A tousle with a Keyboard Warrior

A tousle with a Keyboard Warrior

‘Keyboard Warrior’

(Footnote 1. i. A Person who, being unable to express his anger through physical violence (owning to their physical weakness, lack of bravery and/or conviction in real life), instead manifests said emotions through the text-based medium of the internet, usually in the form of aggressive writing that the Keyboard Warrior would not (for reasons previously mentioned) be able to give form to in real life.
ii. The term is a combination of the word ‘keyboard’ (the main tool by which the person expresses his/her latent rage) and ‘warrior’ (due to the warrior-like aggression, tendency towards violence, headstrong nature and propensity towards brute force as a means of resolving conflict rather than more subtle means dependent on finesse).
iii. The Keyboard Warrior seeks to use the power imbued in his ‘weapon’ to effect death and destruction (in a strictly-metaphorical sense) upon his foes (other virtual identities he has encountered on the internet). In essence, the keyboard (ie. text input ability) allows the keyboard warrior to manifest his true warrior nature in a safe and removed environment, from which no real-life repercussions.
iv. Keyboard Warriors are generally identified by unnecessary rage in their written communications, and are regarded as ‘losers’ by other virtual identities on the internet. (The Urban Dictionary))

is thankfully a derogatory term. On hearing it i/we & the Urban Dictionary (here’s me hoping we are on the same page) think of a lonely, white, middle class person, in the suburbs, with super-fast Broadband, between 16-30 something, living at home, jobless &, between meals, preparing for the impending Tory apocalypse & adding to their George Monbiot shrine, whilst scouring the Internet for the best Hentai/Anime porn sites featuring their most loved cartoon & video game characters so they can wank their wrists cramped in an addictive, time sensitive schedule of ecstasy ———y’know, to fill the time between 2 p.m. & 4 a.m all the while probably wearing a t-shirt with some witticism on it like Star Whores or I am Beta than You. They used to be greebos, but have slightly grown out of that late 90’s fad.

With that out my system i can move on to why ‘Keyboard Warriors’. Recently i was character assassinated by one of their kind. An old pal of mine had put some meme about how to maintain your mental health at work. The guidelines were pretty obvious, stuff like, Make sure to take your breaks, Drink plenty of water, Do some stretches, Get some fresh air every now & then etc. Nothing much about the meme really suggested this was aimed at anyone other than John Smith Quotidian who suffers a crick in his neck from gawping at a screen all day, or any of your work-a-day folk with the woes of full time employment. My friend, had furthermore, tagged his chums, who assumedly shared the burden of their boring, daily graft as there was a lengthy hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah, which my friend had annexed to the close of his tagging spree.
Nothing about it was remotely to do with, or aimed at, those with severe mental collapse, schizophrenia, bi-polar or some such serious ailment; not even common depression seemed implied, just an average range of things, which my friend seemed to find funny as such options were denied him, so they seemed banal & yet impossible— benign in total.
i chimed in, & said something like you can also just get on with it & realize if you don’t you’ll have no food or shelter & no guitar strings when you thrash them snapped. My friend laughed at this & saw my point. i replied again i think sometimes people just need to suck it up. Now it is important to note the context, which is provided above, before we move on & in addition that i said people, a generalization, meaning the entire human race, but in tandem with the context suggests normal, admittedly stressed, but not chemically imbalanced people with serious ailments.
So you can imagine my surprise when his younger brother (the Keyboard Warrior) came along & said that mentally ill people can’t just “suck it up” they have chemical imbalances that prevent them from dealing with things (i am summarizing in my italics as the feed was eventually deleted, so i couldn’t quote this all verbatim). i thanked him for the chemistry lesson & said something else to piss him off. Then his girlfriend & a vegan PETA type joined in claiming that i am ignorant, i hate the mentally ill, that i am evil, i am a dreg on the brewery floor (i am being hyperbolic, they just insulted me generally) & more besides, which i didn’t memorize because, to be frank, it was all a load of guff.
i tried to explain myself, the context which i responded to & some other stuff about an ex of mine who had bi-polar, i apologized too; but nothing would stop their assassination attempt, which was very successful.

