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Subreddit of the week: Schizophrenia Rides

Subreddit of the week: Schizophrenia Rides

In the movie Forrest Gump, about a Baby Boomer who is there for all the iconic moments of the Baby Boomer life course, there is a scene where the main character plays a part in the story of the rise of the bumper sticker.

It’s a fun moment that ties into the movie’s theme of touching on the milestones of late twentieth century history. And the proliferation of bumper stickers and window decals as a form of personal expression was indeed such a milestone. It coincided, I believe, with a parallel proliferation of personal expression on the fronts and backs of T-shirts. It came with an era of rising individualism.

The heyday of the bumper sticker was the 1980s and 1990s, right after when this scene from Forrest Gump is set. It was a time when people proudly displayed their opinions, attitudes, political affiliations and cultural preferences on the rear ends of their automotive vehicles – in colorful, and sometimes confrontational or offensive ways. A drive on a crowded highway would have given you ample opportunity to learn about the beliefs and personalities of the other drivers all around you.

In the 2000s the bumper sticker frenzy started dying down. In particular, displaying political support on one’s vehicle has become passé. It was still done in the 2000s; there was “W” to show support for President Bush, and “Hope” to show support for President Obama. But since the 2010s, it has become very rare. I think people have gotten fearful of displaying partisan loyalty in public, as the rancor of partisanship has gotten worse.

Some iconic stickers still linger. “Coexist” marks you as a believer in diversity, and “Salt Life” as someone who likes the beach lifestyle. A set of decals on the rear window identifying one’s family members remains popular. But these days, you will find that most cars either have nothing displayed, or innoffensive badges of loyalty to sports teams, schools, churches or civic organizations.

And then, there are vehicles like the one below, which can be seen driving around in the town where I live.

These days, if you plaster your vehicle with bumper stickers, it may end up featured on the subreddit /r/SchizophreniaRides, dedicated to showcasing and making fun of drivers the Internet assumes must be a little bit insane. I mean, what is going on in the mind of this car’s driver? They don’t like liberals and Democrats, support the current President with one gigantic sticker, but also champion strippers and sport a rainbow flag? I guess it shows how much values have shifted and what an – uh – interesting coalition the current administration has behind it.

It’s not just bumper stickers that will get you featured on /r/SchizopreniaRides. Any ostentatious display on your set of wheels will do it – the more out there on the fringe, the better. Here are a couple more examples from my neighborhood. I guess there must be something about Berks County, Pennsylvania.

Freedom of expression is a wonderful thing. There is nothing wrong with displaying your opinions on your car, so long you don’t incite violence, and you can pass a safety inspection. But these days, personal expression has moved out of the public space in real life, and onto the Internet. Online, people can remain anonymous if they like, or confine themselves to a safe space of likeminded others.

If you do insist on sharing your worldview in the old fashioned way of twenty years ago or more, well, kudos to you for your bravery. But just keep in mind that you might get featured on /r/SchizophreniaRides.

Boomers Invented the Internet, but…

Boomers Invented the Internet, but…

As we all know, it was a Baby Boomer who invented the Internet. Al Gore, to be precise. Ha ha, I jest. But in all seriousness, it actually was a Boomer who invented the World Wide Web. Well, an Englishman the same age as the American Boomer generation. That was when the Internet skyrocketed into public awareness and use (it had been around for decades already in academia and government) and the Boomer generation was still relatively young, and was involved in the grunt work of technology research and development.

Now it’s younger generations who are on the leading edge of technology development and the Boomer pioneers are for the most part resting on their laurels. Steve Jobs has been deified and Bill Gates is busy spending his billions on humanitarian projects. Meanwhile, the Millennial generation has taken over Internet culture and formed a hivemind that is whimsical and heartwarming (doggy memes, anyone?), and also unforgiving in its enforcement of social norms (fear the hashtag). Generation X has been ghosted, and Boomers? – well, their cultural reputation on the Internet has not survived in very good shape.

