There’s an exciting debate going on in Sweden about näthat (hate on the internet). It started – or rather, flared up – after the airing of SVT’s investigative program Uppdrag Granskning, which methodically revealed some of the frightening verbal abuse that takes place on or through the internet. Several individuals subjected to näthat were portrayed – all women – ranging from public commentators and bloggers to private individuals. One young girl happened to say the wrong things on H&M’s Facebook page and soon faced a raging mob of commenters. The show was titled, seemingly provocatively, Män som Näthatar Kvinnor (Men Who Hates Women on the Internet) – which is likely more accurate than many are willing to admit. A fair share of näthat – the sort depicted in the program – is highly gender-centric, sexualized and directed towards women by men.
There’s much to say on this issue, but I’ll pick this one, perhaps most important item; that all of this so called hate is first and foremost this: vapid and vacuous. Huffing and puffing. That’s because the source of the affect is not grand ideas or personal convictions of the perpetrator – but plain frustration. Hot air venting from his own perceived inferiority; from an ego being hurt by the display of strength and intelligence by others (narcissistic injury). Cheap attacks on vulnerable targets is the only weapon he has got.
It’s not about hate or even real anger – it’s about relieving oneself from self-contempt by projecting it onto others through rage and intimidation. In that sense, the attacks are hollow, transient and not personal (in contrary to how the subject surely experiences it); de-personating the subject is indeed desired by the aggressor since it lessens the invocation of guilt.
In a later segment of the Uppdrag Granskning-program, the reporters searched out and confronted the authors behind some of the hateful comments with their own words. Rhetorically quite effective, needless to say. As expected, once forced to stand up to their words, without the perceived protection of anonymity and implicit validation from other commenters, the majority reversed their earlier, seemingly staunch positions and harsh words and turned to excuses and explanations. Many apologized or expressed regret. The monster died at the very first glimmer of daylight.
Herein, perhaps, lies some hope. The typical “hater” carries a lot of frustration and preys compulsively on others for relief. There is, of course, some risk that threats may actually be carried out; under influence from group pressure etc. But the beast is really a sheep. He’s fearful. He has no voice and no words. It is much more likely that he is a normal person with normal capacity for empathy than him being a sociopath or sufferer of any other type of emotional impairment. The idealist would probably say that all he needs is a hug now and then. That may be, but until then, we should adopt more vigilant moderation of the Internet space to keep the light shine in.
As always, sensitive political issues are most effectively addressed with satire, and few are more skilled at that than the SNL crew:
Update. None other than Abe Foxman, the ADL head, has raised his voice in denunciation of the skit, expressing his “deep concerns” in a public letter to SNL (note that the skit never aired officially – the above clip is just a rehearsal). While admitting that “this is classic satire of the SNL variety”, he worries that for a “smaller minority”, “elements of the skit could play into the worst kind of [anti-semitic] ideas”. While that’s of course true, the same logic can be applied to any satire or anything at all really. But that doesn’t stop him from poking at quite basic free-speech rights by “wish[ing] that someone had exercised better judgment by keeping this piece from going up on the Internet”. Nevertheless – if Mr Foxman really does worry about hotbeds for “the worst kind of ideas”, he should focus on the absurdities of the actual hearings instead of parodies thereof.
What most people really are saying:
I am attractive. I am intelligent. I am sophisticated. I am successful in what I do. I have many friends. I have fun. I have a beautiful family. I have a big house. I am humble. I realize that what I do here is really just a form of public bragging and therefore make sure to veil it by inserting a petty mishap or pseudo-failure now and then.
Or, in my case:
I get bitter and annoyed by people’s self-promotion and make sarcastic blog posts about it.
Please tell me how the onslaught of graphic, acronym-titled TV-crime dramas about horrific deaths with mutilated, burnt, dismembered, disjointed human corpses in close-ups on crime scenes and autopsy tables do not eventually have a desensitizing effect. I mean, it’s one thing for a coroner or an experienced forensic officer to develop ways to distance themselves emotionally from grisly realities of their profession, but to normal people – supposedly the majority of the TV audience – the sane reaction to most of that would be repulsion. Yet here we are watching the TV-characters speak casually over maimed bodies or joke while drilling through the scull of a murder victim. Too much of that can’t be good.
IAS is one of the central organizations of Scientology. A group of Scientologists from Victoria, Australia are so thrilled to be members that they sing, dance, rap and Elvis-impersonate about it.
– All right, all right, they’re good people. But as members of an abusive cult, some ridicule is due. I’m sure Scientologists don’t mind. Oh, wait.
Update. Video down. Not surprising. Scientology is extremely protective of their materials and blocks content everywhere relentlessly. In today’s internet-era however, that’s a losing game. So, to spite their efforts, here are two more brainwash-themed songs. The first one if from nearby — Denmark. The second video is an old Band Aid-inspired Scientology production from 1990. In it, the top exec’s of the time can be seen in several pass-by shots; of which the majority have now left, went missing or become outspoken critics of the church (Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder, to take two).
Swedish Mosques claims adherence to Swedish law while simultaneously asserting that the laws of the Quran – permitting e.g. polygamy and mild physical violence against “disobedient” wifes – are immutable and ever valid.
Glad we sorted that out.
This is, to be fair, a solid improvement from an earlier investigation, conducted with hidden cameras, which revealed that nine out of ten Imams actively defended illegal activities, including polygamy and physical violence, and dissuaded women from reporting such crimes to the authorities. The latest investigation indicates that those revelations did initiate debate in the Muslim community, which is positive. The prospect of a centralized or at least regulated Swedish Imam education, to counter those in extremist countries like Saudi Arabia, is yet another positive sign.
Bruce Willis fears that stricter gun laws will end up robbing him of his right to bear arms, supposedly clueless that his own government now claims the right, in the name of national security, to rob him of his life, without a trial or even a motivation. We’ve seen this dissonant complex of assertiveness and ignorance before: