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Post-Rapture Thoughts: You're Not Going To Like This - The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal
May 23rd, 2011
10:02 am

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Post-Rapture Thoughts: You're Not Going To Like This
I wasn't immune to the Rapture humor: at 5:59, I sent a text out that said, Just in case the Rapture is real, I thought you should know that I lo

Still, you know, the amount of mockery was getting to me. Yes, it's a stupid idea that we could predict the exact moment when God would start the apocalypse, and that this moment would be at 6:00 p.m. on the dot, sweeping across the world like a devastating second hand on a global stopwatch. The concerns of the Raptured were pretty dumb, too - one guy expressed concern that if the Rapture did start in Australia, what would he do if the damned rose up in terror around his home in California? How would he protect his family from these rampaging, foolish atheists, arriving with shotguns to kill and maim?

Dude. If you get killed early, you're still going to Heaven. Relax.

Yet all the jokes and scorn and finger-pointing felt like the Internet had found another human pinata - as it seems to be doing these days. Find someone without any merit, someone who holds onto dumb opinions, and unload every barrel in their direction! And yeah, some folks tried to justify it by saying, "Oh, no, what I'm mad about is the money spent when it could have gone to charity" - but the majority of the tweets and blog posts were about "HA HA WHAT DUMBASSES" and very little about "These people are wasting their money on bad causes."

These folks are dumb. Let's make jokes at their expense.

As someone who was an easy target for jokes at one point, I'm never really comfortable with the dogpile. Sure, they chose to promote a stupid religious idea and as such they made themselves a target... right? Well, except when I grew up in Middle School, reading J. R. R. Tolkien was the dumb idea I was promoting, and I made myself a target by liking fantasy, and oh the jokes did flow. I mean, seriously, who cared about stupid walking trees and wizards when there were hairstyles and legwarmers to be considered?

I think a society should be defined by what it does to people with opinions it thinks are not worthy of its protection. And by that standard, we're back in middle school.

When I see this kind of laughter, what I see is this ugly human spirit at work: Oh, thank God they've given us a good reason to not have to hold back! Now we can spend all our time thinking of ways to humiliate them! Because once you mark someone as unworthy of simple human respect, you not only can, but should unload a big ol' can of ha-ha IN THEIR FACE. It's as though we're all waiting for this moment when someone's shields are down, because we've been waiting to kick someone and here they are!

Thing is, I feel bad for the Rapture people, dumb as they are. I read the story of the main Rapture guy in New York, the guy who spent $140,000 on billboards to alert everyone, and one of the things he did on his "last" day was bring all sorts of treats to his mother, who was 94 and in a nursing home, who he visited every day even though she apparently didn't recognize him. There he was, concerned that she'd be okay even though he was convinced that she'd be lifted up later that afternoon. A single man, trying to connect with someone who was already lost to him.

That $140,000 was his retirement savings. He's probably going to have real financial troubles now. What happens to his mother? Where will he live? How's he going to feel, walking down the street, with everyone pointing and laughing?

And I thought, yes, it's a dumb move. But people lose that kind of money all the time on dumber shit - hell, if he'd lost $140,000 gambling, would we all point and laugh? If he'd spent $140k on QVC because he was a shopping addict, would it have been as okay to paint the target? Hell, his lost $140,000 was dumb, but he genuinely thought the end of the world was going to happen. He didn't have to spend a damn dime; he was going to Heaven, or so he believed.

Truth is, he spent his $140k in a misguided attempt to help people. Because he was concerned that people might not know. Because he genuinely thought that people might wind up in Hell, and wanted to make sure they didn't.

He was wrong - blatantly wrong - but compared to the guys who just tossed $140k into the casinos because they thought they'd hit it big this time, his efforts are somehow noble.

That's the problem I have. Yes, on one level it's funny. But on another level, it's just not. This guy's whole life has been affected by this, and potentially his mother, and he's not that bad a guy. (There are a lot of people who think that "preaching to the unconverted" is the worst sin you can do, as if being personally inconvenienced by an external opinion is a deeper crime than, say, swindling or robbery or rape. I'd disagree. It's intrusive and disrespectful, which unquestionably makes it a character flaw - kind of like, you know, the people who want to ban cigarettes in any public place even though there's no real evidence that second-hand smoke kills - but there are far worse flaws a person could have in isolation.)

