Saturday 23 June 2012

Comments on comments on comments.

“I’m going to put a knife in your chest as you sleep, and burn your house down around you with your family still inside”

This wasn’t the first death threat I had ever received, but was the first I copped on facebook. Since that time I’ve received hundreds of threats to my life, wellbeing and reputation through the same website. Maybe even thousands of them. And all this has been because I have often stood up for the lesser privileged in our society.

I love the people of the typosphere – because of the similar interests that they have to me. Their respect and appreciation of the beauty of those writing machines, and the confidence that ‘typewriters’ are not yet an anachronism. They also understand the passion and wonder of writing – and the places that the written word can take you, along with the freedoms that it brings. Some write about scrapbooking. Some write about guns. But they do so with absolute freedom.

The more I read from the people in the typosphere – the more understand their appreciation of that beauty, and the more I feel at home.

But two blogs this week talked about the context an ugliness in our online society, and quickly dropped it into my typosphere world with a thud. Firstly; John Birmingham (yes, he of the ‘throw the typewriter off the bridge’ fame) wrote a very pointed blog about anger on the internet – and in internet blog comments and forums. Later, I read a typecast form Word rebel over at their “Conversations with my ID blog” about the scathing criticisms they had copped on a writers website, in the comments on an article that had been posted about people still using typewriters.

Many of these comments ranged from the stupid to the abusive. Almost every time someone writes an article in the media somewhere about typewriters, you’ll have someone ask rhetorically “Does anyone still make typewriter ribbons”? oddly ignorant to the fact that – if someone is still using a typewriter, there’s still ribbons being made somewhere.

But that obligatory stupid question is nothing compared to the inevitable hate lumped on ‘hipsters’, and how somehow typewriters have become a symbol of hipsterism. Again, this hated raised its ugly head in this discussion, and the people who feel the need to label others with such limited names, seemed to be the ones who were the least limited in their understanding of how the world works around them.

There were also plenty of people giving instructions on how people should get rid of those typewriters and start using computers. As though they felt like they were instructing their aging grandparents on the most basic tools of computer use, and fighting against an attitude that was against their beloved technology. I hate to say it, but the level of ‘stupid’ was high with these people, as they seemed to be ignoring that this discussion was taking place on the internet, over computers and advanced digital communication lines – with people who clearly knew how to use computers and were currently actually doing so.

The ‘Labelers’ – the people trying to bunch typewriter users into the ‘hipster’ stereotype (see what I did there?)  – give us an insight into what is really happening behind the scene. By grouping people into such groups, we often apply judgements onto them, and assign a criticism on an observed behaviour, which they then can tar the entire group with.

We all essentially do it. Dealing with lots of people individually is a difficult thing to do. So we often organise them in our heads with people of similar characteristics. But often when we do, we start to forget other traits of that person that doesn’t fit that stereotype.

Are you a Muslim? A black? A man? A gay? We all have these little stereotype groups organised in our heads. Heaven forbid if we have to deal with a Black gay male Muslim.

However, as much as we almost always mentally organise people like this, many of us also have judgements that we heap on these stereotypes, and turn them into negative stereotypes.

That’s the funny thing about the internet – it has allowed an even greater level of puritanicalism and self affirmation as people have been able to live out lives reading millions of articles that self confirm their convictions – without ever having to read someone questioning it. The internet has made knowledge sharing easy, and bullshit spreading even easier.

On top of that – armchair social commentators have become heroes in our society. They attract news every time they say something controversial, and as such many have many people mimicking the boldly judgementalism and black and whiteism that radio shock jocks, editorialists and Fox News commentators love to spew. Their messages are deceptively simple, and yet people live their lives and make powerful decisions based on them.

And to that end, the comments and abuse on the article that Word Rebel had written about have stemmed from such a puritanical, judgemental and often self-righteous place. People invest a lot of their self-esteem in having the media confirm their way of life. As such they feel a level of righteousness – yes, an almost religious ‘I’m on the right path, fear ye who deviate’ affirmation.

Some of you may be familiar with a website called ‘Ravelry’. It is a knitter’s website. They recently were talking about having a ‘Ravelympics’ on their website – in celebration of the Olympics, and suddenly found the United States Olympic Committee breathing down their necks about violation of their trademarks.

