Judging by the number of memes related specifically to the subject of Internet arguments, the vast majority of people online, at one or another point, have gotten themselves involved into this futile and unpleasant exercise. It's understandable: Connectivity is the Internet's primary purpose - people come together in the virtual space, communicate, discuss topics (frequently controversial)... And, when was the last time you have witnessed a discussion of a controversial topic without emotions flaring up and things getting personal? Humans are acting human - what else is new?
Of course, the Internet makes fighting especially intense. In absence of the face-to-face confrontation and a possibility of someone throwing a punch, people feel protected by the distance, their own walls, and virtual anonymity. We used to say that paper can bear anything. Well, data cables are even more tenacious. Some opponents get really wild, frequently vicious, and the keyboard gets it. It's hard to make your adversary to absorb your words in person. Online? Fahgettaboudit! Hence, the universal opinion that one cannot win an Internet argument. By the same token, people don't lose Internet arguments either - one of the sides just gives up or runs out of free time.
I personally have enough controversy in my physical existence. Plus, ever since the beginnings of the Internet, I have realized that it is not a democratic forum where everyone has the right to their own voice. On the contrary, it is the most oppressive and hostile equalizer. This is a "place" where someone with no ability to even comprehend your words and not a single shred of civility feels free to call you "a retard" regardless of who you are and of the level of your intellectual prowess. So, acutely conscious of my own time (and sanity), I simply don't engage. I just don't. I don't even reply to the comments on my own posts.
Except... That Roger Waters' open letter to Dionne Warwick... God! It was so bluntly anti-Semitic! It was fed to me by Pink Floyd's page, which I follow and, I have to be honest, it got me upset. I strongly oppose political correctness and prefer people express their animosities openly, but the fact that this stark example of hatred was masqueraded as a pro-Palestinian stance - that just stunk of hypocrisy.
Also, in person or otherwise, I usually don't get into the Middle-East arguments. Not because I have nothing to say, but because my opinions are too unusual; unacceptable to the majority of the debaters on both sides. I'm not taking any sides. And I wasn't planning on getting into it this time either. But antisemitism is not a political opinion - it's a manifestation of millennia-old bigotry. And I have a right to judge it according to my personal moral code.
Thus, for the sake of highlighting Roger Waters' thinly veiled true nature, I ignored my self-imposed restrictions on Internet and Middle-East discussions and commented on the open letter. What transpired was an incredibly typical example of an online "exchange of thoughts." It couldn't possibly come out more standardized even if I deliberately scripted it. It's literally a classic case study.
My comment was:
"Oh, a son of a British communist from Surrey is an anti-Semite? Why are people surprised? I expect nothing else. In fact, the pro-Palestinian stand is a total sham: It's all about hating the Jews. Roger Waters doesn't care about Palestinians. Otherwise, he would try to convince them to raise their children in the comfortable houses the Israelis have built instead of burning them down. But he wouldn't, because he is blinded by hatred. And how silly for him to call ANYONE ignorant! This is not the first concept he has been confused about: Remember his total misinterpretation of George Orwell? Then again, people should stop expecting enlightenment from celebrities. As humans, most of them are nothing special - just your average schmucks touched by God's gifts; the channeling instruments. And I always said that one should separate an artist from the art."
I didn't criticize pro-Palestinians or pro-Israelis in general - just expressed my reaction specifically to Roger Waters' letter. Yet, of course, it didn't matter what I actually wrote. People don't take time to comprehend the message- like bulls they only see the red flags, in this case "anti-Semite." I got almost an immediate reply from "Agus Alexander", who, judging by his latest photo, is about 20 and appears to be a student. He is originally from Ireland, spent some time in Argentina (probably as an exchange student), and now lives in Nova Scotia. (This is actually very important, because that Canadian province is heavily populated by immigrants from Arabic countries. Personal experience shows that Nova Scotian youth interacts far more frequently with Arabs than with Jews).
"So pro-Palestine is equal to anti-Semite .... Nice one I almost bought it but I'm not that dumb. You see what you are saying is either or you buy the whole pro Israel package or you are a fucking holocausting anti-Semite... Check how much deaths from each side have been through this years in this war and then refrain of your beliefs"
Note, that young Mr. Agus completely overlooked the fact that I explicitly expressed my doubts about Roger Waters' pro-Palestinian position. Moreover, nothing in my comment suggested that I consider everyone who is not pro-Israel an anti-Semite. And while I was taken aback by the suggestion that a primitive death count would change any of my beliefs (none of which I expressed, by the way), I decided to underscore my focus one more time:
"Pro-Palestinian who is not an anti-Semite (and I mean deep in the heart of hearts, not PC bullshit)? I personally have not met one, but theoretically, sure, it's possible. However, if you actually read Mr. Waters' open letter, you know that he doesn't qualify as one. And as I said, he doesn't qualify as pro-Palestinian either - just an anti-Semite."