What I see is just sadness. He's going to be marked for life. And the others, the ones who didn't commit quite so heavily, are going to look back on "the day we thought we were gwine to hebbin" as though it were some embarrassing fad they were once into, like cargo pants or Pokemon. And they won't take this opportunity to look at everything in their lives and realize that they believe a lot of foolish shit, and maybe if they can be suckered into believing that there are probably real flaws in their life that can't be plastered over by the application of an unquestioning faith in God. They're just going to be these stupid sheep all their lives, chasing after the next thing that distracts them from the terror within that they're not good enough.

And I see the sadness of a liberal party that spends its days going out of its way to mock religion in America, a bunch of supposedly rational people who never quite seem to realize that religion has been here for thousands of years, it's not going away, and if they were as scientific and logical as they believed, then maybe they'd realize that taking cheap shots at a belief that something like 76% of the population seems to believe is not their road to a long-term victory. I'm not saying you have to accept it - but the constant undertone of "GAH, STUPID RELIGIOUS PEOPLE, EVERY PERSON WHO BELIEVES IN GOD IS A MORON" that, as a religious person, I see in the liberal party means that the Conservatives get to be the only people who cater to that movement. And they've been eating our lunch for years.

Just to clarify: the Rapture folks were pretty dumb. But I still feel a little uncomfortable with the eagerness with which we, the Internet, is willing to jump on the indefensible flavor of the week.

That is all.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/108895.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(235 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

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From:andrewducker
Date:May 23rd, 2011 02:08 pm (UTC)
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There's a massive difference between mocking a person who holds a belief, and mocking that belief.

To pick on an individual and laugh at them feels like bullying, but the idea that there are ideas out there that aren't open to having their ridiculousness discussed and jokes made about them is one that I strongly oppose.
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From:theferrett
Date:May 23rd, 2011 02:12 pm (UTC)
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There is a minor difference. If you're in the room with someone going, "Bwuh huh huh, how dumb is it that an idiot can believe that gay people should actually get married?" and then proceeds to make a lot of pointed jokes about the idiocy of such an opinion, it still feels much like they're taking shots at you. There may be an objective difference, but that person just took a potshot at a core belief of yours that is a part of who you are.

I think ideas should be mocked. I have a problem with the dogpile where for a day or two, everyone finds it open season.

Edited at 2011-05-23 02:13 pm (UTC)
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From:robyn_ma
Date:May 23rd, 2011 02:19 pm (UTC)
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It wasn't just the atheists who made fun. A few Catholics on my Facebook were laughing, since Catholicism rejects the whole rapture thing. Not to mention the many Christians of all stripes who pointed out that the Bible says we won't know the day or the hour. Not to mention non-Christian religious people who were, at best, a bit nonplussed by the whole thing.
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From:theferrett
Date:May 23rd, 2011 02:25 pm (UTC)
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True.
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From:radiumhead
Date:May 23rd, 2011 02:21 pm (UTC)
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I dont know. I get your point, and its nice that you can feel compassion for people, but the religious right makes life really hard for a lot of people. My anger towards them kind of outweighs the pity.
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From:troutwaxer
Date:May 23rd, 2011 03:02 pm (UTC)
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I agree completely. The role of religion in our culture has become completely odious. It keeps us from making good long-term decisions as a nation, and it bogs our political process/attention down in nonsense which is fairly useless, like constant attempts to roll back woman's rights, or attacks on Gay people, diverting the discussion from stuff that's a lot more important, such as global warming or the banking crisis. The disgusting alliance between the GOP and the religious right is incredibly damaging to our democracy and it's destroying our educational system, which is attacked on one had at the funding level, and on the other at the level of teaching science.

One of the most potent weapons we have against the religious right is the ability to mock them, and it's my belief that they should be mocked as often as possible, because that's a very effective way to end their influence.
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From:atreic
Date:May 23rd, 2011 02:22 pm (UTC)
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kind of like, you know, the people who want to ban cigarettes in any public place even though there's no real evidence that second-hand smoke kills

That's witty sarcasm, right, not an invite to me to bombard you with public health statistics?
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From:theferrett
Date:May 23rd, 2011 02:27 pm (UTC)
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I've read enough statistics to feel fairly comfortable with the non-danger of it. You can feel free to bombard me, but then I'm sure other smokers will bombard you, and the chances I'll read your evidence soon enough to respond is slim.

