Communication Failure, Again

I was in another debate with a feminist about rape. My last such discussion was a few months ago. It was equally frustrating this time. I really don’t like ideologues and I really don’t like political correctness, either from the left or the right.

It isn’t even about whether I agree with someone or not. In this case, I think I may have been more in agreement. But it is pointless because such a person wants to hide behind their beliefs and opinions, hide behind their righteousness indignation, and I suppose hide behind their sense of suffering and victimization.

Life sucks and there plenty of reasons to be angry. I understand that. It is easy to get defensive and polarized into a position. I also understand that. But all my attempts at understanding came to nothing, so it seemed.

It sure can be frustrating trying to talk to someone who is stuck in that mentality. The person I was dealing with never came around to understanding that we were probably completely in agreement, at least about the central issues at hand. She so much wanted to make me into an enemy that divisiveness and heated argument was the near inevitable endpoint.

I wish I was better at communicating in such situations.

11 thoughts on “Communication Failure, Again

    • The exact issue was about a rape scene in the most recent episode of Game of Thrones. It wasn’t in the book and so the question is why did the writers and producers of the show decide to dd it.

      The discussion also involved the violence of the show in general and how it relates to our society. The show involves some horrific torture scenes and yet, as far as I know, they didn’t lead to as much discussion as this rape scene did.

      Basically, the feminist thought rape was a more imortant issue than torture or somehow worse or else should be discussed separately. I felt that they couldn’t be separated, that all violence is part of the same culture of violence.

      • The idea that rape is the only horrible thing that happens to women seem odd to me. Not that rape culture is not a thing, it very much is. It is more that there are other ways to violate people. I used to work with rape victims, and domestic violence victims, and frankly the damage I saw with them often mirrored each other in their horrific movement.

        As a side note, I think the rape scene was a mistake because it is entirely out of character for that character which is why it stood out for political reasons.

        • Yor view is basically my view. But it wasn’t the view of two of the people in that ‘dicsussion’.

          There is a certain kind of political activist who latches onto a single issue. They see the whole world through that one issue. It becomes their whole life, their mission, their sense of meaning. That is fine, but it easily leads to dogmatism and polarization.

          Anyone who won’t prioritize that issue over all other issues is wrong or dismissive or clueless or part of the problem or attacking them or all of the above. They use that one issue to bludgeon anyone who disagrees, has a slightly different perspective, or voices an opinion outside the politically correct groupthink.

          In this particular case, it became apparent I was dealing with a couple of people with personal issues. It turned out they had no desire to relate in good faith and give the benefit of the doubt. They just wanted to see themselves as right in their own minds, no matter the cost. They weren’t interested in dialogue. And they apparently put little value in seeking mutual respect and understanding.

          I’m sure they’ve both had bad experience in life. They see themselves surrounded by enemies and opponents. It is a sad way to live one’s life.

          • IT is dangerous to discount the power of personal experience in forming one’s political opinion, it is also dangerous to rely on it. But that is a line we all walk poorly, I guess.

          • There can be power in personal experience, indeed. I respect personal experience. I’m one of those types who tends to see almost everything in personal terms. But I also try to put the personal in context. I don’t want to fall into the trap of trying to universalize my personal issues and problems, although that isn’t to say I never fall into that trap.

            I see no reason why depression, for example, should take precedence over all other issues simply for the reason I suffer from depression. Yes, mental illness is an important issue that all should care about, but it is no more important and, in some cases less important, than lots of other issues. It’s all about perspective.

          • Yeah. Although depression is not an obvious identity issue the way rape is (women, girls, and boys are by fair the most victimized, not so much grown men), and hence the crux of the problem.

          • Depression can’t easily be made into an identity issue because depression doesn’t limit itself to any particular demographic. Everyone is potentially prone to depression, and that potential is relatively equal across the spectrum. Even rich white males can be depressed and commonly are whereas rich white males aren’t likely to be raped.

            But you’d think the equal opportunity nature of mental illnesses would make it an even more important issue, for it is a collective problem where almost anyone can be victimized by it. Unfortunately, such pervasive problems most often just fall into the background. With depression, there is no victimizer to demonize and prosecute and so there is no way for the media or for activists to easily dramatize it. Instead, it is deemed a personal ‘failure’ of our own biology and psychology. And that’s that.

  1. I’m not sure if the guy has his posts set to private, but here is the link to the discussion:

    After a somewhat long discussion (long by Facebook standards, anyway), I wanted to defuse the situation. I wrote a couple of comments that were pleas for kindness and understanding, including an apology for not communicating better. I was being the complete opposite of aggressive and mean-spirited. I thought by demonstrating socially constructive behavior and good intentions that I might elicit a response in kind.

    Instead, the guy whose post it was wrote this:

    “you guys are making me tired. Shut the fuck up or get the fuck out.”

    And shortly after that, he stepped it up even further into full asshole mode by adding the final word on the matter:

    “Well look at that. A man is intentionally rude and combative and yet is not jumped on for it. Telling?”

    There was another guy in the discussion who was siding with me against the girl who just wanted to attack everyone and paint every male who didn’t agree with her as a misogynist and rapist sympathizer. Both this other guy and I were the target of the above comments.

