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Some things are just stupid. Ideas are not equal. On “civil discourse” and gaslighting.

by Téa Smith
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Some things are just stupid. Ideas are not equal. On “civil discourse” and gaslighting.

by Téa Smith

One of the strangest ideas with current internet political discourse (okay, Twitter and YouTube, and tedious Clubhouse rooms) is that you can’t dismiss an idea as stupid.

Don’t be impolite. To be taken seriously, you must be civil. You must be patient. If someone demands you back your position, you must take the time to respond or you’re being rude.

I mean, we can’t be rude. Can’t be uncivil, or impolite.

Or vulgar.

How utterly vulgar you are.

If you stumble into what is colloquially known as the “Intellectual Dark Web”, their adversaries and their ilk, you’ll see a whole bunch of people (okay, Americans…) talking for hours and hours and hours and hours about civility.

About politeness.

Discourse. Nuance. Thought Experiments.

Oooh you fancy people and your fancy words.

Not vulgar and tasteless and uncivil words like mine.

America loves words. They’re obsessed with words. They have the best words. They make up words, they redefine words, and more importantly, they pretend to own the definitions of words. They argue over who can say which words, to whom. Which words are banned, and what they mean. This is not just the linguistics departments, but in the broader culture. Censorship and Puritanism is in their DNA.

No matter which “side” of US politics, if you pay attention, you’ll notice that the vast majority of content is focused on who was trying to tell who what words mean, and what words they can and cannot say. Whole industries are dedicated to long and tedious conversations about compelled speech and compelled thought by the other side and who can say what and who can’t say things and bore our tits off with all their free speech about free speech… without ever saying much of substance at all.

Blogs, articles, tweets, videos, research papers, Clubhouse rooms… all talking and using all the words to tell others which words are acceptable and which words are not, all whilst avoiding the elephant in the room: that Americans don’t know how to a) be honest and b) shut the fuck up.

It’s quite the paradox.

It’s also how we ended up here.

America. Online. Live. Syndicated. 24/7, sponsored by HelloFresh and BetterHelp.com, because the two things Americans love more than obsessing over all the words is food and talking about themselves. At length.

By civility, of course, they mean that special brand of saccharin insincere politeness. “Have a Nice Day” delivered with a far more noxious gas than any honest “go fuck yourself”. Platitudes. Say the right words. Don’t say the naughty words. It doesn’t matter whether you mean it. It doesn’t matter that contempt and arrogance is dripping from your pores, so long as you use the correct words. Which then, after using the polite words and the big words and the fancy words that America totally invented the meaning of… fuels another bloody conversation about whether they actually meant the words and whether the subtext of the words says different words and it all fucking starts again.

But it’s polite, right? So long as it is polite, even if it is coming from the most dishonest, exploitative, obnoxious country on earth… I mean they told us to be polite.

… a bit rich.

America has a 3 hour conversation about words that, in Australia would have been “Year nar get fucked cunt… agree to disagree… it is what it is”. Which is used as both an affirmation AND an insult because frankly, we’ve got better shit to do. It’s bloody hot and the Seppos are getting on our tits.

This idea of civil discourse coming out of America, particularly online in a toxic political environment, is not only tedious: it is also intellectually dishonest.

Because in 2021, especially those who are hurting and grieving and traumatised – in large part due to the actions of the US government, tech companies, markets and free range idiots, are actually allowed to be angry about not only what you’ve done to words and discourse and the internet and the environment and everyone’s brains and Venezuela and all that other stuff…and owe America fuck all respect or politeness.

Signal vs. Noise using Coke vs. Sprite.

As someone who researches online radicalisation, and specifically the Propaganda machine that is the US Culture Wars™ I’m in the signal business, in amongst a fucktonne of noise. With pretty important information, that needs to be made more accessible, because it’s pretty bloody complicated. Especially when trying to get cut through on this bizarre whirlwind known as “Wokism”, otherwise known as the US Gentrification of the global left.

And I am up against takes that are pushed and promoted and perpetuated by design… that claims that Likes and Followers are what make you influential (there’s that wordplay again) and popularity is what makes you correct. All that merit. You’re famous. You must be smart or you wouldn’t be there, right?