So it's your call.
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From:radiumhead
Date:May 23rd, 2011 02:26 pm (UTC)
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Your post makes me wonder,though-where do you draw the line-when does it get to the point where everybody can agree that something is just fucking nuts, and declare open season on it?
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From:theferrett
Date:May 23rd, 2011 02:27 pm (UTC)
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If it's really that stupid, like Holocaust denial, I'd rather that we just quietly ignore it rather than giving it a platform of any sort.
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From:pharminatrix
Date:May 23rd, 2011 02:29 pm (UTC)
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Hey, thanks for writing this.

And I see the sadness of a liberal party that spends its days going out of its way to mock religion in America, a bunch of supposedly rational people who never quite seem to realize that religion has been here for thousands of years, it's not going away, and if they were as scientific and logical as they believed...

...then they'd realize that most of their logical positivism really hasn't moved much since the 19th Century. Where it took root during the birth of the factory. During the utopian fits of the super-rich, who didn't understand that replacing human labor with machines only means more free time if you can afford it to begin with. During the Age of Empires, which, OH HAI UV COME A LONG WAY BABY. Somehow, our liberal party has jumped on the secular bandwagon without examining its origins, or the cost of running spirituality out of town. And there are costs. Compassion, which you covered. And where God has been extracted, the assembly line takes its place. Anyway, that's a bigger rant than needs to happen here, but suffice to say, your nuanced compassion at the top of my friendslist was way better than Folgers in my cup.
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From:troutwaxer
Date:May 23rd, 2011 03:05 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, because God and the Assembly Line are our only two options. We couldn't possibly make a third choice which was different than those two choices, which are clearly the only two choices possible.
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From:shandra
Date:May 23rd, 2011 02:29 pm (UTC)
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I'm American-Canadian and just when I think I have a reasonable handle on things I get to a leap like this:

"And I see the sadness of a liberal party that spends its days going out of its way to mock religion in America"

Do Democrats mock religion or is there another meaning to 'liberal party'? What I found interesting about this weekend was the way the media picked up on the Rapture story and ran with it - is that part of what you mean by party?
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From:lots42
Date:May 24th, 2011 12:13 am (UTC)
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The media picked up on partly because it involved that which they love most, lots of people dying.
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From:ewin
Date:May 23rd, 2011 02:30 pm (UTC)
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I agree with this, and share your feelings on the dogpile in general... though I did find a lot of the jokes amusing and spread my share. It was like the internet used it as an excuse to party, rather than necessarily be mean-spirited, but I'm sure it wouldn't be taken that way by a true believer. It would hurt. And you're right. The mass impulse is mostly feral.

But there is one thing that catches me:

Because he genuinely thought that people might wind up in Hell, and wanted to make sure they didn't.

That's not an innocent thing. This single desire is responsible for so many excuses for persecution, and so many families torn apart, and so many refusals to be open, and just... so, so much tragedy and unhappiness.

As a former "true believer" in many, many of these kinds of things, I only speak from experience. I spent years miserable over the certainty that half the people I knew and liked were going to Hell, and would have done anything to convince them to change whatever it was that I believed was sending them there. The desperate desire to keep people from going to Hell... I'm trying to think of anything on earth that it's done that was good, and I'm having a lot of trouble. It's fear-based, and fear-based things are rarely good. They're usually abominable.

Nothing in the world is scarier than someone who believes differently from you, coming to HELP YOU come what may.

It means a lot that he spent that time with his mother, and it means a lot that nothing that he did was condemnatory or coercive (I'm assuming?). But boy, am I glad he was in the minority.

A lot of that mocking is social pressure, a defensive measure by our culture attempting to shame him and keep him in the minority. Which may be cruel, and it hits the wrong people all the time (as you've experienced), but if he appears to represent a danger, that's pretty much how society is going to deal with him.
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From:troutwaxer
Date:May 23rd, 2011 03:07 pm (UTC)
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The worry that people are going to hell is responsible for witch burnings, the inquisition, and a whole host of religious wars. However, I should note that the inquisition got to keep the goods and money of all the people they tortured, so good old fashioned greed played a role too.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 23rd, 2011 02:40 pm (UTC)
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Totally agree. Mostly this came from twitter, which is always full of people trying to make the best joke, and after a while I just got sick and tired of it. Some very foolish people believe a foolish thing: have a chuckle about it, then move on. At this rate I dread to think how obsessed people are going to get with 2012.
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From:ccr1138
Date:May 23rd, 2011 02:49 pm (UTC)
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Agreed. I mocked the idea a little myself, but I would feel slimy mocking the actual believers.