For proof of this last assertion, all you have to do is get on Facebook and join “a group where we all pretend to be boomers.” It’s easy to do, trust me – I applied and got accepted right away. Here you will encounter the Millennial stereotype of what a Baby Boomer is – basically an old white Christian who supports President Trump, is hopelessly out of touch with modern values and, on top of that, embarrassingly clueless about how the Internet works. Boomers are always posting “MAGA” and “God bless America,” misinterpreting what they see younger people doing online, and going to church and to potlucks.

As for posting memes, well Boomers probably shouldn’t even try. Their memes are dated in style, atrocious in design, and express antiquated values. They should just stick to GIFs of the minions from Despicable Me, inexplicably a Boomer obsession. The idea of a Boomer meme is something you will also find on the subreddit TheRightCantMeme, where a lame meme by the political right is implicitly associated with the Boomer generation.

This stereotyping, of course, is unfair to the legions of Boomers who are on the political left. Not to mention those who are very savvy to the ways of the Internet. Perhaps these Boomers are not on Facebook so much; my guess is they are on Twitter instead. But this association, by a younger generation, between the Baby Boomers and the reactionary politics of Trump supporters (who are not all Baby Boomers, is my point) clearly marks the Boomer outlook as a fading thing of the past. The Internet – and thank you for it, Mr. Gore – belongs to a new generation.

Subreddit of the week: wholesomememes

Subreddit of the week: wholesomememes

In this social era one of the roles of young adult Millennials is to clean up the culture after a long period of decadence and degradation called the Unraveling (I’m talking “turnings” theory here). I submit that an excellent example of this phenomenon is the subreddit wholesomememes. Here you will find only happy and affirming thoughts, positivity and love. It’s the Internet’s biggest safe space.

I also submit that the subreddit acts as a forging ground of an emerging values consensus for the new order of the ages. If it fits into this subreddit, its acceptable values. That means that inclusivity is in, and religious moralism is out. All the weird culture that our society has generated over the past decades is in – as long as it serves to boost the esteem of others and bring us all together.

They have it on Twitter, too, if you like that.

Reddit Thread of the Week: Notes from the American Workplace

Reddit Thread of the Week: Notes from the American Workplace

This thread on a story about layoffs by AT&T illustrates the typical attitude of the modern American worker towards his or her employer. Not very, um, complimentary. You can see the new employee creed that has evolved to match the times. Be loyal to yourself, not your company. Switch jobs every few years for maximum career growth. Stick it to “the man.”

Also found in this thread: mid-life Gen-Xers giving life tips to rising young Millennials. Good luck out there!

Reddit Thread of the Week: Governmental Fight Club

Reddit Thread of the Week: Governmental Fight Club

I have heard it said that the Boomer generation has produced the worst political leadership in American history. Now, when the Boomers came of age in the 1960s, they were aggressive and confrontational, as is well known. 50 years later, they are the elder leaders of our society, but their collective personality traits remain the same – in generational studies we call this “thinking along the generational diagonal.” So the same scrappy, individualistic style they brought to their campus protests in the 1960s, they now bring to high political office. Just think of what the 2016 Presidential election was like for an example. Now we get a daily dose of Boomer scrappiness in the form of Presidential tweets. Younger generations look on, aghast and amused, as you can observe in the reddit thread linked below.

Donald Trump would beat Joe Biden in a fight and make him cry from iamverybadass


Reddit Thread of the Week: American Healthcare Horror Stories

Reddit Thread of the Week: American Healthcare Horror Stories

Las Vegas shooting victims struggle to afford mounting medical costs from news

Lots of kvetching about the mess of a healthcare system in the United States, with some comments from other countries for comparison. The number one takeaway on surviving healthcare in the U.S. – don’t ride in an ambulance if you can help it.

This is all comes down to the basic American principle of self-determination – otherwise known as, “if you can’t take care of yourself, then fuck you!” Also the ethos of Yankee ingenuity, or how to make a buck off of your fellow citizen. On this thread, you can just see the nation’s stature slipping away.

Monday Night Football Will Never Be The Same

Monday Night Football Will Never Be The Same

Here is what I think about the “NFL players kneeling for the anthem controversy,” which in this bizarre time of psychosocial media warfare is a thing. First off I will say that I have never witnessed this phenomenon live, as I do not watch football. I have only seen images in my social media feeds. Second, I will say that kneeling is not disrespectful. After all, one kneels before royalty, or before God.

