Comment of the Day: “Yale’s Bigoted Dean And Pazuzu”

I admire this perceptive comment about cyber-rudeness posted  by crella  in respense to the recent article on the Yale dean who was addicted to posting Yelp reviews that mocked and showed her contempt for various classes of citizens, like “white trash.” I’m also pleased to recognize her long-time contributions to the discussions here. They are consistently articulate, thoughtful, and civil. Her post makes the important point that people show their true character in their online discourse, and crella’s online discourse here shows intelligence and sensitivity.

Here is crella’s Comment of the Day on the post, Yale’s Bigoted Dean and Pazuzu:

Social media has dumbed-down society far faster than I ever thought possible, through fostering the need for outside validation (likes, views, numbers of ‘friends’) and the brevity forced on the user on some platforms (Twitter’s 140 character limit). In combination, these two conditions have almost wiped out in-depth discussion; you can try, but you’ll likely get a ‘tldr’ for your efforts (‘too long, didn’t read’ but then they’ll post their opinion anyway)…and, instead of reasoned arguments, snark level has become the new indicator of intelligence.

All these factors are evident in Chu’s actions. I was puzzled as to why anyone would send out a blanket email to let everyone know she was a Yelp Elite. Being bumped up a category for most restaurant reviews is a strange thing to want attention for, but perhaps any internet ‘fame’ is good? The snark as intelligence factor is prominent in most of her reviews, she’s too good for many of the places she’s been, better than the people serving her. It really went so far to her head she couldn’t see how nasty she had become, it was normal amongst Yelp followers, but not outside of it.

People often say ‘but I’m not like that in real life’. I do not , and never have, understood people who claim to change once in front of a keyboard, but say they’re not really like that…I’m reminded of something my Dad used to say when he’d catch us trying to get away with something, after he listened to all the impossible explanations “Well, were you lying then, or are you lying now?” Once you show yourself online as a pretender, liar, or as really nasty to other people, you’ve (general you) shown me who you are, despite that being ‘not really who I am’. If you become someone who mocks and attacks people with ease, that IS who you are.

30 Comments

Filed under Character, Comment of the Day, Etiquette and manners, Social Media, U.S. Society

30 responses to “Comment of the Day: “Yale’s Bigoted Dean And Pazuzu”

  1. Junkmailfolder

    Great comment. Along those same lines, I’ve suspected for about a decade now that social media will end up destroying any semblance of civility we once had, due to the nature of most comment boards–both anonymous and far removed from seeing immediate repercussions of unsocial behavior. Like you said, “I’m not like that in real life” will eventually become you in real life.

    I know there are countless factors, but I’m going to go ahead and blame all of today’s craziness (and much of the fodder for Jack’s posts) on the growing lack of empathy and civility caused by these phenomena associated with social media use.

  2. dragin_dragon

    First, crella, congrats. That is actually an excellent observation. One of the salient factors about the Internet is that it allows users, in many cases, to remain anonymous. One point about people on general…if you want to know a lot about a person in a short time, find out what he/she will do when they think nobody’s going to know who is doing it.

    • valkygrrl

      “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
      — Oscar Wilde

      • Oscar was really something, wasn’t he? Anyone’s list of a perfect dinner party that doesn’t include Oscar is incomplete.

        • valkygrrl

          It’s funny, or maybe sad.

          Back when I was in high-school I’d heard the name so many times but knew nothing about Oscar Wilde, der internets weren’t quite as widespread yet, I didn’t even own a computer. I could have gone to the library, picked up an encyclopedia, instead I went to Barnes and Noble and found him in the literature section, bought a copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Still have that same book, Penguin Classics edition on my shelf today, sitting between Orlando By Virginia Woolf that I bought the same year, and my Jane Austin Omnibus that I bought a year later. It’s sort of silly, in the age of kindles, to keep them, but there they sit.

          • I keep ALL my favorites in hard copy! I have several bookshelves (6 by 3 foot) full of good reference information, old friends, and diverting/challenging concepts (one is just full of Sci-fi)

            Electronic storage is fragile. Computers fail. You have to burn or drown books.

            If you read the EULA for Kindle, iBooks, and other online book providers, you will see that you do not own them. You have rented them for an indefinite period, and if the seller chooses, they can take them back (unless you burn a copy.) Of course, most folks I know never bother to make a copy of music, or books, or any digital media, so if crap happens, the stuff is gone. Research what Amazon has done to people who moved across the wrong line on a map in Europe: thousands of dollars in digital media gone without recourse.

            • valkygrrl

              I backup my kindle files and project Gutenberg backs up all the public domain work.

              But I still manage to keep a lot of dead tree books, not just my shelf of honor with the signed ones and my 1891 copy of Anderson’s Fairy Tales (which is obviously not signed.)

      • I think that’s a useless quote. Or at least poorly worded.

