Last night my husband took me down a rabbit hole. We snuggled on the sofa while he, iPhone in hand, read aloud from a closed Facebook group of college friends locked down and four days into a philosophical debate. Only, it was no debate. It was an ugly argument. My husband had been invited into the group. For the record, he does not parley on social media. He happened to notice an attack on his friend and got lured in to read what was going on. We were a pair of scrolling-voyeurs hiding under our invisibility cloak while watching a train wreck, airplane crash, and ship sink all at once. We did nothing but witness in a kind of disbelief.
Many of the participants in this conversation were philosophy majors from his alma matter. I’m not sure where the diatribe began. But, his friend, who was under attack, was writing in superfluous words about conspiracy theories he supports, defending his beliefs and arguing they aren’t actually rooted in hate, as suggested by the accusations of the offended others who were reacting and responding to his intense commitment to pointing out social engineering of certain minority groups versus his references to the typical conspiracy theorist take on a select few families or dynasties driving the global financial kingdom with roots in Jewish holdings. Many of these conspiracy theories deny the Holocaust ever existed and support other anti-Semitic theories. But, there are layers – I mean deep layers – into the spectrum of conspiracy theory systems.
It was difficult to tell if this fellow was actually expressing his anti-Semitism, racism, misogyny, and anti-LGBTQ views or if he was just playing devil’s advocate, navigating an uncomfortable discussion through the lens of a “free thinker” who does not necessarily subscribe to the opposition he’s presenting, but, rather, delivers the opposition with the intent of shedding light onto the same kind of “anti” behaviors the other side presents.
This could have been an opportunity where philosophy reigns over dogma. In fact, at one point in our brief world history, you could have conversations where philosophy reigned over dogma. Today, philosophy is dead and dogma is alive and thriving.
This thread got me thinking. I’m not interested in reviewing the specified topics debated. Every day we are barraged by debate ad nauseam. Really, you could throw in any debate and get the same result. What interests me here is the way “modern philosophers” communicate.
I can’t help but wonder what is the difference between philosophical discourse and debate today? Who are the modern day philosophers? Is philosophy actually dead?
Today, people have lost the skill to engage in healthy debate or civil philosophical discourse – the latter most distressing because there is no interest in listening, learning, or being open to ideas and ideals other than our own – which are often herd based, thanks to mediums like social media.
Few people actually embody a “free thinking” mindset. Few people have real curiosity about people, their intent, their fears or any interest in finding, somehow, common ground. It is much easier to set one’s self apart from an opposing mindset as if altruistic rather than seeing the raw, imperfect humanity in ourselves and in each other.
It was Matthew Arnold, English poet and cultural critic, who was historically wrote, “the free thinking of one age is the common sense of the next.”
Instead, we have extremes. There is no middle ground or tolerance. You are either right or wrong, and much of that has to do with your world view and political views. There is no room for centrists, even though most people exist in the center. You must choose your side. And the side is getting very lopsided. Ideology insists you must lean one way or else you are a bad person who supports or enables wrong-doings against humanity. This is no coincidence. This is social engineering.
On one hand social engineering is the “use of centralized planning in an attempt to manage social change and regulate the future development and behavior of a society”. On the other hand, it is the “use of deception to manipulate individuals into divulging confidential or personal information that may be used for fraudulent purposes” (Google dictionary). It’s the first definition that is debatably part of the matrix driving current “thought”.
Modern discourse is rooted in personal attacks or taking things personally, which goes hand in hand with the new “thought mining” being based on social engineering.
All of the participants in this particular alumni thread were quite rude and intolerant of each other. These were not Facebook strangers – but a collection of friends from college. The insults were deep, the attacks came from silver-tongued wordsmithing, and the roots were very sophisticated examples of social engineering and its trickle down effect all over private chatrooms and social media groups online.
This is not a social experiment but a real tool for divisiveness. Someone or some group created this social engineering platform. And it is working.
Modern philosophers are intent on changing the opposition. They aim to destroy any opposition to their belief structure. Make no mistake, this is intended as a climate seasoned for social-shaming the opposition. This is not limited to any particular viewpoint – it’s all encompassing. Everyone is guilty.
When I was in college, in the mid/late 1990s, having a different opinion, world view, or political position was never a platform for hate and intolerance – but rather for intellectual curiosity. We actually successfully engaged in healthy debate and often left the classroom better than we had entered it – we were all willing and interested in actually learning something. This was a major reason why I chose to attend a woman’s college – a liberal arts institution that nurtured free thinking.
Today, the sensitivity meter has gone off the scale. There is no room for debate. And students need safe spaces – this is not to chastise these vulnerable individuals. You know, climate change isn’t just about the environment. There’s a climate change on civility, decency, respect – and a global warming (heat wave!) of thought that’s burning up conversations, opinions, world views, dialogs and expressions with the swift and dominant rage of wildfires. News flash! Nobody wins. Wildfires do not spare anyone.
