Chicago Boyz

                 
 
 
What Are Chicago Boyz Readers Reading?
 

 
  •   Enter your email to be notified of new posts:
  •   Problem? Question?
  •   Contact Authors:

  • CB Twitter Feed
  • Blog Posts (RSS 2.0)
  • Blog Posts (Atom 0.3)
  • Incoming Links
  • Recent Comments

    • Loading...
  • Authors

  • Notable Discussions

  • Recent Posts

  • Blogroll

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • The Internet Rewards Crazy (Rerun)

    Posted by Jonathan on March 25th, 2019 (All posts by )

    (This is a reposting of posts from two and seven years ago. Unhappily, this post’s themes are more relevant than ever. The Internet seems to be changing human social relations, business, politics and civil society in significant ways not all of which are clear. Perhaps the nature of what is happening will be better understood with time.)

    —-

    Crazy, overconfident; the opposite of the judicious, scientific, skeptical temperament.

    Extreme opinions.

    Stubborn.

    Bombastic.

    The opposite of thoughtful.

    Changing your mind frequently, discarding what you were excited about last month and buying into something new today. Normal? Perhaps not. But typical of, for example, successful commercial bloggers who write about gadgets, electronics, photo equipment, etc.

    Mass-market crazy — the opposite of Wretchard’s idea about people with rare perversions who find each other online. The crazy of promoters, attention whores and drama queens of both sexes, people who argue forcefully for provocative ideas and startling conclusions based on biased data sets. People with agendas that are not always obvious. People who cynically start quarrels to get attention.

    Also real crazy, people with issues, people you would avoid in the physical world. The guy from the mail room who knows the specs of every WW2 German tank and has interesting conspiracy theories. On the Internet, if he writes confidently, he can be an authority on military history, at least for a while. People who are just plain disagreeable, who repeatedly make and alienate friends online. People who move from one enthusiasm to another, forgetting their last obsession as they focus on the next one. A few of these characters really do have unique, well developed ideas that deserve wide attention. For them, and for anyone who benefits from their work, the Internet is a boon. But most of these people are cranks. How can the reader know who is what?

    In some cases crazies do well online in the short run because they believe their own bullshit and the Internet strips away many of the tells. It can take some time for reasonable people to realize what kind of person runs the website they have been reading, and then to start to reexamine what they’ve learned there. In the long run sites run by crazy people tend to accumulate crazy audiences. Crazy commenters tend to drive out the sane. We all know sites of this type. The worst of them encourage rather than buffer extreme behavior. And the same is true of the sites run by the hucksters and bombastic monomaniacs.

    There is no formal remedy for any of this. It’s just how the Internet is. It’s driven in part by the online cost structure: information that used to come free in the form of accents and voice inflections and body language and local reputation is often no longer easily available. Crazy, devious and manipulative people exploit the void (not intentionally in all cases, it’s just that online we can’t filter them out as readily). And it’s driven in part by human nature. People tend to be attracted to strong opinions, confidently stated. Thus, as countermeasure, we need continually to remind ourselves about our cognitive biases. We need to be intellectually cautious. As we learned in the old world to be wary of salesmen, telephone solicitors and anyone who seemed to have all the answers, in the Internet world we learn to watch out for similar kinds of people, perhaps in different guises. There is nothing new under the sun, but once in a while we are forced to remap our old expectations and learned responses to a new environment.

    UPDATE: Social-media mobbing probably deserves its own category in this taxonomy.

    UPDATE 2: In the comments, AVI (responding to this post before the above update) says: “I would narrow it even further and say that more than anything, social media leverages people with personality disorders.”

     

    5 Responses to “The Internet Rewards Crazy (Rerun)”

    1. Mike K Says:

      It’s driven in part by the online cost structure: information that used to come free in the form of accents and voice inflections and body language and local reputation is often no longer easily available.

      There is a lot that is useful. I watch YouTube videos on how to clean and field strip Colt 1911s

      and how to assemble tank models.

