Monthly Archives: May 2020

May 18, 2020. On Hunkering… Down

Some new words and phrases have entered out lexicon, hand in hand with COVID19: social distancing, N95 facemasks, PPE, shelter-in-place and more. One term I have seen used all over the place – and used myself – is the phrase hunkering down. Everyone is hunkering down these days.

Hunkering sounds to me like something out of a Robert Louis Stevenson novel, something a sailor might be doing, crouched on an island in a shelter made out of palm fronds along with bits and pieces rescued from a broken sailing vessel. Or a man stranded alone in the mountains, protected from the elements by pine and fir branches, perhaps staring out at a small fire sputtering in the drizzle directly outside.

It is rare if not impossible to find hunkering all by itself. You can’t just hunker. “I’ll be hunkering over here for a while” just doesn’t work. You have to hunker … down.

Dictionary.com has five definitions but it is the third one on the list that definitely applies at this moment:

“to settle into the safety of one’s home or other designated shelter for a potentially long time, as would be necessitated by a natural disaster or an outbreak of a contagious disease”

It’s first recorded usage dates back to the early 1700’s and is possibly derived from the Old Norse hüka which means ‘to crouch’ This in turn is similar to the old Dutch huiken or modern German hocken, both of which mean ‘to squat or crouch’ so that theory seems to make perfect sense.

To my untrained ear it sounds very old-British and some have even traced its use back to Scotland. I fact, the Oxford English Dictionary describes how to hunker: “squat, with the haunches, knees and ankles acutely bent, so as to bring the hams near the heels (hams? really?) and throw the whole weight upon the fore part of the feet”.

An interesting and digressive factoid: the term was popularized in south-western United States dialect form by U.S. President Johnson in the 1960’s.

No matter its origins; while the hunkering down we are doing is less about crouching on haunches in the wild, it is about staying in one place, safe from the outside world and its inherent and contagious dangers, and staring – like the shipwreck victim or the mountain man – balefully out at the bleak world just beyond our shelter.

Down The Rabbit Hole of a Conservative Facebook Group

I’ve heard Obama compared to Hitler quite a bit, heard some of his more inspiring speeches called deception, heard him being called anti-christian for taking down a Christmas tree (which ignores Romans 14), even called Islamic because of his outreach to middle eastern countries.

He was regularly accused of trying to separate people and destroy the nation.

Actual post from the on the Facebook group page “Bridge the Divide”

On the invitation of a friend, I joined the Facebook group called Bridge the Divide – a place for civil political/cultural discourse. Sounds good right? There’s a red and blue graphic at the top of the page and supposedly it’s all about coming together and discussing today’s political (not much in the way of cultural) climate.

What a shit show.

I quickly came to the realization that it was neither bridging any divides nor was it civil, although many fie people on there certainly acted civil in what I perceived to be a smug, condescending way. Also, to me, the site seemed more about pushing the Trump/Fox agenda whose messages were repeated over and over, in various forms. Silly, troll-like questions would be asked with tongue-in-cheek innocence and then everybody would comment with agreeing and validation statements – basically a circle-jerk of “discussion” Any dissenting voices would be quickly quashed again in that condescending/indignant/amused way Kelly Conway and her ilk answer questions they find bothersome.

Note also that in many cases, answers are longer than they need to be and appear rational at first glance. Not the average, short angry and visceral responses you might expect in a conservative/right-wing Facebook group. The language seems thought out, and only occasional grammar errors give us a clue that English might not be a first language in some cases.

In any case, I thought it might be helpful for you, dear reader, to point out some of the questions and tactics so should you desire to get your boots dirty in the manure yard of conservative troll thought. Let me know if you find this helpful or, if you are already stomping through the shit, recognize any of these:

The condescending and innocently inquisitive retort. Don’t criticize the conservatives.

In answer to a comment regarding Mitch MacConnell and Ted Cruz and what awful, self-serving politicians they are (by one of the few liberals on the site) came this reply:

Colin, that’s an interesting take on Cruz and McConnell. Can I ask where you’ve founded those beliefs? I’ve read a lot from Cruz, followed him for a long time, and it’s really hard for me to see where you can say he’s an awful person. Do you actually know him? Do you know his story?

Let’s dissect.