i had tried to make the whole discussion about the acceptance of work (the context), about how English people complain so much about work & should try to mirror the way work is viewed by Asian cultures. Wouldn’t budge. i remember him saying this isn’t about work or something along those lines, which of course, as you can see above, this is very much what the whole shebang was about. He brought up Aokigahara, the Japanese suicide forest, stating that he doesn’t want to live in a country where people commit suicide because of over work, which fairplay, but the place does get 4.2 stars on Google Reviews, so it can’t be that bad a place. Again though, recall the context

(FN2. This made me quite annoyed as i dislike it when a Westerner with no experience of another culture thinks they have the moral authority to criticize its customs, without knowing enough. This is Western thing).

Rather than fuel any anger or resentment, i started to doubt myself, was i a hater of the mental ailed? Was my comment to my friend somehow insensitive? i scrolled through my comments, re-read the meme, but could find no room for any charge against me. i became upset, i felt bullied. Suck it up! i told myself. Ok, so i shouldn’t have provoked him, but he also had no right to intrude on a perfectly harmless conversation between two old friends & subvert the wave length we were on, or did he? Is that how the world works for these people? Is this how it should be? A panopticon, a Big Brother within every informed person, ready to pounce & do us the service of correcting us, of policing our moral compass—can they swoop in from where ever & put everyone right, a super hero cracking skulls with a qwerty keyboard, plugged into a modem for power & masked by a VPN, to keep their identity a secret, about as subtle as Clark Kent’s specs.

The next day my friend came to my rescue, i hoped he’d be the trusted voice of reason to defuse the antagonism, as it was his brother & maybe he’d see i’m not the kind of person to spit on crippled people or urinate in the letterboxes of the mentally unstable. He reiterated that they have misunderstood the context & that they had no right to say such things to me. They then attacked him, saying much the same as they did to me. Turns out one of these two Keyboard Warriors didn’t work, can’t hold down a job for longer than a few months, due mostly to laziness, the other apparently actually having depression (which, remember, i didn’t actually insult directly), but nevertheless, apparently guilty of milking that a bit (not my assessment, i never even met the person) & pretty much matching the introductory depiction of them, not toe for toe, but enough (again not my direct assessment, because i don’t know these people).
This feels like a rant but is something resembling truth, if only because i can’t quote anyone, because the exchange (which i receded from like a middle-age hairline) got very nasty & by the next morning had been deleted. i do have a point to make, even though i think i’ve been making one, i hope;— it is, what is the driving force for this behavior? One of them actually suffers depression, but their behavior did little to nothing to make me sympathize with them. That is surely either a desire to make enemies, to shoot oneself in the foot, or hypersensitivity which led to a sort of blindness to the intentions of others, but if this were the case, why go like a bull at a gate & not try to see what is going on? Too many questions. So sorry.
i’d put it down to excessive moral policing, which is founded on the democratization of opinion & the protection of that. People have started wars for democracy & this is the cowardly, microcosm of that. For democratic conditioning infiltrates all aspects of people, not only their systems, by their etiquette & their manner of discussion & opining— centuries of democracy have evolved in psychological reflexes, ways (i can’t say for certain) that seem little studied (i hope somebody can point me in a direction for material on this).
Democracy means everyone has a right

(FN3. de·moc·ra·cy
(dĭ-mŏk′rə-sē)
n. pl. de·moc·ra·cies
1. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.
2. A political or social unit that has such a government.
3. The common people, considered as the primary source of political power.
4. Majority rule.
5. The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.
[French démocratie, from Late Latin dēmocratia, from Greek dēmokratiā : dēmos, people; see dā- in Indo-European roots + -kratiā, -cracy.)

