga that has issued from the Baltimore riots.

I call it “corny viral” because it is corny. Very.

Videos and cultural memes can go viral for any number of reasons. One of the possible reasons is that the video represents an effusive load of corniness which captures the vacuousness of the public’s unwillingness to think critically. It’s reactive, group-think that is behind the genesis of every Corny Viral incident.

In the case of Toya Graham, all the ingredients for Corny Viral are there. Her story has been all over the news for several days, but my point is not to comment on the nature and righteousness of her actions, but about the public perception of them.

Toya Graham was “attending” the Baltimore riots early this week, ostensibly as an observer, when she caught sight of her son, Michael Singleton, preparing to launch rocks at the police. She went all sensible-mad-Black mother and whipped his head around in plain public (and camera) view.

On the heels of such a destructive, violent, and emotionally exhausting day, this is exactly what the American public needed to see. Good, wholesome, retributive and accountable corniness. Graham and her aggressive parenting represented everything Americans secretly wished Black culture constrained itself to do when no one is watching. It was great showmanship and it fed the starved neuroses of a complacent White culture that hasn’t the balls or fortitude to be honest with itself, much less, its peers. The same White culture that blames everyone, everyone, except the perpetrators and criminals, because after all, they are oppressed and ostracized by ruling White culture, so who can blame them…right? And by the way: there is quite nothing like swarming the streets, setting fires, looting and robbing, to help sway the oppressor toward the side of benevolence. White liberal guilt is shameless, and worse, blind.

And now it turns out, it’s the same White liberals and Black Career Victims who are suddenly proclaiming Toya Graham as “mother of the year” and who appear spellbound by her strong motherly response (which none of them would ever consider applying to their own children in the name of all that is sensibly parental and culturally acceptable in the 21st Century).

And the Black Career Victims whoop it up at the images of the mother beating her son around the head despite the fact that if it were a cop or other authority figure doing the same thing to their sons, the act reflexively becomes abusive, racist, and oppressive, and meets the minimal requirements for a good spell of violent civil disobedience and looting.

But when Toya does it, everyone cheers. None of these people mention that it was Toya, and not “Tom,” who needed to physically restrain and punish Michael Singleton. There is no male figure anywhere nearby. Where is Mr. Singleton?

Perhaps this is the real problem, but people enjoy the Corny Viral script which involves the adulation of the big bad kick-ass mama, a racist archetype in itself, no?

From the BBC: “Who are the people in the dark corners?” An attempt to untangle the internet’s dark disinhibition.

Monday, April 27th, 2015

There are many types of people who have been demonised in the age of social media – computer users who take refuge in anonymity to post extreme or offensive views. Jamie Bartlett wanted to talk to the people behind the masks.

So begins a printed transcipt from a BBC radio program printed on BBC’s online Magazine. The piece, produced by Jamie Bartlett, is entitled, “Who are the people in the dark corners?”

Loosely, the extracted transcript is an expose of those nefarious internet denizens who live in the “shadows” of the digital realm (or the dark corners). In his investigation, Bartlett interviews three of those notorious, archetypal shadowy figures we ascribe to the underworld of the “dark” internet, cloaked in notorious, apocryphal mystery. It makes for more entertaining “investigative” reporting if you can exaggerate the dubious, legendary qualities of your subjects, however undeserved such infamy may prove.

In this story, Bartlett talks to Paul, an online anti-Muslim demagogue who the author vaguely terms a “neo-Nazi” in a preamble to the news segment. Paul is anonymously well-regarded in the nationalist, anti-Muslim world of the English Defense League’s cyber presence, but who turns out to be a retiring, unemployed keyboard jockey who avoids public displays of rallying around his cyber beliefs. Then, Bartlett describes Zack, a man in his 30’s who has cemented his formidable presence as an internet troll. Zack articulately sums up his trollhood: “[It’s] not about bullying people. It’s about unlocking situations, creating new scenarios, pushing boundaries, trying ideas out, calculating the best way to provoke a reaction.” Lastly, he speaks to Michael, a man in his 50’s who explains (rationalizes) his descent into the seedy world of child porn. Michael weakly explains how his fascination with child porn (which resulted in his being convicted of possessing 3,000 images of it on his computer) began “innocently” with his understandable and legal dabbling in adult porn. He explains how his devolution of porn interests gradually turned to younger subjects as internet pop-up ads slowly lulled him into that criminal netherworld.

Three figures from the dark corners of the internet.

Patently perverted, perverse and depraved, lurking behind the walls of the grand Main Street of the internet and all its shopping and parenting sites and culinary forums. It’s an homage to this “internet” that it is now old enough, established enough, to have finally matured into the civic conglomeration of humanity such that it now can house dilapidated nooks and crannies that are home the most vile and despicable among us. Just like anytown U.S.A.

“Them.”

