Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Last Gasp of Youthful Idealism

Last night I got into a flame-war on Facebook. I should have just gone to bed. See, when I get home from work, I come home and put on my pj's and read my email. Since Facebook has basically become the new (crappier version) of MySpace, I was hit with like 10,000 different (inane) requests. Join the "What Color Are You?" application.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, then consider yourself lucky. Anyway, one of the creepiest features of Facebook now, is that you can see what your friends do. Did they send someone a message? Join a new group? Then you'll see it. And that's what happened to me. A friend of mine joined a group called "Think Before You Ink." I thought it was an anti-tattoo group (which is natural, right?). Turns out it's a group trying to stop a lobbyist from dismantling the Affirmative Action laws in our state.

Now, my position on this issue is about like it is on Abortion...I don't really agree with it or like, but I can see that in this imperfect world that we live in--it should probably exist. I scrolled down and saw this exchange on the message board. The first message was from a kid (younger than me, in college):

Affirmative action is damn racist. If someone does better than another person, there is no reason the less qualified person should get the job. It's ridiculous. It promotes racisim and segregation.

The next message was a reply, this is what it said:

Well Herr Schwab, you are certainly entitled to your opinion, the opinion you share with all white supremacists. Sadly, bigoted white guys giving other bigoted white guys all the best jobs for centuries is what led us to this point - oh, but as a white guy I guess that's not your concern. I'd be careful though, because after the white supremacists who share your views dispose of all the blacks and latinos they'll come after the gays. Better watch out Chad.

I clicked on the second guy's name and discovered that he listed himself as a "faculty" member of Webster University (a school out here in STL-land). I was shocked. I was appalled. The fact that someone would write such a hateful, venomous post didn't shock me. I'm used to ignorant/stupid/reactionary people online. I'm used to people calling other "Nazis" just for sharing a difference of viewpoint. What amazed me was that this person was a college professor. I was compelled to write me a private message. This is when things got crazy.

Here is our back and forth exchange:

I happened upon the "Think Before you Ink" Message Board, and I happened to notice your very aggressive/hateful post that you made. For some reason, I clicked on your name and was shocked to see you are a "faculty" member of a school!

I don't agree with the person you were taking issue with, but I think what you wrote was ignorant and hateful. I'm not sure if the best way to fight hate is with extreme hate. You basically called the guy a homosexual--why? Rather than try to use logic or reasoning, all you did was name calling. Not only is that immature, I think it's really counterproductive.

I was going to join this Facebook group, but I don't want to be associated with a group that bears such a hateful post. Also, I think it's pretty lame to infer that someone is a Nazi just because they share a different viewpoint. Unless they are actually killing Jews and other undesirables, all you are doing is spitting on the memories of everyone who died under Hitler's regime.

It's "faculty" like you that make me glad I graduated. This nation's institutions of higher learning seemed to be filled with hypocrites and phonies. You are both

To which he replied:

Hmmmm, who's name calling now? I'm sorry you misunderstood my post, I wrote it in haste and was not clear. My fault. Your reactiveness on the other hand is your burden, not mine. Unasked, I will offer this advice: when you get angry start with a question rather than an assumption. The creator of that group started with a question and I clarified. He was satisfied and I was chagrined. Thankfully for me and unfortunately for you, your rush to judgment and rapidity in branding me a hypocrite and a phony is far more hateful and full of animus than anything I wrote.

Then I wrote:

You mistake my disappointment for hatred. Do you see how your post did nothing to further the cause? In fact, you've put off someone who agrees with you! You are a hypocrite because the cause you champion is meant to help make the world more equal and fair--a more peaceful place. How is calling that guy "gay" doing that? It's not. You're a phony because you don't care about people at all. If you did, you'd be more concerned about making that kid understand your point of view (as an educator isn't that your life's mission?) so that he can come to the realization that this cause is noble and correct.

I am sensing a lot of venom in you, that's not what this cause or any other needs.

Then the nutty professor said:

First off, just to set the record straight, I never called the guy gay. I failed to connect the dots between hatred of one group and another and eventually everyone. I was writing fast, not well. Second, you wrote me, I didn't write you. You attacked me for what you perceived incorrectly, I didn't attack you. Call it venom if it assuages your guilt, but that's still your problem. If I wanted to be mean and venomous I would go Garrison Keillor on you about English majors, but I'm not like that. You don't know that cause you don't know me. My students adore me, more importantly I touch their lives deeply sometimes, others I connect with marginally, others not at all, it's a crap shoot - and more importantly still, despite the fact that I am a great educator and mentor, it is still a job, not a calling. This ain't the high priesthood, I work for a living. By the way, not to be critical, because after all you want me to step up to the plate and really be a teacher, don't you, well okay, you are too damned sensitive, you should toughen up. If this bothers you enough to keep you out of a group who's cause you agree with then I can't imagine what kind of groups you would be comfortable with. There's always going to be someone you don't like. Tag. I'm it. Big deal.

Well gee, this has been fun, but it's past my bedtime. Nighty night.

This was the last thing I wrote to him:

I think this is just another case of a person (you) acting with (very) lowered inhibitions due to the impersonal nature of the web. I am fighting, I've been trying to get you to see that what you did was wrong--it was. But to you this is just some sort of sick game.

I know how hard it is to admit when you're wrong, it's human nature I guess. I don't care how many times you say it...but your post is not being "read incorrectly" and it wasn't "written in haste" or whatever. You attacked that kid, and you basically called him a homo.

I'm a big boy, I know that this is the web. I see posts like yours all the time. What got to me, was that you are a teacher and that kid is someone's student. I guess all of my youthful idealism isn't fully dead, because I couldn't believe you would just attack someone like that.

I'm done debating this with you, I just hope that in the future you try and think before you write--whether you like it or not, you are held to a higher standard.

What would possess someone, a teacher--who should know better, to attack someone who could very easily be one of his students? I get that teachers are people, and that they aren't perfect. I also get that people are dumb and insensitive online...but it bothered me that he was okay with making such a post and attaching his picture and name to it--for the world to see.

I guess I'm too much of an idealist. I guess I hold people to a standard that is far too high. What do my teacher readers think about this? I think it's a given the guy was out of line, but what do you think--am I over reacting here? Should the fact that the guy is a teacher not be an issue. It's seriously the only reason I got into this thing with him.


Jimu said...

Should the fact that the guy is a teacher not be an issue.

only if you don't mind him educating your future offspring.

do I care if some one smokes pot in their home? no.

Do I care if they smoke pot in their own home and then go to work where they drive my kids to school? HELL YES.

people are allowed to have different opinions. Its what our country is based on. But I want my kids to have a hate free education. and I now know not to send him to this bozo.

Jason said...

yeah, I realize teachers can be assholes online (just like all of us)...but what chaps my ass (and blows me mind) is that this guy wrote all this hateful shit AS A COLLEGE PROFESSOR. He did this not only representing himself, but also his institution (right under his name it says "Webster Faculty").

Why would someone think that it would be okay to write something like that, when it is essentially linked to his professional life?

I've had a few teachers who got slightly out of line, but nothing like this.

Anyway, my kids aren't going to Webster either.

Terri said...

I am dumbfounded that a teacher has much time to spend on Facebook--. Could be the guy is an adjunct, who teaches to supplement another "job." and may not ascribe to the full set of professional ethics...

Jason said...

Yeah, I'm with you Terri--there is NO WAY that guy has tenure or anything like that. He's probably a part-timer or something like that.

Why was he on Facebook? But an even better question: why DO I spend so much time there?

The answer to both is simple: we are lame.