couple that with an over-sensitive, egotistical brain, which judges itself infallible because it has the internet to prop it up, to help it react, with a speedy rebuke, in real time; then we have people who use that for achieving & defending moral superiority, to the point where they are so hell bent on being morally perfect, they don’t consider the context & make spurious, emotionally fueled claims about a person’s character, using an ill-inflected medium as the platform for their rhetoric. Facebook is no place for an argument, it does not accommodate for the subtleties that are tone of voice, inflection, hand gestures, facial expression. Facebook is an arena of egos & little productive, without co-operation can be achieved through it.
The liberal has learned a few tricks from the conservative: yell loudly, respond angrily, but there is a difference: the liberal overwhelms with tons of facts, from various sources & smugly counters anything the stupid conservatives thinks, whereupon the conservative should, so the logic goes, crumple under the sheer gravity of knowledge & be converted to the light of liberalism.
However, such a process of dehumanization is dangerous. i have read in Facebook statuses that people who vote conservatively are apparently, soulless. i mean, conservatism has an immensely ugly side, but the voters are strung along by whatever scapegoat or lies are filtered to them through the small window of media they relate to: TV & tabloids mostly;— they are just people, who go to work, raise a family, have a pint on the weekend, watch football in the pub & whatnot. They are ordinary

(FN4. i must add here that i am not one of these people, the average Joe thinks of me as one of the over opinionated yobs of the liberal intelligentsia, but since living away i have changed & i have to express this, not directly, but through a new manner of reaction to this charge, which is fine— i was never a Keyboard Warrior though, i spoke to people & used what i knew & read to try to help people see something. Was i right? Probably not, i should have been more skillful in my method of delivery, but i was young & volatile; i’ve since deodorized that side of me).

Ok, so this yell tactic makes sense, it is a natural thing to do, it is what children do. The problem being that, when you have a democratized public opinion, who is right & wrong? Because somebody can sit at a computer, sight reading articles ticking them off for ammunition, bookmarking them, like a loaded gun, does this make you an authority? In March 2014, there was a Guardian article titled ‘Keyboard warriors’ have taken over climate debate, Bill Shorten says Shorten who is still the Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of Australia said the following

“In this age of self-publishing platforms, it has never been easier for people to broadcast their opinion to the world – regardless of its veracity or foundation,” he said.
“On scientific matters, this means any outspoken blogger can pit their anecdotal ‘evidence’ and ‘commonsense’ reasoning against years of painstaking, peer-reviewed research.” (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/17/keyboard-warriors-taking-over-climate-debate-shorten)

He hits the nail on the head.

For arguments sake, as a tactic, these Warriors would not agree to this charge but might raise the right to argue as justification for their opinion & explain they are informed enough to defend that opinion. But this becomes defunct if you won’t even pay mind to the context, which, if altered, if not agreed upon, means the information they spume becomes invalid. What are you even doing then? i’ll tell you, you’re turning people away from what should be a shared progression for a more informed society, who can use information to eradicate falsities & lies. But still, an agenda persists because of the right to opine, regardless of the lack of information a person has harvested from available sources.
It feels, when you’re on the receiving end of their vitriol, as if they want only their opinion to watermark forums & Facebook feeds. We the opposition, can be discounted in much the same manner as conspiracy theorists discount doubters, by saying you don’t get it, or that you are ignorant of the truth— myopic to the realities they seem to have extrapolated from the same information. Their opponents might as well be in parenthesis. An aside, inessential to their purpose, but necessary enough to be present, if only to give the mirage of an unbiased discussion. It reminds me of Kim Seung-hee’s For Nomads series, a verse of which goes

What seals me
within these parentheses?
Who is it that is secure
only when I am within these parentheses?
What is it? Who is it? Why this fascism of desire
below this old horizon
that is held up wholly
by these parentheses? (For Nomads 5, Kim Seung-hee)

This is what it feels like to be put down (attacked is a reasonable word to use) by a Keyboard Warrior, to be barred in parentheses. They need an opponent to be combative, you take the role of cannon fodder, sometimes blindfolded, for their reactionary impulse. They cannot diet from argumentation, the dull repetition of their anti-social life compels them; like my mother who tells me the mundanity of office work means when the coffee & biscuit trolley comes around, you always tuck in— she now works from home.
Now, i’m not saying tackling issues online cannot be a necessary part of society, but it must be approached with a better tact. People don’t like feeling stupid & certainly don’t want to be overloaded with facts that have no relevance to them. There needs to be coercion through understanding. & a realization that the answers for some is not the answers for others, but that a common ground must be discovered

(FN6 This is what i’ve always understood the appeal of Socrates to be, that he didn’t know how we could arrive at truth without a lung collapsing tirade of questioning, which may not get there, but is something.)

i’d like to say i have an answer for this, but i don’t, at all, & i can’t even articulate all i’d like to say, because, it seems as if everything comes back to something, which should be & is, a wonderful freedom of modern society: that we can have an opinion & that if it isn’t totally free of barriers then it isn’t free at all. i think that is right.