I appreciate your point about liberals mocking religion -- tolerance is their mantra except for the bible thumpers. The worst thing about it IMO is that rational religious people are made to look a little more nutsy-cuckoo every time some wingnut pulls a stunt like this.
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From:usmu
Date:May 23rd, 2011 03:47 pm (UTC)
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I'm curious: where do you draw the line between rational and irrational religious people?
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Expand
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From:virginia_fell
Date:May 23rd, 2011 02:51 pm (UTC)
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I can feel bad for the credulous desperate brainwashed Rapture believers and still use them as an object example to people who--absent an opportunity to see blind faith from the outside--would repeat their mistakes. Having it be someone else's theology isn't enough, otherwise all the Christian crusaders in our country would have asked themselves serious questions about their revulsion toward Muslim jihadists. That is too many leaps, and requires too much self-awareness, as further evidenced by people mocking the absurdity of Bin Laden receiving 72 houris to cavort with for eternity who instead believe it is far more reasonable that he's trapped on a fiery metaplane full of demons and devils who will think of creative ways to make him suffer forever. The lack of ability to critically self-examine means that sometimes it takes a really extreme example of what it looks like when people actually believe what most Christians only say they do. Mockery is useful, particularly when an idea has power. Christian theology has power.

There is a huge huge difference between, "Mock this child forever! He reads about wizards and hobbits! He is a loser and deserves to have no love!" and "Mock this idea! It is ridiculous and destructive to people who really believe it! People who only claim to believe it... well, they're encouraging the loonies, but at least they're not throwing away their kids' college funds or slitting their children's throats."

This here. "I think a society should be defined by what it does to people with opinions it thinks are not worthy of its protection."

There are a lot of those marginalized ideas, but Christianity (including the idea of the Rapture) is ruddy god damn well not one of them and no amount of atheist smugness on Reddit makes that less true. Christianity and its theology are treated like special delicate unique frigging snowflake flowers in need of protection and coddling simply because they're important to the people who believe them (and to the people who only feel pressed to claim they do). There's something fucked up in the logic that mocking an idea that survives not because of its worth but because of its prevalence and power is like bullying a child.

Christian theology doesn't sustain itself by being rationally sound or scientifically accurate or even by producing unusually moral people. It sustains itself by keeping and holding social power. Attacking its irrationality and inherent bullshitness will not diminish it enough to make room in this world for everyone else; attacking the esteem that protects it is, and that is once again not even remotely the same as picking on a frightened and lonely little boy who likes the wrong sort of literature.

Mockery of a powerful idea is resistance, not bullying. If you can't see the difference, then I have to wonder about this zero tolerance policy toward ridicule and vocal criticism that you seem to have. Religion in my country--unlike a nerdy child--has layers and layers of special protections insulating it from any kind of accountability, and when something has that kind of power the only way to effectively erode that power is through mockery. If you can't handle anybody or anything being mocked without the MOMMY DADDY STOP FIGHTING PLEASE NO CONFLICT OKAY PLEASE response, then that's your deal.
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From:usmu
Date:May 23rd, 2011 03:14 pm (UTC)
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I second this notion.
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From:zillah3
Date:May 23rd, 2011 02:52 pm (UTC)
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Thank you. Just, thank you. For both your post and the comments you have made, thank you.
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From:usmu
Date:May 23rd, 2011 03:10 pm (UTC)
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The fact that religion has been around for thousands of years does not make it right. Pogroms have been going on for hundreds of years and nobody would say that's an argument for the tolerance of Jew bashing. Doesn't make religion wrong either. The only thing it shows is that the human psyche apparently needs some sort of ultimate answer. The question that goes along with it is which flavor: christianity, buddhism, determinism or what have you.