        If Melvin Schlubknuckles builds 10,000 bridges but harbors a secret attraction towards 5 year old girls, but was raised knowing that acting on such an impulse is wrong and therefore he never ever does so, I could care less that were he given the opportunity to confess those desires he did, because in his real life, NEVER even alluding to those desire and NEVER acting on them, He’s Melvin Schlubknuckles, the great bridge builder. And that IS who he really is.

        I think when a person puts on a mask and feels uninhibited or better, when all consequences are removed, that doesn’t reveal who someone REALLY is…that just reveals who someone would be if all consequences are removed. But that isn’t real life is it?

        I think another great indicator is someone under incredible stress. But that doesn’t reveal who they REALLY are as though they are “fake” when under no stress. All it reveals is how they behave under stress, it’s not a different person.

        • You have to consider the quote in the context of Wilde’s life, though.

        • This is a good topic to explore, Tex.

          Is a person defined by what they say, or how they act? What is one’s true character? Does it matter if one has unspoken and un-acted upon impulses, and do the existence of these change character?

          I have to approach this in several use cases, which break down in themselves. Note this is dealt with in the abstract: no one is a cardboard figure, and people are complex. Still, I think something is to be gained by the examination (and I have some time this morning 🙂 ) Opinions are my own, and my logic is as objective as I can make it.

          A person who says and acts as he has spoken has true character. This is the traditional ‘straight shooter,’ the one seen as honest and open in his dealings. Such a person doubtless has unspoken inner thoughts and impulses (human nature does not change) but they remain just that: inner thoughts.

          A person who says one thing but does another does not have character. This person may not be deliberately lying; they just have a weak will and/or little personal discipline. Much of the population falls into this category: the ‘not in my backyard’ folks who (for instance) support wind energy but not enough to spoil their view of the bay; those who support racial equality but would not want their daughter to marry ‘one;’ or those who want the government to take other’s money to pay for things those taxpayers do not want, but then look for every loophole they can to not pay themselves. This person is comfortable with hypocrisy (or at a minimum, not disturbed enough to be consistent with their words) and signals virtue while really not believing in the cause. Such a person might have unspoken impulses, but is far more likely to act on them due to lack of personal integrity and discipline.

          A subset of this person type is a deliberate liar. This person is a manipulator, one who never intends to follow through, but wants others to act in a way they will not, for any variety of reasons. Most politicians are this way, as observation will demonstrate. Many criminals and fraudsters fall into this category, which tears at the fabric of society by undermining trust, without which civility and common cooperation vanish. They rely on most people being either too weak or too principled to stop them. They take advantage of other’s civil behavior persecute or rob them. Character is a trait to be taken advantage of, to this type.

          Our society has, over centuries, evolved the concept that honest, civil behavior is desired. This is because any other method destroys society, sooner or later. If honesty is gone, everything sinks to the lowest base truth that cannot be denied.

          A civil person who cannot believe what another tells him will have to go look for themselves before making a decision (the bridge is out.) If faith in money fails, a civil person will only trade in tangible goods (or labor) on a personal basis (as in Venezuela.) If law enforcement no longer protects one’s life, liberty or property, that one will seek to defend themselves (like New Orleans during Katrina.)

          All of these scenarios are less efficient, less peaceful, and less productive than an honesty based society. It takes more man-hours to get the same returns than simple trust, which is why honesty is preferred as a natural requirement for civil society.

          (Note this does not ignore that some will be criminals, taking and abusing as they wish: it is because human nature produces criminals that self defensive measures (be they skepticism, barter, or physical protection) are necessary.)

          Draw your own conclusions as to what the current tempests and failings of society will bring. If honesty is indeed necessary, that happens when (as we see every day) apathy, dishonesty, and outright fraud are spreading like a cancer? I fear we will find out.

      • “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” — Oscar Wilde

        I view the “man” referred to in this quote as a man with poor character.

        That said…

        There are plenty of valid reasons for anonymity in today’s world of instant gratification where your entire life can be distributed across the world wide web in a heartbeat. How about this for a valid reason for maintaining anonymity; keeping a promise to your family that you wouldn’t comment under your own name because of a past history where a cyber stalker turned into real world stalker.

        The problem I have is that some, not all, that create anonymous online personas are simply not being themselves, their online persona is a facsimile of what they perceive their ideal self to be. My observations are that this seems to be more prevalent in younger generations that are still forging their character, the older we get the less we care about what others think of us and we focus on what we truly believe and say what we really mean.

        The core of my character was forged many years ago when I was a Freshman in High School, it started with being told by a wise man to “say what you mean, mean what you say, and do what you say you’re going to do; without those three things as the building blocks of your character, you’re character will be flailing arms in the winds of change.” What really cemented it into my character was a real world application of that concept was put in my face the day after hearing it; I still remember both days in vivid detail.

        Be yourself whether your identity is anonymous or known.

  3. A.M. Golden

    Yes, that’s exactly right. Another way of thinking about it is a line I read in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”: If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.

    I’m sure Rowling didn’t originate that concept, but I’ve been pondering that line for a few days now since the original post. While “inferiors” is not the PC word these days, one can substitute it with “service workers”, etc. Clearly, the Dean truly is like this and lacks enough self-awareness to think that her contact list would agree that her snarky attitude passes for great wit.

