Sometimes while opening the refrigerator door, there’s an instant when you smell something that’s almost sharp…it’s fleeting and it smells organic…maybe something green and leafy…maybe…given time the sharpness will increase as whatever is rotting amid all that cold will slowly transform beyond something resembling a science project into a nostril-clinching, oozing-black mass that was once alive and vibrant. I am, of course, talking about the stench of our decaying American society.
Once we had a society that was more thoughtful, decent and polite. The Dumb and The Willfully Ignorant knew enough to keep their mouths shut. Or so the myth goes. Actually The Dumb and The Willfully Ignorant were too busy working long hours on an assembly line; when they got off work all they wanted was Miller Time, a woman with a retarded sense of morality, and a double-wide they could call home. Then came out-sourcing, Bush The Second’s devaluation of the dollar, and the economic collapse of 2008. Being not only unemployed but also unemployable, The Dumb and The Willfully Ignorant spilled onto the world wide web like a chemical accident at the local Anthrax plant. The rest of us need to put on a Hazmat Suit before firing up the old cable modem.
In an attempt to battle this toxic waste, Patch.com was born. I’ve been told that the main mission of Patch is to foster community dialog. They provide those of us who can string sentences together with web space in the form of a blog. By the way, the word “blog,” should be stricken from the English language for it’s sheer ugliness. It’s like the word “neat” and the word “nice,” both of which are so general they are completely meaningless, and they are both totally devoid of poetry. The Patch also provides a comment area where anyone can share their views. The combination of both, plus the news stories, is supposed to spark a dialog in the community. It’s a neat idea; one that is nice even.
It’s also an idea doomed to fail for one simple and completely obvious reason: the anonymous login. The Dumb and The Willfully Ignorant will tell you that they need to be anonymous because they are expressing their opinions and that is dangerous.
Like 90% of all board commenters here, I use an alias because I know that there are psychos in America who sometimes take other’s opinions personally and sometimes may even seek the opiner(sic) out to do physical harm. Naturally, that sounds crazy to sane people, but it is a fact of life. No one is really anonymous on chat boards. And intelligent people understand that. But these are OPINION BOARDS not IDENTIFICATION BOARDS like they might have had in Nazi Germany , Dan. We have different rules here when it comes to forming and delivering opinions.
Tell that to Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, or Medgar Evers. Yes, certainly, speaking your mind is dangerous in any society. That is not a reason to hide behind alias. The reason to hide behind an alias is cowardice.
We all know speaking our minds is dangerous. So I wonder what was the purpose in stating “Naturally, that sounds crazy to sane people, but it is a fact of life.” Actually it doesn’t sound crazy; we know it to be true. What I would tell my students who wrote those sentence types is that they don’t have a clear thesis, that their thinking is muddled so all they can do is write general sentences trying to fill up the space. Some students got that. Some didn’t. All of the sentences in the above quote are desperately trying to sound intelligent, but they are merely filling space.
The problems in The Dumb and The Willfully Ignorant’s attempts to communicate don’t end with diction and sentence construction. The sentence logic falls apart staring with the third sentence. If no one is really anonymous on chat boards, then why use an alias? The next sentence “And intelligent people understand that,” is again filler and doesn’t follow logically. What do intelligent people understand? That free speech is dangerous? That no one is anonymous on chat boards? From the relationship of the sentences intelligent people are somehow different than the sane people who think it’s crazy to say that free speech in dangerous. Is this writer trying to tell us anything about people who are “intelligent” and people who are “sane.” Only the writer knows because whatever the point it never made it onto the page.
The very next sentence tells us our subject is “opinion boards” and not “identification boards.” At this point the sentence logic has broken down completely because every thing above that sentence dealt with “chat boards.” Now we are talking about an “opinion” board that somehow differs from “chat boards,” presumably, but the writer hasn’t bothered to define his terms. And we’re also talking about “identification boards like they might have had in Nazi Germany.” They didn’t have them, mind you, but they “might” have; so we find ourselves strolling through the land of make believe, or perhaps we stuck in some paranoid delusion. It’s impossible to know.
The last sentence is the most confusing of all to anyone who really reads by adding up the words and sentences: “We have different rules here when it comes to forming and delivering opinions.” “Here” given the nature of syntax would mean somewhere other than “Nazi Germany.” But because the writer’s muddled mind is completely apparent, we can’t say that is what he meant. He could mean “chat boards,” “opinion boards,” “identification boards,” Sioux City, Iowa…
What are these “rules?” The writer hasn’t told us so we can’t know. What does he mean by “forming and delivering opinions?” Again, the phrasing is so general we can’t know because it could mean many things. What rules are his rules different from? How exactly do they differ? The sentence “We have different rules here when it comes to forming and delivering opinions.” is completely meaningless because the writer hasn’t said anything other than generalized gibberish.
Oh sure, we can assume he meant something about the United States, perhaps, and the first amendment, maybe, but then we are writing the argument and we are not understanding what it is he thinks he has said, but has left unspoken Doppler-ganging around in his brainpan.
I have been focusing on one quote in order to fully analyze it. The comment threads of the Patch are littered with these gems. Lately these verbal equivalents to what my dog Hunter leaves in the yard outnumber the thoughtful responses posted by people who hunger for a real discussion. And that, my friends, is the real problem.
One has to possess, appreciate, respect, and use a formal education in order to deconstruct writing with the purpose of reading for actual meaning in order for real discussion to occur. And the minute you let The Dumb and the Willfully Ignorant know you’re not inclined to agree with meaningless statements, out fly the personal attacks in an attempt to bully you into silence. And that is how they, The Dumb and the Willfully Ignorant, will kill the Patch. For theirs is “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”