“home schooled by a dog”: what I learned from the Maestro

Posted: May 21, 2015 in philosophy, politics, social media
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This is the first of what I hope will be many posts for a re-imagined, re-focused Sniperhunter2012. As this post deals with the Internet as a tool for communicating ideas, and for practical interactions with others, the timing seems like (excuse the fuzzy term) kismet. Following up on comments left in response to a Facebook Group post I made, and due to conversations I had with other folks later, I’ve learned – or rather, re-learned a basic lesson. The Internet is simultaneously the best and the worst forum for discussing ideas.

I made my acquaintance this past week with a gentleman who calls himself Maestro Maahanmuuttaja. Identifying himself as a student of psychology, Maestro is a member of a political discussion group I belonged to {ed note: I no longer belong to the group}. Maestro had responded to a meme I had posted (the details of which are irrelevant to this discussion) which  included a quote from a philosopher, lecturer and author. Maestro’s initial comment? That the meme author/individual quoted was “clearly…a person that was home schooled by a dog”.

Keep in mind for a moment that Maestro’s beef was twofold. One: he complained about “grammatical error’s, misspelling etc.”, and two: his strong disagreement with the meme’s moral premise. Let’s start by stating that there were, in fact, zero misspellings and that while the quote was grammatically challenging, it was nonetheless grammatically correct.

The conversation between us eventually devolved into a ‘says you’ ‘says me’ back and forth – mostly about who was less informed than the other. I was accused of being unable to ‘read, write or post’. Maestro pointedly ‘suggested’ that I correct myself, lest he bother to continue. He also acknowledged having a short attention span. He complained that my response to his initial comment was ‘too long’ to be bothered with.

If I understand Maestro’s reasoning, it appears that he is saying that online communication should be limited to short bursts of opinion accessible to those with limited attention spans….and that facts matter less than invective. His assertion, after all, that the meme was poorly written and the author of the meme was ‘home schooled by a dog’, was opinion unsupported by any facts. In addition, when countered by facts (including the links to source material for him to check) that ran counter to his point of view, he merely kept restating his moral premise. He repeated his premise to the point of complaining that ‘experts’ had their opinions, he had his own. He insisted that it was unfair somehow that their opinions be given more weight than his.

In fact, when a gentleman schooled in a field relevant to the topic offered his opinion, an opinion that ran counter to Maestro’s point of view, Maestro insisted that the man’s knowledge of and expertise in the subject was irrelevant to the discussion. Keep in mind that the discussion between Maestro and this gentleman had become one of science, not of ideology or opinion.

Maestro declared at the end that there was a ‘conspiracy’ involved in perceiving expert opinion as having more validity than random folks who care about the same subjects as the experts – experts in matters of science, mind you. Science deals with data and proof. It necessarily requires validating data independent of one’s belief or assumptions. Though philosophy IS a science, it is presently not treated nor handled like one, even by philosophers themselves. Insisting that one’s philosophical opinion be given equal – or even greater – weight than scientific facts seems, well, insane.

Had Maestro offered data which challenged the available data – data that could be independently verified by scientists without the interjection of personal opinion – one could reasonably be on-board with hearing Maestro out – at least for the moment. After all, much of the best science often comes from previously unrecognized folks. This was NOT, however, Maestro’s approach. Maestro’s beef was that HIS opinion often runs counter to experts but is not given the same weight, despite the fact that he himself is neither an expert in the fields nor necessarily even schooled in the given subject.

Maestro’s beef with me, on the other hand, was of a simpler variety. He merely thought me uninformed, on the brink of being stupid. Maestro gleaned this from

A) a meme I posted which ran counter to his opinion (he acknowledged that because of the meme he ‘knew’ that he and I could have nothing to offer one another)

and

B) my response to his initial comment, which was long AND was unbroken by paragraphs, since Facebook comments do not allow for such.

I presume that the lack of paragraph spacing informed his belief that I ‘can not read, write, or post’, though since he acknowledged that he’d not actually read my comment, this is only supposition. Truth be told, I do not know how he could discern that I cannot read nor write, he had not read what I had written!

As I stated at the beginning, the Internet is both the best and the worst place to discuss ideas. From a meme and a single, long, unbroken comment a Net denizen decided he “knew” that I (like the meme author he had a beef with) must be “home schooled by a dog” . He ‘knew’ that my opinion was unworthy of his attention….sort of like the experts he has so much difficulty with.

On the other hand, I’ve had recent conversations of a much more intellectually honest, open and thoughtful nature. That these conversations were with two folks with whom I disagree politically made the conversations all the more encouraging, given my experience with Maestro. Both of these new acquaintances told me how they appreciated my willingness to engage without being insulting, despite our differences. Unlike Maestro, I’d not accused them of ‘being home schooled by a dog”. They responded well. Though we differ still, we also are likely to learn much from one another going forward.

The Internet is no place for folks who, though interested in the realm of ideas, have an inability to focus, to offer attention to those they disagree with, or to acknowledge that facts supersede their opinions. These are, however, apparently the bulk of the folks who prowl the Net seeking out discussion on their pet topics. Ideas are not like ice cream flavors or hair styles, where all opinions are equally valid. Ideas are also not so trivial that they should be accepted or discounted on the basis of brief bursts of words & supposition.  Memes are not philosophies. Quotes are not systems. Ideas determine the fate of people and nations. Philosophies make lives and they make history. Ideas are not playthings. They should not be treated like games, personal tastes,  or ego boosters.

Ideas in brief form, like random quotes or headlines,  cannot be challenged, explained, or understood without context, which often take much  longer than comment threads and forums allow or encourage. When we dismiss people and ideas with such arrogance as Maestro displayed based on a few, out of context quotes or based on an unwillingness to entertain the ideas with which we disagree, we all lose out.

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