  4. Congrats, crella. Well stated.

    What these idiots do not realize is that NOTHING online is anonymous. No one cares to find out, is all. Sometimes that bites an offender (not often enough)

    Texas is looking at a law to unmask cyber bullies in an attempt to stop the behavior (and/or punish it) I begin to believe this is how we restore civility to public discourse: make people accountable for their actions.

    • It’s surprising to me that people still behave badly knowing they’re on camera. There are so many cameras everywhere that there is a real chance that any action will be recorded. Yet people regularly do things that are astoundingly stupid and can be proven with an ever present eyewitness. I’m not sure a lot will change if cyber bullies are unmasked. People forget that they are being observed.

  5. Steve-O-in-NJ

    Bullseye. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it is not the way to knowledge or understanding.

  6. Other Bill

    facebook and twitter remind me of being in sixth grade. A bunch of us would assemble underneath a big shade tree every morning about ten or fifteen minutes before the bell. It was the elementary school equivalent of gathering around the water cooler. We only had time enough to share a few jokes or make a few snarky comments about something we all had in common: our teachers, our siblings, the girls in the class, sports. Being cheeky and cool was the common currency. Then the bell would ring and we’d have to get to work in the relatively real world of the class room.

  7. Neil Dorr

    Jack,

    “… like ‘white trash.'”

    I’m not sure why that needed quotations marks. It’s not like the term is particularly offensive (lots of white trash accept the name with pride) and it’s accepted vernacular, so its not like it’s coded language that needs explanation.

    I understand why it was inappropriate for her to post about it, I just don’t understand why you’re otherizing it’s usage by segregating it like that.

    • It isn’t offensive? from Wiki…

      “White trash” is a derogatory American English racial slur referring to poor white people, especially in the rural southern United States. The label signifies lower social class inside the white population and especially a degraded standard of living. The term has been adopted for people living on the fringes of the social order, who are seen as dangerous because they may be criminal, unpredictable, and without respect for authority whether it be political, legal, or moral.[1] The term is usually a racial slur,[2] but may also be used self-referentially by working class whites to jokingly describe their origins or lifestyle.

      In other words, it is exactly like “nigger.”

      • Junkmailfolder

        Except that it targets white people, so it can’t be derogatory. It’s part of my privilege to not be offended.

      • Neil Dorr

        Jack,

        Everyone I know who is white trash proclaims themselves as such. I’ve been called that an was never once offended; the label was just incorrect. It’s like being called a gay. Not offensive, just wrong.

        • Same comment used to apply to ‘nigger.’

          Calling someone ‘white trash’ in my community and you may fight. Those who live like the definition will object even if it is true. They may be poor, but they have pride.

          I suspect you live away from true rural poverty, Neil, so may have a different experience and friends. Come to the hill country north of San Antonio (Comfort, Junction, Menard, a spot on I-10 ironically called Welfare, on out to West Texas,) and you will truly find trailer parks rivaling shanty towns in Mexico. The terms trailer park trash or white trash are interchangeable, and just as fiercely resented.

  8. Zanshin

    crella wrote, “People often say ‘but I’m not like that in real life’.” and “ If you become someone who mocks and attacks people with ease, that IS who you are.

    Another way of looking at this phenomenon is provided by the movie Groundhog Day .

    Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) is the arrogant and egotistical weatherman for local station WPBH-TV Pittsburgh. He has disdain for those with whom he works as well as for his viewers.
    As Phil relives that same Groundhog Day over and over again, he goes through a myriad of highs and lows. But as he comes to the realization that Groundhog Day may be his fate for eternity, he also comes to other realizations, such as that his actions have no long term consequences, but that knowledge, especially as it relates to Rita, can be a powerful and dangerous thing. But he is given opportunity after opportunity to get the day “right”.
    (Above paragraph based on texts from imdb.org)

    So, who is the real Phil Connors? The one in real life or the ones while reliving all those Groundhog Days; I wrote ‘ones’ because there are so many different Phil Connors.

    • We hope that the character learns and grows, which make the movie more than a comedy: it teaches and encourages. If Phil can learn, there is hope for everyone.

    • My mentor in ethics, Michael Daigneault, believes that the film is the perfect metaphor for how we learn to be ethical human beings.

    • Zanshin

      For those who have more or less the same view point as slickwilly and Jack here is the another way of looking at this phenomenon.

      Whenever you encounter a person — whether behaving well-mannered or like an asshole — you just have to realize that that person is just living out a groundhog day. ‘Tomorrow’ (which could mean, according to Buddhist viewpoint, a next live) that ‘same’ person could live another groundhog day.
      Whatever behavior this person shows, show this person all the compassion you have knowing that this person is on his way to to become an ethical human being.

      • This is the Golden Rule, Zanshin.

        If (when) I am being an unethical asshole, I would like someone to correct me. Therefore I should use compassion and discretion in my reaction.

  9. Agnes

    Very well said.

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