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Richard ([personal profile] richard) wrote2009-02-28 04:00 pm
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The Conservatism of Internet ‘Bastard Culture’

For a subculture concentrated in a medium associated with social liberalism, the Internet ‘snark’ or ‘bastard’ culture (that is, the culture exemplified in Internet communities like Something Awful, Portal of Evil, Stupid_Free at Livejournal and Encyclopaedia Dramatica), is surprisingly conservative. Members of offline social minorities continue to find themselves on the wrong end of criticism, even though the anonymity of the Internet is often interpreted as a liberating medium for those who do not conform to social sexual, political, perceptual or philosophical norms. The idea that being heterosexual, stereotypically American, white, cisgender and neurotypical is inculcated just as fiercely. There is often little difference between what the 'snarkers' say and what offline pundits and humourists like Rush Limbaugh, Don Imus, Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity say. (I am using American pundits as an example because the snark culture is primarily American, and seems to draw much of its inspiration from American entertainers.)

Those who identify strongly with a culture that doesn’t correspond with their ‘culture of origin’ are ridiculed, particularly European-descended people who feel a strong affinity to Japanese culture. Whilst some people do engage in superficial cultural appropriation, many people do genuinely appreciate Japanese culture, and should not be ostracized for it. There are many who were exposed to one particular culture at a young age, but as they reached adulthood, found that another set of traditions was more amenable to them. It is also unreasonable to expect that any youthful Westerner adopt extreme cultural isolation, especially in this age of globalization and the Internet. The isolationist, cultural-purist attitude that many of these snarkers adopt is nothing short of xenophobic.

The subculture is also suffused with homophobia: gays and lesbians are mocked for not adhering to cultural norms of masculinity and femininity, and transgender people are routinely referred to with pronouns and names corresponding to those assigned them at birth, rather than the ones that resonate with their souls. Gay men become foppish, ineffectual ‘fags’. Lesbians are always overweight, unattractive and desperate. Transgender people are depicted as poor sods who cannot succeed as their birth gender, or extreme versions of homosexuals. Even those who are associated with stereotypically ‘homosexual’ activities, like male artists, are singled out for the snarkers’ criticism. Their hatred for those who do not subscribe to Western gender norms is akin to those of the religious fundamentalists, although they would not admit it. I see little difference between the Internet snarkers who claim that ‘all fags should die’, or ‘transgender people are all pathetic’ and the preachers who teach hate of sexual minorities from the pulpits. After all, they are liberated practitioners of free speech, and the fundamentalists seek to suppress it, do they not?

Bastard culture has an ‘ableist’ bias as well: those who cannot work are all spongers; all people on the autistic spectrum – particularly those who have Asperger Syndrome –are self-diagnosed drama-queens or drooling idiots; and intellectual disability is a moral failure. People cannot genuinely have conditions with which they struggle: all disability is evidence of a moral failing on the person’s part, and can be countered with a Protestant work ethic and sufficient mockery of the person’s condition. It is far too much like Republican politicians who wish to cut funding for initiatives for the disabled—both they and the snarkers justify their discrimination using the same criteria. I find that sort of behaviour unnecessarily cruel, and rather similar to ‘kicking the puppy’: that is, those who already have difficulty adapting to certain aspects of society experience even more hardship via these people’s uncouth behaviour.

Entertainment-related subcultures become targets for criticism as well; those who have deep interests in certain media become pariahs. Some people enjoy dressing up in fur costumes and drawing anthropomorphic animals. Why this is suddenly a target for derision, I do not know. Fantasy literature enthusiasts are transmogrified into eternal children who will never grow up and face reality--only gritty realism escapes these people's criticism. People who enjoy obscure 'fandoms' are mocked just as viciously as they would be offline, although the Internet criticism often sounds more vicious because the attackers feel that they will not be confronted for their actions in any tangible way. It is far too much like the conservative commentators who believe that all fantasy literature is of Satan, and only realism and religious devotionals are worth looking at.

Were people to realize this and adopt philosophies more amenable to social differences. It is bad enough that we must contend with this offline, but online as well? The Internet provides so many opportunities for those who cannot find like-minded people offline.

[identity profile] 2009-03-01 12:22 am (UTC)(link)
It's been for this reason that Holly is often afraid to disclose that she's been diagnosed with Aspergers. Even when she does, she always feels the need to say that no, she isn't self-diagnosed.