Notice the feigned “interesting take” opening statement. Slightly condescending; the verbal equivalent of a pat on the head. There there. Then the English grammar problem at “where you’ve founded those beliefs” indicating a writer for whom English is not a first language. Then comes the justification (I’ve read/followed him) followed by the challenge question, again feigning interest in dialogue.

It would be easy to think that this really was a dialogue if you were reading it for the first time except this exact pattern is repeated over and over on any comments that challenge the conservative Trump/Fox talking point. The long-ish answer tries to come off as a real, reasonable and educated person but the grammar error sets off my troll alert.

On the EPA. So tired of all those liberal government programs.

You aren’t alone, Amy. The parties seem to want so much to stick us all in a neat little box – for us or against us. They don’t trust the people to understand nuances in an issue. A little common sense would build some bridges, I think. The good stuff seems always to get corrupted by too much bureaucracy. Give an inch, lose a mile. For example: EPA was great for clean air & water in the 70’s. Now it’s a tyrant that tells people they can’t build a home on property they bought 40 years ago to retire on. The backlash is obstinacy.

Here, the author is tired of the political parties but somehow just manages to lean a little to the right and mention that the EPA is no longer a viable entity – too many rules – framed in the context of a case involving some individual. No mention of clean water or mining companies polluting said resource.

The dig against abortion and the right to choose.

I’m pro-choice, but calling it a “medical procedure” is disingenuous. Medicine is healing. A pregnant woman is not sick. I can totally empathize with calling it murder and considering it immoral to demand money for such a thing. It should at most be funded by state taxes, certainly not federal.

Again, the seemingly innocent opener of “I’m pro-choice” The author is a male of course, opining on a subject he will never be completely familiar with. He then segues smoothly into empathizing with “calling it murder” and “considering it immoral” Here the author is also disengaging himself from potential criticism should someone come back at him with those terms. He can claim he never said that HE was calling it murder. Also, a lengthy response in a somewhat stilted fashion denotes possible Engish as a second language.

On finding a political home. Stop labeling us as right-wing or conservatives.

I feel the majority of Americans these days could be classified as moderate. It’s not a bad thing. We just want a good life for our families and a chance to offer a future for our kids. We are willing to work hard to get it.

We’re simple folk, moderates gosh darn it. Our aspirations are simple too. good life for our families and … yeah. The little extra at the end is a subtle reminder (message alert) that we are not like those people expecting a handout from the government, and you know who we mean.

The converted democrat/liberal

As a former performing artist I love all aspects of the arts.
I have been so disheartened at the way my liberal artist friends are behaving. I never wanted to vote for Trump. I didn’t the first time. But I certainly will this time because of how insane and hateful the left have become.

I now feel like I can’t have any artist friends. I was actually hoping there was some group of conservative artists I could join.
I’m for better gun control and affordable healthcare insurance. I call myself Independent because I refuse to work for one party.

I feel our country has lost most of its moral value and common sense

This is a classic and is extremely common in all threads and retorts/stroking. The author purports to once having been a liberal person (insert embarrassed smile here), in this case she’s an artist! – who has become disillusioned with the Democratic party. She is looking for conservative artist groups but it appears she has not been lucky in that regard. Hmm. BUT she is a bit “edgy” in that she wants affordable health insurance – a safe and non-threatening position – and better gun control. Hooray for me. Message? Vote for Trump in 2020. “The left have” along with the overly lengthy explanation once again seems to indicate the presence of a foreign troll – to me at least.

The Pot Stirrer. Questions designed to provoke and bring out the best in the strokers.

Here a meme shows Trump’s face and the text says: I hope you had fun investigating me. Now it’s my turn.

Accompanying this meme is the “new” member’s question, seriously:

Can someone tell me what trump is referring to? Haven’t been following US politics much in the last week.

You’re in a political group on Facebook. This to me indicates that you are
a) interested in politics; b) an idiot or c) a troll just posting this ridiculous question to stir the pot. Gee whiz people, whatever could Trump be talking about here?

The variety / no politics question.

Top 3 favorite movies. Go.

This one is usually posted by a “senior member” never a new member. It’s something innocuous and usually irrelevant, designed to infuse the feed with something that will make it appear there is a community, and people are happily sharing their thoughts and ideas on a broad variety of subjects. This is before the next onslaught of Trump/Fox messaging.

The subject is food, movies or books. Watch for it, you will find it.