Where the people live in corners, in the murky shadows; the people who anonymously usurp the anonymity of the internet for nefarious, destructive purposes.

As Bartlett reported, “There were two Pauls, and that allowed him to behave online in ways he wouldn’t have offline. This phenomenon was first spotted in 2001 by the psychologist John Suler. He called it the “online disinhibition effect”.
From behind a screen we don’t look at or even think about the people we communicate with, and so feel strangely free from the social mores, norms and rules that ordinarily govern our behaviour.”

As happens when we share the roadway with other drivers, hidden by anonymizing panes of auto glass and tint, the internet likewise saps us of literal, identifiable humanity, and in the process, creates pockets of darkness and mystery that increase the ominous secrecy of those lurking beyond our sight or comprehension. I found the Paul subject the most similar to what I picture this niche of the internet to represent. There is a swath of internet groups who, while not criminal or dangerous, still involve themselves in lines of belief and expression which much of society might consider dangerous by nature of its unpopular and blasphemous outspokenness about subjects best left unsaid. The ideas from this corner of the blogosphere can never be uttered in polite, modern society, yet, it observes that which most people do, in the privacy of their own guilty minds.

In many ways, I think it’s a bit “cool” to be part of this dark corner of the internet in that some of what I write would elicit revulsion from the keepers of socially conscious society, and anger from others who accept blindly this same society’s decree about how we should all think uniformly according to the social “script” of the day. I’m hardly the cutting edge trailblazer, nor do I pretend to be, but I like to believe I am part of that “swath” of darkness that respectable internet denizens tsk-tsk from the altar of misplaced moral superiority.

Ultimately, the internet, like automobiles on the roadway, shrouds strangers behind a blanket of dehumanization that allows you to appraise without really knowing that which you are appraising: one of the worst harbingers of tyranny any human can assume.

Bartlett concluded that ultimately, much of this conflict can be overcome if we could only relate to others on an intimate, face-to-face basis. But ultimately, the internet’s greatest horror is its faceless indifference.

“Technology is neither good nor bad,” Kranzberg’s First Law of Technology tells us, “but nor is it neutral.” The internet lowers barriers, making it easier to sate every curiosity, to make it less difficult to say and do things we wouldn’t in real life. Sometimes that allows us to explore deeply held desires, sometimes it stimulates behaviour that otherwise would have remained dormant. Often it’s somewhere in-between.
I’m not making excuses for these people. I’m aware of the misery they have caused, and that whatever the internet has allowed, in the end they are responsible for their actions and behaviour. Whether they know it or not, these people have caused devastation for others. And certainly there are far worse characters hiding online than these three, using the anonymity the net provides to destroy people’s lives.
But they aren’t always the evil demons you might imagine. It’s important to understand how people end up where they do, without condoning what they do. That may help us limit the damage they cause.

Most of the chief protagonists in my book I met online first, and offline second. I always liked them more in the real world. By removing the face-to-face aspect of human interaction, the internet dehumanises people, and our imagination often turns them into inflated monsters, more terrifying because they are in the shadows.
For me, at least, meeting them in person re-humanised complex, awkward, and usually annoyingly likeable people. Next time you come across a digital monster, remember there is a person behind the avatar, and he or she is unlikely to be how you imagine.

The Bachman Doctrine: a new path for the Alpha-nerd.

Sunday, April 26th, 2015

Ultimately, the question deconstructs into a very simple and singular one. For nothing really matters unless we can know. All life’s meanings, all its perturbing implications, hinge upon the resolution of such a simple question.

Can a male nerd also be Alpha?

I’ve given this great thought. Too much, perhaps. Can a nerd, through his layers of social bumbling and awkwardness and inauspicious malapropisms, ever rise to the level of “Alpha male?”

This is the puzzle. Frankly, I’m doubtful of the existence of such a specimen as the Alpha-nerd, for the paradoxical blend of such antithetical traits sharing a human container would eventually only disqualify and neutralize the other if they should ever be so unfortunate as to find themselves in such individual confinement.

In other words, the nerd is necessarily the negative sum of all the “lofty” and romantic traits Alpha males represents.

You cannot simultaneously be a nerd and an Alpha, for the span of qualities necessary to fulfill both labels requires, ultimately, that you make a binary choice, that you flick an on/off switch which places you firmly in one realm at the expense of the other.

The classic nerd traits reflect the absence, the void, of many of the innate parts, tools, that form the Alpha male’s mystique and power.

The nerd over-thinks. The nerd is riddled with self-doubt. The nerd exists on a plane of social interaction which strays from the norm, and in the process, launches him into interpersonal oblivion where he is misunderstood because his mode of expression befuddles those who are capable of no more than that. The nerd, outlying in the wasteland of nerd-thought and nerd-perception, is incapable of exerting control or influence over the collective mediocrity of the crowd which seeks leaders who represent the sum idiosyncrasies of the normal drives and interpretations of the male mind. The nerd’s problem is that he can never understand or mimic the collective male mind because, by definition, he has no comprehension of such.