Let me know your thoughts. This needs to be discussed i think. The logical (not necessarily correct) conclusion, for me at least, is a gauge with which to measure a person’s take on a matter. This raises the problem of class & privilege, education & the baloney of higher intelligence (which is notoriously difficult to gauge as i hope is a little clear by now) & neglects the autodidact, who can often school themselves adequately enough to hold their own. But if we are to be sensible thinkers, we cannot override the work of experts, we have to initially trust them & do our utmost, if we want to be opinionated, to learn as much, from as many points of view as we can— which seems to contradict what i said earlier about overloading a discussion with irrelevant “facts”. This to me suggests that the platform we use to talk & what we talk about should be selective, to avoid know-it-alls interrupting & debunking what they don’t know enough about. What to do when you vertiginously spin at the mercy of a tornado? Dunno. We can only, tolerating & respecting each other, try as one to muddle through.

26 Comments Add yours

  1. robert okaji says:

    I believe it’s easier to reach common ground in person, that online forums attract many who want their biases confirmed, not challenged. In the relative anonymity, or at least facelessness, of online discussions, polite discourse is readily discarded. The mode seems to be attack and destroy, denigrate and bully, rather than communicate. I generally evade and disengage in these circumstances, as time is too precious to waste on those spoiling for a fight.

    1. It is strange how you can get sucked in. I’d never been through anything like it. Despite my efforts to discourse appropriately i couldn’t. They just wanred a scrap. i have since put myself to silence. i only wrote this to discuss with a community i trust i won’t be linking this on Facebook. Does that make me cowardly? i think so, but i can’t bear repeatedly defending myself from someone who won’t listen, it is futile.

      1. robert okaji says:

        I’ve also observed the “piling on” or mob mentality in action, when the holier than thou folks take exception to a statement and a frenzy begins. The vitriol isn’t limited to the original statement, but extends to anything one disagrees with. I think you’re wise to avoid placing yourself in those circumstances. You’ve better ways of wasting time.

      2. The boundaries of the original context are utterly blasted at that point.

  2. What? Some human beings were uninformed, confused opinion with facts, and used information technology to weaponize their stupidity?

    Never saw that one coming… LOL!!

    1. Actually Daniel, i didn’t. I’d never thought about it in its extremity & it was baffling to me. Of course it shouldn’t be a surprise, but i can still be caught off guard.

  3. kvennarad says:

    There are one or two details here and there with which I disagree [I could, if I wished, engage in a long keyboard assault on the whole subject of democracy] but overall I believe a hell of a load of heartache could have been spared by the early invention of an ‘irony’ emoji. But while I’m here, I’ll just mention that I felt the whole ‘Monbiot shrine’ thing was a bit below the belt.

    1. Ah yes. Sorry. Probably is. i just think he’s a bit militant, quite often. Please disagree, tell me. i accept that i may be very wrong on things. Discuss away.

      1. kvennarad says:

        I find that Monbiot writes with urgency about facts that are inconvenient to those in power and wealth, and he doesn’t dress it up in frills. As such he’s entitled to be militant.

      2. Yes he does, no doubt. i don’t disagree with everything he says, or even much, i don’t think his delivery works for those who need to be changed. He just gathers like minded people, he can’t alter the patterns of those outside a liberal fold, because he is too austere, he has no leeway for non-liberals. It is no use making the people who can make a difference to the tipping point feel like idiots, they just either rebel or don’t listen.