I am curious about social engineering and its impact on humanity. Conspiracy theorists believe there’s a certain elite segment of the population that is behind the social engineering – be it the 1% of wealthy families and/or lizard-like aliens running the matrix.
For years I considered myself a conspiracy theorist. I didn’t subscribe to the ideas about alien domination, chem trails, or the moon actually being an alien spacecraft monitoring the matrix, etc. Rather, I believed in the set-ups: like Roosevelt being involved in the bombing of Pearl Harbor in order to get US citizen support to enter WWII; the assassination of Lincoln; the assassination of Kennedy; and so on.
One of the philosophers in this closed alumni group was well versed and competent in the vernacular of modern conspiracy theory – rooted in speculation that the ultra rich runs the planet alongside alien beings. In some ways, I understood his point. He was sharp-tongued in his delivery, which was why the entire group was pulling out their verbal muskets to revolt against his viewpoint. He lost his audience. An opportunity for real discussion and philosophical conversation was lost. Intellectualism, that is “the exercise of the intellect at the expense of the emotions” and the philosophical “theory that knowledge is wholly or mainly derived from pure reason or rationalism”, drove out conspiracy theory and social engineering for consideration as other possible segments of modern philosophy (Google dictionary).
I wanted to create a pseudo account on Facebook just to join in on this conversation and bring up the writings of David Icke. In 2010 Icke published “Human Race Get Off Your Knees: The Lion Sleeps No More” where he digs into his theories on the manipulation of the human race and the nature of reality and calls humanity to “rise from its knees and take back the world from the sinister network of families and non-human entities (aliens) that covertly control us from cradle to grave. Icke writes extensively about the matrix.
Icke was recently brought into the news via a controversial endorsement by writer/activist Alice Walker (author of “The Color Purple”) who was under fire for promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theory in an interview with the New York Times – December 2018. Walker stated Ickes books are “a curious person’s dream come true.” Walker’s recommendation of Icke’s books, and the New York Times decision to publish it without comment, ignited widespread outrage.
Walker later addressed the outrage on her website: “Recently I’ve taken a few knocks for my liking of David Icke. Well, I can’t help liking him, he’s got cojones for days… Last night it occurred to me what it is I like and I wanted to put it in one sentence: David Icke’s work is a feast for the imagination. That’s it. Take it or leave it, he is offering something extremely timely and useful… If you love mythology, as I do, you will have a fine time seeing how a new myth, with us in it (!) might be made. Though Icke isn’t talking about myth, but reality. Still, for some this will seem very far out, and way beyond the wild tales and fables of Greek and Hindu storytellers, my favorites for many years…”.
She writes more. I just wanted to highlight her admiration for the wild extremity of thought that conspiracy theory creates – isolated from Icke’s shadowy ideology regarding religion and anti-Semitism. I do not support Icke or anti-Semitic thought or behavior. I find that connection to be frightening and shameful. Instead, I really want to address today’s standard for social engineering – which instills fear.
Really, I should be afraid to write any and all of this – worse, I should shirk from publicly admitting that I am a fan of Alice Walker’s literary works. Because now that one stone has been turned to label her anti-Semitic, then, by association as a reader, I might be labeled the same. We are living under a kind of McCarthyism veil – one shrouded in fear and suspicion. Your true and good intentions – especially for those who occupy the center of thought and world view – can get twisted and reframed into something else. Something more sinister. You have to be careful for what you say and how you say it – it is very easy to offend and to become labeled intolerant.
Back to the Facebook thread of modern philosophers… The entire discourse was a picture perfect snapshot of entitled, privileged, first world narcissism. It’s riddled in shaming the opposition, which is the “new hate”. And everyone here was guilty of it.
The danger in even writing about the unhealthy, unhinged ways people engage in debate or conversation creates an open invitation for the likes of social engineered pundits to chime in and accuse you of things like feeding the far right, or the anti-Semitics, or the anti-LGBT community, or the #blacklivesmatter community, and so on. So, even if you are not engaging in debate, at all, by simply having the opinion that today’s philosophers and today’s conversation/debate style are unhealthy and riddled with the “new hate” can be grounds, in itself, for sympathizing with what the far right stands for! Things get muddled when emotion and hate are twisted into the mix.
Let’s be very clear. The “new hate” removes compassion or empathy from the conversation. It is a breeding ground for cruelty. It means stoking the fires that offend and hurt others. It intends to scrutinize not with curiosity – as it purports – but with fear-based suspicion. Fear is the opposite of love. Fear is at the heart of intolerance.
Let that sink in for a moment.
So what happens if you are a creature with ideals that contradict – say, an anti-Trump, anti-abortion, anti-racism, feminist conspiracy theorist? Is there room for that person in the halls or private group threads of modern philosophy? Just food for thought. But be careful before you bite – the food just might be poisoned.