The fact is, we are dealing with deliberate, weaponised stupidity. That is the nature of this beast, which is that it relies on linguistic tricks, availability heuristics, political illiteracy, emotion and thought reform to function the way that it does.

Not a single person who is considered influential has, for example, pointed out that ideology has several meanings. Every disagreement between disciplines or schools or theories is pitted against each other in a war, rather than simply a bunch of different perspectives on shared problems, where the operator is usually AND rather than OR. Because the country is in perpetual war with both itself and everyone else and this has to be the state of things, because otherwise, people might figure out who the real perpetrators are.

The United States Culture Wars makes the simple complex and the complex simple. It’s quite the paradox.

Which is how we have the world’s biggest bullies, and the world’s loudest chewers, the country whose foundations are exploitation and domination, all lecturing the rest of us about how we should be more polite, and civil, and reach “across the aisle” with those who seek to destroy us, who colonise our cultures, our minds and, most importantly our time and energy.

Nar, mate.

I don’t think you mean it either.

I prefer discontent, vulgarity and directness.

You dominate enough of my day without also having you dictate what words I can say. It’s bloody hot.

I’m just gunna call you a fuckwit and go back to work.

Now of course, I am making generalisations, but unlike you, I can’t seem to make a career out of the smell of my own farts, so I’ll build a fun straw man of Uncle Sam covered in ejaculate, and get back to work whilst you DESTROY me with FACTS and LOGIC in your own imagination because I simply can’t be arsed.

I’m tired of being told that we need to treat all ideas – no matter how ill-informed or unqualified – as equal.

Not all ideas are equal.

Obviously I am generalising about a dominant hegemonic force, and actually love individual Americans. But on mass… ugh. This happens everywhere, of course, but it is something that the United States does better than anyone else: co-opt, repackage, and then sell back a shitter quality product at twice the price.

Guru culture, man. Televangelism. Ponzi Schemes. Propaganda. Weaponised, loud angry mobs.

Taking complex philosophical concepts like the Principle of Charity or Principle of Humanity that are intended for peers with equal qualifications, and tilting it on its axis slightly so that you have listen to every dickhead heckler on the internet with an opinion and debate anyone who asks.

And be polite or civil with people who deliberately serve the powerful, whilst pretending to be oppressed, with distracting 6 hours long conversations about ultimately sweet fuck all.

Let me qualify this.

  1. I believe that good ideas CAN come from anywhere. In a specific setting. I also believe everyone has the right to an opinion.
  2. I also believe in the Principle of Charity and Principle of Humanity, and generally avoid fallacies. However, those concepts are intended for philosophical/logical debate between people who are arguing at the same level, in formal debate. Not a dickhead offering you $2 to dance for them in bad faith clickbait.
  3. As someone with qualifications and a lifetime of work experience behind me, it is not fallacious to dismiss an idea as false and/or stupid. The fact that we’ve worked our arses off to say that does not necessarily constitute an ad hominem attack.

People often misunderstand the role of fallacies. Everyone knows that dude, who parrots concepts and terms without context, or accuses everyone of fallacies because they won’t give their stupid ideas any time.

Ironically, this is the balance fallacy.

This is the biggest problem with online “discourse” (content factory) right now. This idea that all opinions, accounts, ideas should be given the same degree of consideration.

Three times this week I’ve had foreign YouTube “experts” tell me I don’t understand my own country.

Yeah, I kinda do. In fact, I was the person who initially explained the concept of the authoritarian-libertarian axis to one of your guests who repeated it as their own. And it ain’t that.

Thing is, I don’t need to respect a wrong or stupid idea. I don’t need to debate it. I’ve earned that right. Some ideas are just so wrong or dumb they aren’t worth it. Like Australia’s supposed authoritarianism coming from US/UK commentators who don’t know anything about Australian politics.

This is one of the tricks of the content factory, that people can just say an ill-informed, dumb statement, and then put the onus on me to prove it wrong. No, I am telling you it is wrong. That is enough.

I am writing this to give people permission to reject dumb ideas. The engine of this model is that those who say the most tedious, most inflammatory shit can say it to a large audience, and then demand the time and respect of those who know better, then pull out their My First Book of Logical Fallacies and think being told to fuck off means they won the argument.