      3. kvennarad says:

        So how could he possibly sugar the pill? (Rhetorical question)

      4. Phew. That would be a toughy. I’d seriously like to see him write for another audience, like Brian Cox being The Sun’s physicist. Cox got all sorts of people on board with thinking about science who otherwise would never have known, Attenborough & hisvdrawing people to nature, maybe Monbiot could do something similar. Corbyn writes in the Mirror too.

    2. I’d like to add that i am not liberal or conservative. I am certainly not the hyper version of either too, which the Keyboard Warrior’s actions imply. i don’t think either are the best bet, i don’t know what is, but both end up alienating someone. i don’t think politics generally is the best way, again, don’t know what is. i can irritate myself sometimes.

      1. kvennarad says:

        We all can do that.

      2. i hope so. Much is possible. i am more negative these days than ever before.

  4. Pablo Cuzco says:

    I think some people are just looking for a fight, and like a barroom drunk will go after the first person crosses their path. I had a fellow attack me, even say in caps: THOSE ARE FIGHTING WORDS, when I tried to decompress the situation by remaining passively uninvolved in his personal attacks. When he said that, I replied, you’ll be fighting with yourself, and walked away from the computer. The thing is I felt really bad, even at fault, for hours, wondering if he somehow was right. It took a lot of Zen to pull me out of that one. In the long run I decided I did the right thing. Walk away. The next day, I blocked him from my social media and never looked back. They are called “trolls” for a reason.

    1. That seems to be part of it. A hyper-liberalism or conservatism that expands the ego. It’s as if a good defense is a good offense to them, which is taken to extremities, but it isn’t necessary. It works against them. This is why i don’t pick sides.

  5. Tim Miller says:

    Daniel, I also think this has something to do with private/public speech, which has blurred a bit as of late. I remember taking an online class where I had to interact with lots of people; one was a Christian woman who said something ridiculous like, “I believe in the Bible because it’s the HOLY Bible, it says it right on the cover.” It took hours of rage & annoyance for me to respond with some encyclopedic message about when the first time the word Holy was used for the Bible, “…and by the way I have a copy of the Quran right here called The Meaning of the Holy Quran–are you going to become a Muslim now????” I was beside myself, but her response was just “yeah you’re right, I’m still a Christian.”
    In the past, her comment would have been made to like-minded people who wouldn’t have taken it so seriously; just as in the past your friend’s work meme would have only been seen by like-minded office workers who take office advice like that as commiserating humor, and don’t want real actual cynicism from somebody like you. But nowadays both comments are made in public, and seen by people like us who don’t relate, and make too much of it, or make comments that just aren’t worth making.

    And then what makes it worse is what would have never existed in the past, the Keyboard Warrior, since as Urban Dictionary says, they’d never act this way to your face. You & the other comments have already covered what Keyboard Warriors & the like have done to discourse, coarsening conversation, etc. This is why I try as much as possible to keep all real & sincere communication via email. That’s why, I think you’ll remember, after I saw a few of your comments on my blog last year that were actually intelligent & worth pursuing, I went straight to seeing if we could correspond through email. I hope you’re writing some poems now, cuz that’s what the world needs from you.

    1. i have since bowed out of Facebook commenting. Very little good comes from it. The platform isn’t ready somehow, because of what it stands for, which is something i haven’t formulated well enough to say too much about.
      i wanted this essay to address a phenomenon, but i also hope a little humour was felt & that it didn’t sound like me being bitter, because that was not the intention of the humour. These people seem to have made themselves ridiculous, the humour merely reflects that.
      Always poems Tim, i’ve sent a bundle of new ones off to Journals, fingers crossed. Today’s post is a poem after Okaji’s Scarecrow poems, which you may find interesting.

  6. lostinmist says:

    The impulse to the accusatory can be strong. Have recently been holding it down myself, tho in context of a degree of actual dismissal or antagonism from IRL. The buzz of anger can be maintained, at the cost (benefit?) of suppressing the knowledge one has caused discord and hurt, but mostly by continuing to lash out / new targets. Perhaps the subjects have experienced some actual hurtful bias or disproportionate sanction in the past, and have not been able to come to terms with either that, or how their own acts might have fed in, and so the reaction to the shaming et al is a continuing aggression / aggrievement searching for targets, ungrounded. The momentary causes of our past suffering being blown out of all proportion by replaying, yet also suppressed recognition of their role as driver.

