So you’re a highly trained, super talented, close-or-totally-hipster-ish programmer with a blog and like a zillion Twitter followers. You must be real smart. So you get up on your soap box and think “hmm, what can I write about that will make me even more internet famous”? You think for a minute and it comes to you. You’ll rehash an argument someone else who’s even more internet-famous-er wrote about this week with a twist: you’ll use a real-world example of why this person’s point is awesome. You write your blog post, post it to Hacker News, Tweet it out and now a discussion is being had over your oh so intelligent and novel idea. But in reality its all just one big circle jerk. The premise you’re defending or justifying or maybe even arguing against is wrong to begin with. Not just “oh that’s just your opinion” wrong but objectively wrong and maybe even stupid on top of it. In this age where we preach about everyone having a valid opinion and being tolerant of other views we’ve completely forgotten that sometimes people are just totally fucking wrong and sound like morons and should be called out for it! Especially if they’re internet famous! A recent example of a dumb idea being trotted about as smart is this whole “ignore the news” fad.
Groupthink: Why bad ideas become popular
By discussing their nonsense views (whether by expression agreement or disagreement) you’re giving retarded ideas validation. People who are well known online often get a pass just for being who they are. Groupthink and the hive mind effect kick in and suddenly all critical thinking stops. The vast majority of discussion seems to center around those who would mindlessly defend the group position or contrarians who are disagreeing but for the wrong reasons.
Not everything is either/or
So recently the argument was made that news is bad. We should ignore news. A life without the news is preferable to one where you keep up with the news. I have to ask, how can anyone say that out loud and not laugh? These opinion pieces start off making sense and have some good points but then they prescribe a solution that totally discredits any good ideas they may have had earlier in the piece. These arguments generally follow the same format: news it bad for you, the media exaggerates, the 24 hour news cycle is killing news, news is more about entertainment and ratings than actually informing people, we can live without news, you should stop consuming all news. Whoa! They had me up until they say to stop consuming news. This is not the answer and it speaks to the kind of mindset a lot of people in the “hacker” community have. Its this kind of logical black and white thinking that dictates that all problems have one true solution and “I don’t know” is never an acceptable answer (plus lots of mindless nit-picking and pedantry, often times used so one can argue the point they want to argue rather than the address the topic at hand).
I’m here to say that not everything is so black and white. Not everything has an answer. It’s alright to say “you know what, I just don’t know”. Even if you’re making a point you feel strongly about (like I am right now) and a question is asked about it, it’s alright to not know one little facet or two of your position. It happens. In the case of this news example, the solution is not to stop consuming news. This prescribed solution implies there’s a binary choice. Either you consume news or you don’t. That’s ludicrous! How about we do the real obvious thing and admit that there are a number of problems with the news media today and that they aren’t all being fixed right now but rather than just sticking our heads in the sand and calling news “bad for you”, let’s take on each issue separately, discuss it, debate it, and come up with solutions. There may be some terrible problems with it but it isn’t worthless. A more mature position would be to accept that there are problems inherent in U.S. network news, newspapers, and radio, identify them, and simply become better consumers of news.
The fact that I haven’t seen anyone argue the point I just made tells me that the groupthink in the “hacker”/developer/techie-type-people community has taken hold almost completely. It’s like the Republican/Tea Party bubble where only the views of a certain few are allowed to get in. This isn’t an either/or thing like everyone wants to believe not just on this issue but many others. The proposed solution is like cutting off your head to relieve a headache.
Food for thought
When you go to the grocery store, there’s a candy section. Eating too many sweets will make you fat and give you diabetes. If I went to the grocery store and bought just candy and ate only candy despite there being plenty of other food choices available to me and I got real fat and unhealthy as a result what would your solution to my problem be?
If the people in the tech community were to answer the question I could foresee a few common answers… Going to the grocery store leads to you possibly buying just candy (if you’re an idiot), candy makes you fat, therefore…
- Stop going to grocery stores
- Don’t eat anything anymore
- Candy is inherently bad and has no redeeming qualities
These three items I listed are just wrong. Not shopping at the grocery store anymore wouldn’t solve the problem, not eating anymore because one might eat candy is not realistic either, and implying that candy is just plain bad is wrong (it’s tasty and enjoyable to indulge in if you don’t do it like a moron). I’ve obviously suggested some ludicrous things here that I don’t think anyone would argue for. So if this is ridiculous why is suggesting that the solution to the problems inherent in the news business is to simply stop consuming news completely taken even slightly seriously at all?
Let’s all stop letting groupthink and cult of personality take over our ability to think critically. I don’t care how logical or intelligent you want to say your argument is. Logic dictates that you’re not all that intelligent or profound at all when you say things that make no sense.