Along the same line: this lets jump on the mock the weirdo bandwagon isn't confined to the internet. It's part of human nature to include yourself in the group by jumping on the outsiders. Pogroms are a rather unpleasant example. Due to the way the internet operates, it's not only far easier to find outsiders, but being an insider requires a lot less work. As such it magnifies the parts of that aren't so obvious in real life.

deleted comment and reposted it due to overstating length of time of the existence of pogroms
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From:theferrett
Date:May 23rd, 2011 04:46 pm (UTC)
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The fact that religion has been around for thousands of years does not make it right.

It does not make it right. But it also makes you pretty supremely stupid if you're trying to get influence in a country that's 75% of these people and going, "Well, they just don't matter. They're stupid."

You may not agree with them. But you'd damn well better find a way to work with them, because they're not vanishing and you ignore that at your peril.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 23rd, 2011 03:24 pm (UTC)
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this post


NEEDS MOAR BEES 2
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From:chaos5023
Date:May 23rd, 2011 04:05 pm (UTC)
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At the risk of flirting with Godwin, I sometimes think that being one of the Nice Religious People Who Doesn't Hurt Anyone is kind of like being an ordinary citizen of Germany in 1940. You haven't tortured and murdered any gay teenagers or burned any witches or widows or blown up any buildings or attempted to commit genocide of any ethnic groups, sure. They're just things being done in the name of, with a well-known if arguable ideological basis in, a belief system you support with your affiliation, an affiliation from which you reap and enjoy benefits.

I'm not married to this position, but it troubles me. And of course it's not like being an ordinary citizen of the United States of America during the Oil Wars is any better.
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From:chaos5023
Date:May 23rd, 2011 03:53 pm (UTC)
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A distinction you're overlooking between the Rapture people and the geeky kid is an interesting one that I recently ran into in context of Wikipedia's handling of biographies: "high-profile" vs. "low-profile" individuals. Your low-profile individual is, in summary, some schlub minding his own business, and a high-profile individual is someone who actively seeks and engages with publicity. There's a feeling that when someone fights to place themselves in the public eye, they're signing up everything that comes with that.

The Rapture people were not quietly waiting for the revelation of the eschaton in the peace of their homes and churches, and then those mean internet people found out and made them a laughingstock. They were actively engaging in public promotion of their beliefs, placing them as aggressively as possible in the public marketplace of ideas. The entire purpose of putting your ideas in the marketplace is so people can react to them. They also have no obligation to react in any particular way.
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From:theferrett
Date:May 23rd, 2011 04:47 pm (UTC)
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By that standard, the kid who stands up in the cafeteria to talk about how awesome this Tolkien book is has become high-profile, he's signed up for every bit of mockery that comes his way. I don't necessarily agree with that.

Furthermore, as in discussing with Andrew Ducker, I've agreed that people don't have an obligation. But there's a distinct difference between "You don't have to do this" and "But it would be nice if you did."
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From:theferrett
Date:May 23rd, 2011 04:48 pm (UTC)
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Truth.

Well put.
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From:anivair
Date:May 23rd, 2011 04:02 pm (UTC)
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the rapture thing doesn't bug me because what they believe is ridiculous. What *I* believe is no more or less ridiculous. It bothers me because it shows a distinct lack of understanding of the actual material they choose to believe in. the rapture is based on a vague passage in revelation which was not a prophecy at all, but a code for discussing Rome. It isn't about the end of the world. it never was. And even if it was, somehow, about both things, the idea that you can calculate it out is absurd and the idea that it is literal and not poetic is not only absurd, but clearly incorrect.

Yes, their religion is silly. So is mine. So is everyone's. But if you're going to believe that, at least know what you're believing. I am just as angry about modern pagans who insist that Easter is a stolen holiday about a German goddess and her faithful bunny or who say that Jesus' life is a mirror image of that of Horus (hint: it's not). I don't decry the faith, i decry the willful ignorance that accompanies this brand of it.
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From:lunabird
Date:May 23rd, 2011 04:30 pm (UTC)
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I've personally specifically avoided commenting on this entire load of rapture nonsense until now because I refuse to validate it. A small subset of people believed something that appears ridiculous to the population as a whole and took a variety of harmful actions based on those beliefs. This isn't a new story -- one only has to recall the tragedy of say, Heaven's Gate, nor is it an overtly religious story, consider the people who've committed suicide because they think they'll wake up in the universe from Avatar as Na'vi.