In fact, the story as I understand it is that a young man named Colin Kaepernick first sat during the anthem in protest of police shootings of unarmed young black men, in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. He began kneeling instead of sitting after a conversation with a former NFL player and veteran, who suggested kneeling as a way to protest respectfully. In other words, the kneeling players are intending to be respectful, while exercising a right to protest.

Now you might question whether a football game is the place for a protest. I have some personal exposure to football fans who are offended by the kneelers, and it seems that mainly they are annoyed about having their game experience tainted. They came for football and they got politics, which is upsetting. That is understandable.

But sometimes they also complain that the protesters are entitled crybabies who are disrespecting the flag and the armed services. This is overblown to me, for the reasons I gave above, but that could just be my bias. Or it could be that people’s outrage is being stoked by social media bots. Those pesky Russians are at it again, undermining our civic order.

Years and years ago I posted a chart which attempted to define the sides in the Culture War – the “red zone” and “blue zone” as colored by the contentious 2000 elections. After all this time the war rages on in social media, in a kind of playground shouting match where each side accuses the other of being “snowflakes” for not accepting the other’s point of view, and shelters in the safe space of their media bubble.

Let’s allow that the NFL kneelers are blue zoners, and their detractors are red zoners. Maybe what’s bothering the red zoners is that they’re having to face the blue zone in a public arena which they thought was a safe space for their MAGA reality. Monday Night Football is supposed to be patriotic and all-American! Now they’re seeing all these protesting blue zoners who can’t be easily unfollowed or blocked like on a Facebook feed. The only safe space they have left is a Trump rally.

When I look at the kneelers, I see solidarity and courage in a group of empowered Millennials. It’s fitting that black athletes in professional sports use their prominent position to support justice for other young black men who are less privileged. And the tide appears to be turning in their favor. I’m glad for that, but that’s just my bias showing.

Reddit Thread of the Week: KKK Starter Pack

Reddit Thread of the Week: KKK Starter Pack

I like to go to reddit to get a feel for the zeitgeist, since that is where, in my estimate, Millennials go to speak their minds. It is one of the Internet’s top sites (in terms of traffic) and is the only site in the ‘discussion forum’ format to reach the traffic rankings of popular social media platforms and search engines.

Reddit’s system of upvoting and downvoting posts causes popular opinions to percolate to the top of the comments, and unpopular ones to be suppressed. In this way a consensus will be reached on the topic of a thread – a phenomenon known as the “reddit hivemind.”

Users register under pseudonyms, disguising their real-world identity, which for a young generation used to intensive scrutiny of their online life, means more freedom to speak openly (one side-effect of this is that conversations often drift into topics that might be described as ‘not fit for polite company’). And heavy modding to expurgate abusive posts makes the site something of a safe-space.

With these considerations, I will occasionally post about a reddit thread which I think is particularly interesting, amusing, or relevant. This week’s thread relates to this weekend’s incidents of protest and violence in Virginia:

The 2017 KKK Starter Pack

You can see this post is making fun of Friday night’s torchlight march in Charlottesville by white nationalists – all young, preppy looking men who could hardly be from an oppressed minority, but apparently think that they are. Further links and comments in the post develop this theme. The image of the “starter pack” (see below) suggests a partisan group of reactionary and unimaginative people who just want to gather together with their own kind.

In fact, Trump-supporting Millennials on reddit do have a safe-space – a “subreddit” (like a discussion category) where they can enjoy their own alternate hivemind. Here is a post about media coverage of the deadly violence which ensued the next day, where you can see that they do indeed feel like an embattled minority.

But don’t they know that it is absurd for men to march, waving swastika flags and shouting ‘Heil Trump!’ in 2017 America? Yet there it is to be seen, in the videos of the Charlottesville protests which are amply available online. Emboldened by their capture of the Presidency, white nationalists are goading their opponents and raising the stakes in the battle for this country’s future.

But listen to the hivemind: they are on the losing side in the long run. Their chosen messiah is so mindbogglingly incompetent that we may just be witnessing their last gasp of self-destruction. That is certainly my hope, and I hope white nationalism expires with as little more violence as possible.