Now arguably a lot of the problem is also that the groups that are derided have a very loud, but small (not certain as to anime fandom, but all anime fans go through the silly fangirl/fanboy Japanese stage - some just never get out of it) part that are obnoxious and attract the snarkers. So all the quiet ones aren't seen and only the loud ones are brought attention to. Perhaps they feed each other and it us that do not fit the stereotypes who end up suffering in the end. It's the circle of drama after all.

[identity profile] 2009-03-01 12:24 am (UTC)(link)
When I say all anime fans, I should've said most. We ourselves have gone through this stage in our life, though today we look at those who are in that stage and go "Why the hell are you talking in netspeak?" Netspeak + Fangirl/Fanboy Japanese = ow.

[identity profile] 2009-03-01 12:45 am (UTC)(link)
Yes, because people who have Asperger's traits are all using it as an excuse to be silly online. (And I suppose that those who criticize them must have no excuse at all.)

I agree; the obnoxious snarkers are probably much more noticeable than fans who do not indulge in such infantile behaviour.

[identity profile] 2009-03-01 04:36 am (UTC)(link)
Well, one does not need an excuse to act silly. Look at Noel for example. :P Oh wait, you mean the stupid kind of silly.

[identity profile] 2009-03-01 12:32 am (UTC)(link) of the things that totally confused us about online snark groups, when we still thought it was required that we try to find them funny, was how blithely people threw around racist and homophobic epithets. Apparently you were supposed to regard those as somehow unconnected to actual racism and homophobia, even when it was things like people using handles like "Nigger Fag." Because if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's REALLY A WOMBAT CAN'T YOU SEE, IT'S NOT A DUCK OR EVEN A BIRD AT ALL. The "reasoning" seemed to be something like... anything that offended people was funny, but even though it was funny, it somehow didn't have the same spirit behind it as people who use those as actual terms of hate and found it funny to refer to people that way. It's still funny, though! Lulz!

It's kind of interesting that when you remove all the bells and whistles, the underlying conception of reality there, of what it is and what aspects of it are and aren't worth focusing on, is really similar to that of hardcore capitalism-worshipping, Ayn Rand-worshipping Objectivists. Even when a majority of people in those kinds of communities ostensibly seem to be lip-service liberals.

[identity profile] 2009-03-01 12:48 am (UTC)(link)
I've never understood that either, and I've seen such terms used by members of the groups being mocked. Honestly, how are 'nigger' and 'fag' anything but racist and homophobic? It's as though they find such terms funny simply for their 'edgy, taboo factor', rather like Don Imus' and Howard Stern's senses of humour.

It really is like those Ayn Rand worshippers. Some of the snarkers do say that they're Libertarians, but many of them do not, and they will support Obama in one breath and sound like one of Limbaugh's lackeys in the next.

[identity profile] 2009-03-01 03:50 am (UTC)(link)
... And thiiiis is the reason that I am very close-lipped about the not-normal aspects of my life online. I don't like having to worry about people going "lawlz, what a nutjob", especially since the people who would do that tend to do it behind your back.

I think that people who are very very conservative have some deep-seated issues with themselves. They're trying to desperately to get rid of any molecule of abnormality that they feel a need to go out of their way to rip apart those who aren't afraid to be "abnormal". It makes me sad, honestly. I tried to get rid of my "abnormalities", and I was much worse off than I am now.

[identity profile] 2009-03-01 06:37 am (UTC)(link)
This matches what I saw when I read the FARK forums, except that was filled with horrible sexism too ("The only use for teh women is hawt sex!") and the ableism was... interesting. The default for disabled people was "better off dead," but disabled people who did reckless or criminal acts were considered 'cool.' This only worked for physically disabled people too -- they could be redeemed by 'badassery,' but non-neurotypicals were devalued regardless of the circumstances.

...and when people got offended by the obvious bigotry, it was because they just weren't intelligent enough to appreciate it. Because being smart means being an asshole, apparently. *headdesks*

The stereotype division where someone on the spectrum can be either a 'pitiful autistic' or a 'fake aspie' is enough to make me afraid to call myself either even *offline.* (And especially in online non-autistic communities.)