It turns out that while I was writing those few lines, another reply to my original comment was posted. This one by Beto Gabriel - a male facebooker in his mid-30s, who occupies himself by investing his money through ShareBuilder - CapitalOne's alternative to day-trading. Remarkably (you will see in a moment!) he is an incessant quoter of snippets from Humanity Healing (a "spiritual activism" network). Here it goes (all caps are original):
"You stupid IDIOT... Palestinians dont want handouts, THEY WANT THEIR HOMELAND BACK. Yes they do hate, but its a JUST HATE. Their homeland was taken away and they became refugees in their own land... JUST IMAGINE THE MEXICANS OCCUPYING THE STATES AND TAKING YOUR HOUSE AND FORCING U OUT INTO A DESIGNATED AREA..."
As soon as I read the words "stupid IDIOT," I was out of this exchange. It was over for me. Not because I'm known to back out, but because bullies are better handled in a face-to-face confrontations. They are not really as brave in person and the arguments end much faster. My timing constraints are not a match to the luxurious freedom of a day-trader. Plus, one cannot encourage further bad-mannered insolence.
I even ignored the delicious morsels of bait such as "homeland" and "Just Hate." (Is that what they teach at Humanity Healing? How to justify hate?) How did Beto Gabriel concluded that I am an intellectually disabled person with a complete lack of reason from that one comment of mine and what qualifies him as an expert in human intellectuality? We will never know that. As I said, I was out.
For the sake of completeness of the arguments' dissection, let me note that while I was staring at Beto Gabriel's berserk outburst, Agus Alexander opened up about his true confusion a little bit more:
"I strongly encourage you Marina to think.. Outside the tv box and the popular opinion. Yes there are lots of people who consider what Israel is doing what it really is a holocaust... But they are afraid to speak because they will instantly labeled as antisemites, I have nothing against Israel except for their actions. But I respect all religions what does that make me?"
Wow! What a mess of thoughts! Plus, the little boy invites me a.) to think period (implying that I don't) and b.) to think outside of "the TV box and the popular opinion." Hilarious!!! But, of course, he has no idea who I am. And I cannot take it seriously - these people have no flexibility of mind; they learn three-four formulaic phrases, which become their slogans du jour, and they throw them around regardless of the substance of the actual discussion.
Of course, I could've replied to Beto Gabriel that if I were a nomad in, let's say, Nevada desert with no roof over my head, living hand-to-mouth, and my daughter was running around barefoot (this American boy I know, who served in Israeli Army, told me how sad those barefoot Palestine children made him), I would've welcomed any type of shelter with plumbing provided by Mexicans or whoever, let alone high-quality private housing. Motherhood carries far more important responsibilities than political stands devised by vicious males. And by they way, that Nevada desert, together with 7 giant states (1 million square miles - 117 times more than the entire State of Israel) was taken by the US from Mexico only 100 years before the formation of Israel.
And to Agus Alexander's question with regards to what his supposed respect for all religions makes him I could've answered that it makes him a very poorly informed young man who cannot expand his mind beyond his immediate surroundings. Antisemitism has very little to do with religion. My maternal great-grandparents were not religious. Yet, it didn't stop the Nazis from burying them alive in the field near their hometown together with all other Jews that lived there. The majority of the 6 million Jews killed in WWII and of those killed in pogroms before and after the war were secular. Hitler/Himmler's the Ultimate Solution documents stated in writing that ALL ethnic Jews were to be wiped out from the face of this planet; religion was explicitly disregarded. That what Holocaust means. Look it up!
I could've made a list of the times through my life I was called a dirty Jew to my face. And I could've shared how I felt listening to my parents talking about the Munich Massacre in 1972. And I might've described how terrified I was flying from Rome to New York with my little daughter at the peak of Palestinian hijackings in the late 80s.
But I didn't reply with any of that to either of the men, because they lost me at "stupid IDIOT." At the end of the day, this is what you get for breaking your own rules twice.
In all these Middle-Eastern debates, one thing perplexes me, though: Why nobody ever throws stones at the entities that initiated this mess in the first place? Don't people remember that Palestine was a British colony until 1948 and that it was United Nations' 1947 decision that implemented FDR's "visions" of giving Palestine freedom from the protectorate and creating the State of Israel at the same time? I guess 70 years back is way too much history for them.