    He told us, crudely, to shut up or go away (basically the same thing in internet speak). Both of saw that it was futile and we did as he asked. He then criticized us for doing exactly what he demanded we do. He seemed to be implying that we were misogynists because we didn’t return to the discussion in order to act as emotionally immature toward him as he was acting toward us. He wanted to make it into a gender issue, because he was a man, as if I automatically bow my head in deference to all men. Why would I care if he was a man or not? All I cared about was how he was acting and how the girl was acting.

    I guess attacking men is how, in his own mind, he proves that he isn’t a misogynist. However, all that it proves is that he has major personal issues that he hasn’t dealt with. These people are activists supposedly trying to make the world a better place by mindlessly attacking almost anyone who steps in their path. They have much passion, but maybe not much else going for them. Although activism is great, I might suggest these people work on their personal issues first before tackling the larger social issues. Trying to resolve one’s personal issues by projecting them onto others tends not to work out very well.

    This is why activists get a bad reputation. The most vocal are too often the most emotionally immature and psychologically unstable. They are so motivated to speak out because they feel so angry, righteous, and aggressive. But their mode of interaction ends up speaking louder than whatever message is mixed in with all the malcontent fury.

    • This interaction keeps running through my head. Why did it bother me so much?

      A simple reason is that I was expecting better behavior from this person. I had interacted with them a little bit before and hadn’t seen this level of asshole-ishness from him. I don’t normally go around expecting to be verbally attacked by people I agree with, and I didn’t even see any actual conflict of opinions of any substance. If I’m going to get into a heated debate that turns into such a pointless interaction, I’d rather it at least involve some meaningful disagreement.

      Arguing for the sake of argument doesn’t appeal to me.

      I don’t even entirely mind when someone is mean, angry, aggressive, rude, and generally lacking in social skills. As long as they are also above average in intelligence, knowledge, insight, and rationality. I’ll take all kinds of disagreement, even presented with unforgiving antagonism, just as long as the argument or perspective is worthy of being taken seriously.

      These two people, however, lacked much of these kinds of redeeming qualities. It seems that they were of the opinion that debates are won solely through bluster and arrogance, that if you just declare yourself right loud enough and repeat it often enough while attacking straw men caricatures of your opponents then you automatically are the victor, at least in your own mind.

      I have discussions with people I disagree with all the time. It is strange to have more meaningful disagreements with people whose worldviews I’m opposed to than I can have meaningful dialogue with people with whom I share a basic worldview. I think dogmatic ideologues such as these two feel most threatened by those who are closer in opinion to them, for such a person can’t be dismissed as easily. The only way to safeguard against this threat it is to portray the person as an enemy. That way, nuanced arguments among the like-minded that might lead to self-awareness and humility can be avoided.

      While this pointless charade was going on, I was having a rather enjoyable discussion with a Tea Party libertarian. We dialogued calmly. When we disagreed, we did so respectfully. We voiced our opinions, listened to one another, and did our best to understand where we respectively were coming from. And, surprising to some, we came to mutual understanding and some common ground of agreement.

      Why is it that sometimes small differences can divide people so powerfully while greater differences can allow people to be more objective in considering alternative viewpoints? Freud explained it as the “narcissism of small differences”. It is a strange phenomenon.

  2. This was an unusual interaction in one way. Although I didn’t know well the guy whose post began the discussion (Ajax Unruled), I did have available two people to offer me perspective on him as a person.


    One person I haven’t mentioned yet. She is an ex-girlfriend who has remained one of my closest friends for coming on two decades now. She grew up around here and Ajax also grew up around here. The only reason I was interacting with Ajax because of some local Iowa City Facebook pages. I’ve never met Ajax in person as far as I know, buy my longtime friend has known him his entire life because their mothers are best friends.

    She says that he is very friendly and easygoing around her. She knows him as a real person with a real name, rather than merely as an online persona (Ajax Unruled). I had the misfortune of dealing with an online persona which allows the person behind it to act in a way he unlikely would ever act in a person-to-person interaction, especially with someone he personally knew. I was having an imaginary meeting with an imaginary person. Ajax Unruled only exists as a phantom identity on the anonymous internet.

    So, who is this online being I found myself dealing with? Who is this Ajax Unruled? Let us assume that we are speaking of the great Ajax from Greek myth. The wikipedia article says that, ” He was described as vicious, fearless, strong and powerful but also with a very high level of combat intelligence,” capable of taking out the greatest of opponents by throwing boulders at them; and that, “Ajax is not wounded in any of the battles described in the Iliad, and he is the only principal character on either side who does not receive substantial assistance from any of the gods who take part in the battles” We can see why Ajax is Unruled. He is a badass warrior who ruled the heroic battlefields of Greek legend, unlike the ordinary human with a mundane American name who lives unknown amidst the cornfields of Iowa. Who am I to tangle with such a fearsome fellow?

    What is most interesting is Ajax’s death. He competed with Odysseus for the prize of magical armor. “Ajax argues that because of his strength and the fighting he has done for the Greeks, including saving the ships from Hector, and driving him off with a massive rock, he deserves the armor. However, Odysseus proves to be more eloquent, and the council gives him the armor. Ajax, “Unconquered”, and furious, falls upon his own sword, “conquered by his [own] sorrow”.”

    Not only a hero, but a tragic hero. The interesting part is that his dishonor in losing the argument is his inferior eloquence. Ajax was unruled, unconquered, undefeated in every battle but one, the battle of minds with the clever Odysseus. Another version of his death, following a failed attempt to slaughter some people in vengeance, also ended with shame leading to suicide. Unlike glorified Odysseus, Ajax is a mostly forgotten hero for he could be seen as a failed hero, not dying in glorious battle against a worthy foe but by his own hand.

    The only online persona I’ve ever had was Marmalade, plain old Marmalade, not unruled or anything coming close to it. Marmalade is the name of the mild-mannered friendly family cat from my childhood. He enjoyed his life through the pleasure of the senses and wanderlust curiosity. He was an aesthete of naps, green grass, and catnip. A mostly harmless creature, as long as you weren’t a bunny rabbit. He was a lover, not a fighter.

    But I never have taken my online persona too seriously. It isn’t separate from my normal offline personality. I simply am who I am. I don’t seek to hide my identity. I even go so far as to use my full name online. If you want to know who I am, what I do, and where I live, it isn’t hard to figure out. I am basically the same person no matter where you know me and I can be quite open about my life.

    I’m not going to be any more of an asshole online than I am offline. I strive for mutual respect and understanding in all areas of my life, either succeeding or failing, but nonetheless that is what I aspire toward, at least when at my best. I don’t want to be mean-spirited to anyone or be perceived as such, if I can help it.

    I find it strange how some people use online personas so as to act in ways they wouldn’t otherwise. Do they really think they are free of all consequences just because they are cowardly hiding behind a flimsy false identity? They might find it will bite them in the ass someday when they piss off the wrong person who figures out who they really are. It is wiser to treat others as if they were standing in front of you, as if your family and friends, coworkers and boss might find out what you are doing and how you are acting, for they actually might find out.


    The other person who gave me some perspective on Ajax was the other guy in the discussion who was siding with me. He private messaged to me and we talked about the situation. He told me that this was typical for Ajax, i.e., for the online persona. He called him a militant anarchist and that aggressiveness was just the way he acted.

    The other thing he told me was that he planned on still commenting on posts by Ajax. He thought, despite the bad behavior, that Ajax served a purpose. This guy told me he looks for the best in people, whether or not someone seeks to act according to their best. This is a noble attitude, that reminds me of my grandmother’s saying, “Everyone is doing their best for where they are at.”

    So, even though he was attacked as I was, this guy didn’t take it personally and gave these people the benefit of the doubt, in a way they wouldn’t offer to him. He sought to be the better man and look for what was good and useful in even the most confrontational forms of advocacy, for it takes all types.

    Here was my response to the idea of their militant aggression serving a purpose:

    Maybe Ajax and those like him serve a purpose through their ‘methodology’. That is one way to think of it. There ya go again, looking for what is good in people and in every situation.
    I understand that to some extent.

    There is another fellow Iowa Citian I know who can be a Grade A a-hole at times, often the opposite of a nice person, especially if he considers you to be an enemy. He causes many people to dislike him, but he isn’t an entirely bad guy. I’ve seen him write articles in the Little Village defending the rights of the homeless. Sometimes it takes troublemakers to be willing to publicly take on tough issues that get ignored by more respectable people.

    So, how Ajax and Chelsea are acting and treating others may serve a greater purpose. But if so, it may be in spite of themselves. Still, it isn’t clear that it adds up to a net positive. It very well might be the case that they are causing more negative outcomes in how they treat people than what they end up accomplishing in the end.

    One thing that occurred to me is how Ajax and Chelsea seem to be taking on the role of living stereotypes. They embody so much of what conservatives and right-wingers criticize about the left, and so give further evidence that leftists are nothing more than dogmatic ideologues and mean-spirited political correctness police who lack an ability to treat others with courtesy and respect. I usually criticize those on the right for making these kinds of criticisms, but in the case of Ajax and Chelsea their criticisms might be more applicable.

    From my perspective, it seems to end up adding to the left-right polarization, the us vs them mentality that has taken over nearly all politics. We are so divided or at least the loud-mouthed activists and pundits are so divided that we collectively seem incapable of moving forward constructively on any issue.

    The methodology of their fight may serve a purpose or it may not serve any purpose or it may not serve a worthy purpose. It’s hard to tell. But at least they are bringing attention to important issues, whether or not it is positive attention leading to beneficial outcomes.


    That’s that.

    It is helpful to remember that people one meets online are still just people with lives like anyone else. They aren’t really their online personas, as no one is really any persona they play in any role or situation. Personas are just aspects of who we are, expressions of possible selves, but not our selves in their entirety.

    We never no why people act the way they do. Or why they take on particular personas. We probably shouldn’t take people too seriously, even when or especially when they take themselves too seriously. Everyone is trying their best as they understand and feel capable of, even if their best doesn’t seem optimal.

    Take what is good in people and in situations… and leave the rest.

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