Because I believe that the beliefs espoused by this small subset of people are ridiculous, and may potentially lead to harm I've refused to signal boost them in any way. Even in mocking some validity is lent to their cause. In the majority of cases the bad decisions they have made due to their beliefs are their own -- it's a free country and if you want to blow 140K on billboards, then that is your business. In a minority of cases the bad decisions had much more dire consequences -- such as that one mother who tried to kill herself and her children to dodge the coming 'tribulations'. That minority should be treated as tragedies.

I am a politically active and out atheist. I believe that religion exists like any other human institution in that it has the capability to do good or evil because it is ultimately made by humans who have the capability to do good or evil. Because of the way that religion mediates reality is is an institution with powerful consequences. It is not inherently evil, or stupid. It's just a source of fairly potent power, and thus, can attract those who desire to abuse power for whatever reason.

I do think there is a 'teachable moment' buried somewhere in here, where we try and get people to develop some degree of healthy skepticism regarding their belief systems -- at least enough that they formulate a 'plan B' just in case the world happens not to end. I don't think though that right now, so close to the event, is the time to go digging for it. Ultimately I think it's our job right now to keep our mouths shut about the whole thing -- I'm pretty sure the rapture folks by and large know they're eating crow -- and to try and help smooth over the damage caused by the poor decisions that have been made due to it. Even if one is unwilling to help those who made the decisions pull their lives back together it's a cruel thing to insist that their children should have to suffer the consequences of their parents' actions.

Reposted to correct a typo.
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From:theferrett
Date:May 23rd, 2011 05:16 pm (UTC)
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I've personally specifically avoided commenting on this entire load of rapture nonsense until now because I refuse to validate it.

And I think that's a wise decision.

do think there is a 'teachable moment' buried somewhere in here, where we try and get people to develop some degree of healthy skepticism regarding their belief systems -- at least enough that they formulate a 'plan B' just in case the world happens not to end.

Sadly, I don't think there is. I'd like to think that it's a moment for somebody, but most of the people involved just reset their calendars and keep on truckin'. Which is a shame.

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From:kneefers
Date:May 23rd, 2011 06:38 pm (UTC)
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I love everything about this post, thanks for making it. :)
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From:kibbles
Date:May 23rd, 2011 06:54 pm (UTC)
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Yep.
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From:beerjudge
Date:May 23rd, 2011 06:55 pm (UTC)
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(I haven't read all the comments so I apologize in advance if I'm repeating someone else.)

I think a large part of the mockery was from those of us, both spiritual and non-spiritual who are tired of the influence religion has in our daily life. Creationism being taught as science, phobia against same-sex marriages, etc. This was a way of saying, "See, this shit is so stupid."

That said, I see your point, we were piling on in a way I've not seen the internet do in a while.

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From:scarfman
Date:May 23rd, 2011 07:27 pm (UTC)
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This is why I wince every time someone speaks or writes about Rebecca Black. Not because of her video, which I haven't seen (though I guess I've seen miniscule excerpts on Stephen Colbert), but because the dogpile offended me.

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From:anonymousalex
Date:May 23rd, 2011 07:37 pm (UTC)
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I am operating from some ignorance, as I do not think I'm tuned into what "the internet" is doing these days. However, my own mockery of this past weekend's no-pocalypse was pretty much reserved for the head honcho, Harold Camping. Who, if news reports are to be believed, has taken in tens of millions of dollars preaching his various end of the world fairy tales.

You are correct that these things are a matter of degree, and there's a degree of piling on that is too much for any person. I don't think any of the people who sincerely believed what Mr. Camping put out deserve much if any. Mr. Camping, on the other hand, probably deserves more than he got.

-Alex
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From:miintikwa
Date:May 23rd, 2011 08:34 pm (UTC)
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To me, beneath the "haha, look how stupid!" is relief. A "Whew, they WERE wrong!" type of nervous laughter. It could be just me, but I find a lot of mocking to come from more complicated emotions.

And, too, it's the Internet Pile-On mentality. I just posted today about finally reading the Mercedes Lackey book that caused an Internet Kerfluffle a while back, and going "really? THAT was what had people so pissed off?" The herd mentality makes piling on anonymously so easy-- too easy, if you ask me.
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