That’s not how any of this works. Especially you, dudes. Women who are expected to write and think for free whilst you throw money at stupid dudes who tell you what you want to hear, should not be expected to argue with you as if we are peers. You’re not. Sorry, but our degrees actually matter.

It is not elitism. It is because we all have finite time and resources. I chose to dedicate ten years of mine, plus 25 years of work experience becoming an expert in the thing you only just learned an hour ago. So, maybe respect that.

So if I call something ridiculous…

My opinion on politics has more weight. That’s a fact. Get over it.

This extends to so-called thinkers on the culture wars, the cam-girls, the people who identify as journalists (but somehow didn’t make it to an ethics or civics class) and the anti-Woke pseudo-intellectuals.

I realised a year ago that just because I saw people asking questions about the thing I was researching, that they wanted the answer.

They don’t.

The answer is readily available. At this point it is a decision to ignore it.

The anti-Wokers are mostly bad faith. I was researching it in good faith, from MY DISCIPLINE, and had absolutely no interest in having any of my work used to destroy the (actual) left or the Humanities, which is the political outcome the right are pushing for, by legitimising this idea of a Critical Theory boogeyman with parts conveniently left out.

I had a prominent UK “civil discourse” bro ‘splain that in order to be more persuasive I should just “produce better content”, which is a shitty thing to say given that a) it isn’t fucking CONTENT and b) I do, but your bros ignore me because I’m inconvenient.

One of his comebacks was that I shouldn’t call people who “disagree” silly, or pull rank in debates. Yes, I should. I worked my arse off for the right to call your wafting brain farts and uninformed takes stupid. They are not equal and I can give you a commissioned research paper IF YOU PAY ME.

Second, my work is not “content”. This is the problem: people only listen to people who produce “content”. I’ve spent 5 years balls deep in journals and theory and strategy FOR FREE to write a book FOR FREE whilst watching people push this anti-intellectual nonsense.

I am not in this for friends, an audience, or money. If I wanted money, I’d go back to running an Agency or consulting. I am frustrated that a hack with an opinion can lecture me about a) politics and b) how to grow an audience online. The two areas in which I am a fucking expert.. and think that’s not insulting. And gaslighting.

But again, reverse victim and perpetrator, coloniser and colonised, and you get to accuse the person who is being punched of punching down, simply because they think you’re a disingenuous grifter.

The life coaches and health bloggers and eBook sellers have found a new grift in politics, and are robbing people of their money and causing very real harm to policy, public trust and people’s mental health.

I only care about money insofar that it is necessary. Same with an audience. I have always preferred to be the behind the scenes person, and value the work. My work isn’t fucking “content”. It is my fucking legacy, of which most is in the background. I make very little money. I gave up a profitable business to pursue this important work.

I will not accept 2-bit commentators talking about my country, its politics, the internet, the left… they’re poisoning all that I hold dear with stupid opinions and actively sabotaging my work. Which, whilst it may not be fodder for outrage and easy pre-packaged answers (turns out, it’s complicated and uncomfortable), is actually rigorous and not trivial. When your content is long gone, my work will stand the test of time.

So I do not need to be civil. I do not need to debate you for free. We are not equal on this issue. To tell me that I am not allowed to be pissed about what the content factory is doing to people’s brains and wellbeing, that they are exploiters and liars and smiling assassins who are recruiting armies that ultimately feed the same power centre. To tell me that I should just try to get more of the right wing merity-merit by being a cam girl for fuckwits AND tell me that I’m not as qualified in the Humanities as a fucking mathematician & a comedian.

There is only one reason that I don’t have a PhD: I don’t see the value in spending $100k to write a watered down version of my work, and then not own my IP. Also, I am cross discipline (Politics, Comms & Psych) so I haven’t been able to find a supervisor.

Let’s be clear, I am as qualified as these people – if not more so. They use my impoliteness as an excuse but I know it is ultimately because I expose the grift. If I get airtime, the whole televangelism 2.0 scam is over, and it is shown that both sides of this thing ultimately serve the same beast, and they deliberately leave important stuff out – including the answer to the unending question that seemingly never gets answered. Nobody accurately diagnoses the root of this issue called “Cancel Culture”, because it’s bad for business.

I refuse to pander to these “content” dickbros.