Before everyone was in full receipt of the facts , there was such a torrent of heat and scorn poured onto the USOC on the Ravelry website that I heard it described as a ‘Knitter’ storm’. There was a ferocious defence of their knitting activity, which relied heavily on preconceived ideas about themselves along with the USOC that had for a fair part been ill considered, and frequently factually incorrect.

 It is hard to understand where all this hatred and anger comes from on the internet. Understanding why you are hated for saying ‘Hey, I use a typewriter and I like it’, is difficult to understand. To us, it is something that makes us happy and forms an important part of our lives. But to have it hated by others – especially has it has absolutely no baring on them what-so-ever seems to make no sense.

But I have found comfort in understanding that this is because of their personal lack of self-esteem, that they need you to be just like them so that they can feel that they are actually living their life in the righteous and meaningful way. They haven’t managed to break their own personal happiness away from their need to feel accepted by a wider society.

It makes me sad to think about it like this, as I feel that they themselves haven’t found those things that they can enjoy that can give fulfilment in their lives, because they have limited themselves to a path that even the most minor things must align to – even if they are never likely to change the outcome of their own lives. And need the affirmation of others to feel good about themselves.

I can sit down and write a letter to someone in America, or the UK, or France, or even Ethiopia on a typewriter and enjoy it, no matter how much harder it is to do compared to doing it on a computer. They cannot. I’ll debate with them in discussions for as long as I feel comfortable, but ultimately – I intend to never let someone damage my own happiness.

Oh, and I’m not a hipster. I have no problem buying a t-shirt at K-mart.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Very well put, Scott. It's ironic that the Internet, which has done more than any other human invention to make a variety of opinions available, also enables people to harden their opinions by seeking out those who agree with them and anonymously slamming those who don't.

    1. It is very frustrating seeing such a great thing as the net used this way Richard. But at the same time it has changed our lives greatly for the better, and I can't help but feel sorry for the people who turn it into such a shitfight, as their lives are clearly lacking quality.

      I love a good debate. But I don't like one where people are more than happy to cram some halfwitted opinion down my throat thinking that it will convert me to their way of thinking. *SIGH*.

      Thanks for your comment. I did see you cop a few abusive comments from one of the trolls following that article. You came off with your dignity though. Well done.

  2. I find the whole thing outrageous. It's the average pissing contest of 'my (thing) is better than your (thing)', with an attempt to discredit and incorrectly label one group as a means of proving superiority in some way, shape or form. I choose to ignore it as a whole, and just go on typing. Let them have their hate and skepticism. In turn, we shall have cheaper typewriters!
    Seriously, though, I have read through the comments, many of them directed at our beloved typosherians, and they are without warrant. A hobby or something of this nature is nothing to get irate about, but it can just be chalked up to people being 'hardcore behind keyboards'. These are things they would, most likely, not say in person, instead hiding behind the anonymity of the internet to 'troll' us, as it were.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am saddened to hear of the threats on your life, but again...the internet hides these cowards behind glowing screens.

    1. I'm not too stressed about the threats. Keyboard commandos are everywhere. By the time I had copped that threat the I wrote above, I had already received far more serious ones at other stages.

      I completely understand where you're coming from. Go into an iPhone forum, and you'll find it filled with Android phone trolls trying to justify themselves. Even in the comments on iPhone news articles.

      And yes! We DO get cheaper typewriters! I love it when people find positives, you're dead right.

  3. Hey, at least they don't follow us to our blogs. (:

  4. Whenever I read comments following just ANY article these days, there is the inevitable backlash of negativity and dismissal from many people.

    These ignorant folk seek validation. It is sad, and sometimes I become exhausted reading such narrow-minded comments.

    But I cannot do anything about it (although I often feel the urge to respond) and I believe that the best course of action is to IGNORE all such ignorant comments.

    Responding merely fans the flames and brings out the trolls, and will not convince anyone to change their narrow, misguided opinions.

    1. I hear you. I often struggle to weigh up the need to just let them be, and thus reduce the anxiety for everybody, and the need to debate and challenge strongly held ideas taken from bad thinking.

      I mean, the world doesn't change if you don't try, but sometimes when you try people just dig in and become far worse.

      Humans. We are capable of amazing things, and amazing stupidity.

  5. I really should proof read my stuff sometimes. I just re-read through this. Oh dear.