Archive for May 13th, 2005

It May Be An Inch, But It’s An Angry Inch

It’s not even that. Just an electronic sigh of relief that Friday is here at last. Off to Hodges Figgis to buy a book, then a record, then back on the choo-choo to Shangri-La to paint the shed. Hopefully the fumes from Ronseal will provide inspiration for further blog posts over the weekend.

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I Couldn’t Possibly Comment

A comment from the NI Magyar about posting comments got me thinking about the whole culture of comment threads.

I still consider myself a bit green (boom boom) at the whole thing, even though I’ve probably been posting fairly frequently on a couple of sites now for over a year. I can’t remember the first thread I posted on, but I’m sure the comment wasn’t particularly inspired. Probably some scrawl about how I preferred ‘crack’ to ‘craic’.

It becomes fairly obvious, after a year or so reading them (I know, I’m quick on the uptake), that most discussion threads, particularly those that concern Northern politics, seem to go nowhere.

Now I wouldn’t have spent a year scrolling through them if they didn’t have something going for them (although I’m four years into my present job, so I wouldn’t take my word for it) so let’s take it for granted that they do have many excellent attributes: most people reading this already know what those are. For the moment I choose to focus on the bad points.

They seem to go nowhere in that most political discussions are dominated by commenters more interested in holding forth with their own certainties and polishing up on their own passions than actually learning something from the other people there.

There is certainly something to be said for theories and hypotheses being subjected to rigorous examination through vigorous debate, and this does happen from time to time. But the subtext to a lot of the exchanges of narrative, rhetorical flourishes and ideological jousting just seems to be ‘you would say that, but that’s because you’re a dick who doesn’t know any better.’ A slightly more refined version of this would be ‘you would say that, but that’s because you’re paralyzed by post-colonial obsequiousness’ A lot of the discussion seems driven by simian impulses to assert superiority.

A similar encounter was stripped to the bare essentials by the old Mary Whitehouse Experience sketch History Today, where the two old historians sit down for a discussion on, say, the Origins of The First World War, that quickly descends into ‘your mum smells of piss she does’. If David Baddiel never does anything half-decent again (and he hasn’t yet), he can be proud of what he achieved there.

It’s fairly safe to say that most of the people who concern themselves with such interactions are:

a) reasonably well-educated
b) users of toilets marked ‘Gents’.

From time to time earnest discussions are punctuated by some lower-case persona making interjections thus:

‘Shut your cakehole you fucking prick’

‘Typical murderer apologist scumbag’

Et cetera. While I have never posted anything along these lines, I must admit that I do feel tempted to do similar things from time to time. I sometimes get enraged at the lengths people go to in order to project an impression of utter certainty.

To do so you need a fair dollop of bullshit, a few post-modern affectations (use of terms such as meme, factoid, trope, praxis (I have no idea what any of these things mean by the way)), throw in a few liberal arts cultural references, a few foreign, or foreign-sounding words (if I see one more mention of schadenfreude I’ll hang meself. Hegemony is ok, but provided it’s used appropriately. To talk of Unionist/DUP hegemony is ludicrous.) and a healthy sense of tribal affiliation and you’re flying.

God knows how many posts I’ve scrolled down through over the last year, tempted in the extreme to post a pseudonymous ‘shut your trap, bastard features sure you’re only an oul’ slabber anyway’. It often feels like the man needs to be played, if only so that the ball can be released. But I resist. For now.


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