      Plus, of course, in politics the Rather-Mapes attempt to affect the 2004 election was exposed by a blogger in less than an hour.

      Lots of trash but some good stuff that would never have been available.

    2. TRX Says:

      > But most of these people are cranks. How can the reader know who is what?

      Let’s see… a degree conferring an MD or PhD? Nope, full of cranks there. An office with a title like “Judge” or “Senator”? Nope, plenty of cranks there, too. Membership in a professional society? Nope. Years of experience in the field without being imprisoned for malpractice or similar incompetence? Nope. Generation of academic papers for peer review? That’s pretty much junk now, too.

      In the end, you have to go with the one who puts on the best front, and keep watch for any signs that they’re wearing aluminum foil under their hairpiece…

    3. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      I would narrow it even further and say that more than anything, social media leverages people with personality disorders.

      One in particular.

    4. Bill Brandt Says:

      Someone was interviewing Julia Dreyfus, who played Elaine on the wonderful sitcom Seinfeld.

      They asked her if she’d like a reprise of the series.

      She replied that they couldn’t do it, because there would be no talkinkg in the restaurant scenes.

      Everyone would be on a smartphone.

    5. Bill Brandt Says:

      I’d say this is spot-on. Also, anyone can be anything on the Internet. I have a bit of cynicism; maybe too much. I will say with the Neptunus Lex group on Facebook, everybody gets along despite the occasional divergent opinion. We’ve even had national get-togethers meeting these people in “meatspace” (what a term).

      Maybe it was the kind of people his website attracted (the trolls would be culled eventually); maybe it is the demographic. Probably a little bit of both.

      Look at all the fraud (and sometimes murder) that has been done by people on the web upon victims who had no idea who they really were.

      In any event, even the founder of the www is disappointed in what it has become:

      https://nypost.com/2018/11/01/founder-of-world-wide-web-disappointed-in-what-it-has-become/

    Leave a Reply

    Comments Policy:  By commenting here you acknowledge that you have read the Chicago Boyz blog Comments Policy, which is posted under the comment entry box below, and agree to its terms.

    A real-time preview of your comment will appear under the comment entry box below.

    Comments Policy

    Chicago Boyz values reader contributions and invites you to comment as long as you accept a few stipulations:

    1) Chicago Boyz authors tend to share a broad outlook on issues but there is no party or company line. Each of us decides what to write and how to respond to comments on his own posts. Occasionally one or another of us will delete a comment as off-topic, excessively rude or otherwise unproductive. You may think that we deleted your comment unjustly, and you may be right, but it is usually best if you can accept it and move on.

    2) If you post a comment and it doesn't show up it was probably blocked by our spam filter. We batch-delete spam comments, typically in the morning. If you email us promptly at we may be able to retrieve and publish your comment.

    3) You may use common HTML tags (italic, bold, etc.). Please use the "href" tag to post long URLs. The spam filter tends to block comments that contain multiple URLs. If you want to post multiple URLs you should either spread them across multiple comments or email us so that we can make sure that your comment gets posted.

    4) This blog is private property. The First Amendment does not apply. We have no obligation to publish your comments, follow your instructions or indulge your arguments. If you are unwilling to operate within these loose constraints you should probably start your own blog and leave us alone.

    5) Comments made on the Chicago Boyz blog are solely the responsibility of the commenter. No comment on any post on Chicago Boyz is to be taken as a statement from or by any contributor to Chicago Boyz, the Chicago Boyz blog, its administrators or owners. Chicago Boyz and its contributors, administrators and owners, by permitting comments, do not thereby endorse any claim or opinion or statement made by any commenter, nor do they represent that any claim or statement made in any comment is true. Further, Chicago Boyz and its contributors, administrators and owners expressly reject and disclaim any association with any comment which suggests any threat of bodily harm to any person, including without limitation any elected official.

    6) Commenters may not post content that infringes intellectual property rights. Comments that violate this rule are subject to deletion or editing to remove the infringing content. Commenters who repeatedly violate this rule may be banned from further commenting on Chicago Boyz. See our DMCA policy for more information.