Some nerds come surprisingly close to recognizing and mimicking the normative collective male psyche; they may approach that legendary state which would allow them to master over other men, but ultimately, the mimicry fizzles because the effort required of a nerd to disguise as normal is impossible to maintain for long without glimmers of nerd deviancy manifesting themselves. The most a nerd can aspire to is Alpha status among other male nerds, but nothing more. This is the renowned “big fish in the small pond” phenomenon.

In today’s pop culture, a notable example is Erlich Bachman from HBO’s “Silicon Valley.”

Within the confines of his start-up incubator (which now houses the fledgling Pied Piper as it seeks to turn its new compression algorithm into a profitable tour d’ force), Bachman reigns stoutly over the crew of code monkeys who are writing Pied Piper’s elusive money-maker. The nerds of Pied Piper are a motley bunch, and Bachman’s mission is not a difficult one. His Alpha cred shines within these squalid emasculated conditions. Ironically, in the “real” world, Bachman’s gamer-driven facial hair template, his inopportune beach bum curls, and his this-side-of-slovenly fashion sense, would prompt bemused smirks from the general population. Not to mention, his blatantly clueless bravado which scrapes the edges of overcompensating juvenile petulance conveys the image of a nerd who comes close to the Holy Grail of Alpha-nerd, but is consistently sabotaged by the unmistakable emergence of nerd mannerisms that extinguish all hope in him.

This is a clip from the second episode of season 2 as Bachman attempts to build momentum after a potential lawsuit threatens to bring down Pied Piper’s Valley reputation (and hopes).

Erlich Bachman does illustrate that rare intersection of nerd and Alpha, but only in an approximate, wholly lacking manner. Not quite an intersection as perhaps, a parallel parkway, one which promises with the enticing superficial display of unfamiliar offerings, but which also affirms our cynical expectations upon closer inspection. You’re either an Alpha or you’re a nerd. Alpha rulers of Silicon Valley incubators sadly, are not Alpha; real Alpha males lord over collective cross sections of masculinity, usually through unabashed display of force and lack of introspection. The standard nerd, however, typifies lack of force and unabashed displays of introspection.

I think the best a nerd can strive for, in today’s society, is recognition of one’s own nerdiness, and thus accepting this, embark on a shameless and aggressive campaign of unapologetic nerdiness. The nerd must flaunt his unique nature, own it, and steer such self-acceptance into the meat of a culture that is used to shaming weaker samples of himself.

I think Erlich Bachman approaches this; despite his apparent lack of self-awareness, he appears to be accelerating in the direction of nerdy defiance. If one is nerdy, one must commit to defiance!

(D) v (R) drivel: it’s a draw.

Saturday, April 25th, 2015

This is laughable. Bobby Jindal attempts to convince us that the Republican Party cares about our personal liberty.

He conveniently ignores the fact that, as it breaks down, Republicans are all for liberty insofar as religion is involved, while Democrats are all for liberty insofar as it pertains to minority, special interest groups.

For a politician of either party to default to the “we are for the rights of all Americans” nicety is pure drivel.

Republicans and Democrats have one thing in common: they excel in drivel.

16.9 Million and the stillborn promise of a dying species; can I get my money back?

Saturday, April 25th, 2015

Bruce Jenner Interview Ratings Gold Winner For ABC With 16.9M Watching

Sixteen Point Nine Million?
Really?

I’m not quite sure I understand human nature. I used to think that people, those strange “intelligent” creatures of creativity and nobility, would one day be comprehensible to me. Such was the folly of my youth. I tried to shoehorn the human race into tidy compartments of intelligibility. What a fool I was. As I grew older, I was more dismayed, on an almost daily basis, to witness just how droll, complacent, apathetic and mediocre people can prove to be.

I once expected more than this, than…Sixteen Point Nine Million.

I don’t understand people, and increasingly, don’t care to.

Bruce Jenner is really a wench in gymnast’s clothing, he’s a Republican in a liberal LGBT smock; god, how does anyone care about this stuff enough to take precious time from their day to sit in front of a television for these fleeting minutes of a life that can never be reclaimed?

Do folks simply not value their minds and existences to such an egregious degree that they are content to waste their time peering into the sordid, disinterested lives of strangers?

I don’t get it.

What passes for collective conversation and exchange of “ideas” has not kept pace with the alleged advancements in human cognition.

So many bright children laying waste to standardized tests and all we get is this pop cultural garbage to show for it? Such astounding cerebral prowess suffuses our proud society, but such a soulless, superficial and vacuous culture we stoop to erect.

jenner

empire

Can I get my money back?