    Not to say that is the only explanation. The role of new technology and a twelve pack of beer can also factor in. When one pops off at friends over dumb things, one suffers for it. When new to facebook, one types things that would never have been said, not grasping the dynamics of platform (or why messages might not be rapidly returned). Arrogance of POV; we all have it to some degree. The lack of insight into others’ differences and unknowns, the over or underestimation of our own truth, and also how far it can be read wrong across the interpersonal chasm.

    Not to go on into an enumeration of all the pathologies, injuries, or stressors that may factor in (hangover can stoke irritation as strong and volatile as drunkenness, but which feels aweful rather than delightful as one example)

    Mindfulness is one helpful thing, but of course one cannot impose it, and suggesting it in the argument might just provoke.

    One learns the technology / culture vortex, hopefully, and adjusts. But some may persist for years without consequence, or notice of consequence, and so fail to learn.

    OTOH, some may snap only rarely and feel the error in the morning.
    Got to cut it here. To avoid another facet, that once you wade in with one statement, it can wind on forever into dozens without care.

    Totally see your position. Yet the impossibility of stating any single thing to completeness and precision (a lesson learned from writing on speed) ::

    1. You’ve filled a few gaps in my essay for me, cheers for that.
      It seems sensible to assume past hurts (i think that is what you mean), or a feeling of not living up to expectations perhaps & this leaking out into a flurry of moral policing that just pushes people away.
      i had a problem tying this piece up as it seemed i could have expanded upon a few points & trying to accurately get at it would have cost me a lot of words & no readers, so i did the only thing i thought was right & that is to ask what people think & let the essay spill into comments. i don’t know everything & i don’t mind people constructively disagreeing & telling me something contrary, i encourage it, but i don’t want to argue about it, nothing is solved by it.

  7. kvennarad says:

    What about ‘hyper-centrism’? That’s a position that regards left and right as ‘extreme’ but is in its own way extreme, accepting the status quo with its many injustices and believing at the same time that a little socio-legal tinkering really can ameliorate things. Often condescending where keyboard warriors are uninvitedly outspoken, it is amongst the ranks of the hyper-centrist that apathy is made a virtue of and tokenism a salve to the conscience. Discuss.

    [Daniel, I’m not saying this is your position.]

    1. O i have no idea my position anymore. People may pick up on things, but i couldn’t say.
      You make a valid point. Of course. i don’t really have an answer. There are things that need to be altered, i don’t deny. i don’t know if it is necessarily fair that everyone should assume responsibility, so a hyper-centrist has as much right as anyone else.
      i want to reiterate that though i don’t agree with the tactics of the keyboard warrior, i can’t say they are not entitled to behave that way. i don’t say the democratization is something that must be stopped, as i said, the logical conclusion is a hierarchy of who is allowed to think for us, which doesn’t work. (i want to say. i am discussing, i don’t mean it to sound curt or defensive, i am not angry or anything. i am keen to learn what you know & just because i can’t say “you’re absolutely right” doesn’t mean i don’t respect your opinion.)

  8. Hi Daniel, just some quick and irrelevant comments (wish I had time to be a keyboard something) 1 suck it up is a call to courage in my book. 2 There are so many category separations of us humans based on disability, difference etc. and they’re being reinforced. Equality is not about denying empathy and interbeing. Being told by a stranger you can’t imagine what it’s like blah blah may be true sometimes but it’s best to start with the opposite assumption especially since not everyone wants to make their categories public.

    1. i wish i’d thought about that Steve, that’s a good position to arrive at nothing “irrelevant” about i,
      i do think pity or too much charity can be belittling sometimes, but that the system is there if people do want it, isn’t something i can see any fault with. i think i read somewhere at some point that pity felt like a form of abuse to some people with “categories” so that is certainly something to bear in mind.
      Thanks Steve for the input. Something i hadn’t thought.

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