The “lying media” and “oh you’re exaggerating” message.

One apparently liberal poster (or maybe it was a plant to get all that messaging out there from the group members for others to see) mentioned that Trump has logged more golfing days in three years than Obama in eight and the not-so-civil members turned into frenzied hyenas on a bloody wildebeest corpse.

Here are some of the many choice defenses presented by some of the intellectually-challenged members:

For me, it is more important who did what for the state. Obama in 8 years has not done as much as Trump in 3. For me, the most important thing is what Trump is doing in cases of human trafficking and pedophilia.

Are you deducting the days that the media claimed he was golfing and he actually wasn’t? As with that b.s. list of 18,000 supposed lies that he’s told, what’s your source that he has played golf 239 times?

Oh yeah, this was posted in good faith…

So if President Trump spends an hour on the golf course, that is considered “ALL DAY”. Has there ever been a president who has been lied about as much as this one? No, there hasn’t.

Hahahaha! I can’t even with this post. Trump works tirelessly night and day, has twice the energy and stamina of men half his age. You think I give two hoots over how much he plays golf, even IF these numbers are true? The man develops and owns golf courses. Good grief.

And on and on it goes. The original poster goes on to say that it was Trump, not she who mentioned it in the first place but that detail falls on deaf ears here in the echo chamber of “civil discourse”

We all know the media lies. Are they 100% truthful about the number of golf outings he’s been on, probably not. They should post his itineraries and not made up ones. Then we know the truth.

It’s why he golfs and with who. My dad made tons of business deals on the golf course – sometimes it’s easier to chat while swinging a club rather than across a table in a boardroom. Obama seemed to golf more for fun and fitness, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it takes up a lot of time if it’s just for fun.

Any of these comments, taken by themselves, might come across as completely normal. But seeing the same style, content and messages over and over again, you begin to see the pattern.

I hope this has been helpful and you will enjoy your time in the pork farm waste water pond. It stinks in there, but you will get a nice feel for the messages social media trolls are hammering home to the gullible.

May 4, 2020 – UnCivil Discourse

While we are all in the coronavirus state of mind, involuntarily or voluntarily hunkered down in our homes, we spend a lot more time on the internet, on social media; in my case, Facebook.

Recently, I was invited to join a private Facebook group that purportedly fosters “civil” discussion between left and right. It’s called “Bridge the Divide – a place for civil political/cultural discourse.

What a shit-show.

A few hours this past week reading, answering and commenting and reading some more, convinced me that it’s a Facebook page designed by the Russians (or the Chinese or – insert evil and foreign villain here – ) to further divide the crumbling United States of America and erode any last shred of empathy and understanding between its citizens.

First of all, the questions posted. Designed to incite rather than inspire, they are asked by what appear to be trolls (always ‘new members’) who will “innocently” ask ridiculous questions like “Is there racism in America? I’m really wondering.” and “Is Trump a decent person?” in order to provoke reactions and the exchange quickly becomes heated and childish.

The conversation train then jumps the rails and bogs down in the swamp of predictable hate and playground-style arguments, as expected.

“Look who’s talking” is a popular comeback. After unsuccessfully trying to make a point about why Trump is far from decent, I was told to watch Shapiro, Glenn Beck and OAN to learn the truth and to avoid the “mainstream media” This person seemed very serious.

One woman posted that racists are those who are constantly pointing out people’s skin color. TO which I replied “said the white person” and of course I got the “case in point” answer. That’s settled then – I’m a racist.

White guy: “Racism? Doesn’t exist. It’s about people and their choices. Self-determination. And reality. Like if I try out for the basketball team I am not going to be as good as the guy born 6′ 10″. That’s just the way it is.”

Me: “First of all, no one is born 6′ 10″. Second maybe you should look back at your family tree to see how many of your ancestors came over chained to a ship. That might determine your present situation”

White guy: “You don’t know my situation.”

Yea, you’re right, I don’t.

There are long posts, paragraphs that would initially seem to indicate some sort of intelligent life dialogue happening until you actually read them.

The more I read, the more I feel the need to rebut some of the more egregious statements, knowing full well that it is useless. Also, I can feel my blood pressure rising. So, while it is entertaining and frustrating and infuriating all at the same time, being a member of this community just isn’t for me.

Civil discourse indeed.