TL;DR – some ideas are just stupid. Some people are just dumb.

And just because you’re famous for “content” doesn’t mean you are an expert, and it’s okay to tell people on Twitter that they’re being dumb without having to expand on why.

Just not at a peer.

I honestly think that a big reason why the IDW-types are so drawn to this idea of “civil discourse” is basically a power flex to put people who laugh at their superficial takes on the back foot, and feel like they have to engage their stupid ideas. Like the “far left” premise. haha.

It is also fundamentally anti-left and anti-socialist to demand civility. People have the right to be mad. They have the right to be rude. And, there’s a whole bunch of oppression and fuckery that is wrapped up in politeness. It’s not what you say, it’s what you don’t say in the land of gurus and branding and spin, and that is obvious to anyone who pays attention.

I pay attention to the gaps. I pay attention to the spillage, the non-verbal, the stuff that is left out. And that is that the whole US Culture Wars is one big hot wet fart that leaves a stink on discourse, on the internet, on politics, and ultimately the rest of the world.

It is a funny old thing though, the people preaching for “civility” on one side, and “inclusion” on the other (Coke vs. Sprite, same coin two sides), and the Conservative censors that have always existed… all whilst a literal dick flies through the air and we teeter on the brink of World War Three because you lot can’t just shut the fuck up for two minutes and heed any warning that doesn’t come from Oprah. Ultimately, it is all a big ruse for the big Imperialist bully in the room, and the Woke and anti-Woke alike in the content factory are the people with the stupidest political ideas who pretty much wouldn’t get a seat at the table if not for the insistence on Inclusion, or Civility with the common goal of being everyone else’s Word and Morality Police.

I passionately believe in making political education, media literacy and civics more accessible to people. In fact, I think that is my superpower. But it is also not necessary in the content factory, because understanding and answering questions is not the point. The signals get lost in all of the noise, and then it blames you for being impolite and calling a fuckwit… a fuckwit.

People don’t understand ‘cultural hegemony’, but if you say ‘hot wet wafting fart’, they immediately understand the concept enough to move onto greater understanding. This is more powerful than impenetrable, inaccessible jargon that says little, is usually wrong, and is not interested in a call to meaningful action from the powerless.

I’ve spent so much of my life trying to please the fancy people behind desks who love using big words to stop ordinary people from understanding their own power and the world around them.

I’d rather be free to communicate in ways that I know works, and give people …HOPE.

The thing I love most about (real) politics is that when you understand how it all works, it is absolutely magnificent.

Real life intelligent design.

It is empowering to know how it all works.

Culture wars doom & gloomers sell nothing but fear and the opposite of hope.

I know we focus on the minutiae of differences – that’s pluralism at work – but the fact that we have all these systems that largely keep us all getting along… that’s pretty spectacular. And the history of the left wing will tell you that a) civility is the least of our concerns and b) this is precisely the critique Marx and Bourdieu had of the Middle Class telling working class people they needed to be respectable. Fuck off, shill.

I am allowed to be angry. I am allowed to think what you have said is stupid. And I do not owe anyone my time without payment. After all capitalism is the best, right? Everyone sets their own price, right, and if you won’t pay, you don’t get me, right?

If you’re calling Australia Authoritarian, not only is it stupid: you’re serving the US Far Right. That’s a fact. Regardless of intent.

That is not a “you’re part of X tribe”, but that you are perpetuating bullshit that benefits them and feeds people’s delusions. They’re really not well right now and you’re not helping. It doesn’t matter what the issue is, it is being used. Also, MYOB Yanks lol

If it gives you comfort, I know some of the people who are in the government roles. They’re chill. Chill.

And, America: fuck off. You can have an opinion when you can tell me three things about the Australian political system without Googling or point to me on a map.

Yeah. Thought not.

Australia is not authoritarian, no matter how many times you say it. Stop being stupid. Fuckwit.

ooh, you
saucy minx!

I see you. Sitting there. Seductively scrolling and clicking like the flirt that you are, reading and watching my stuff.

OK I can’t really see you, this is just a text box and I ain’t the CIA. I’m not watching you, I swear. Unless you want me to and the price is right. Ahem.

Anyway, sign up if you want and I might write to you from time to time. I’m cool. We’re cool. 

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