After babysitting three grandkids under the age of 3 all day, I head home for dinner and take a nap that tends to last until 10 p.m. or midnight. When I wake up, I surf the web to take in the Cubs' news and all those ever important political opinion sites. I might get in an argument or two. Then, I try to change gears, play music and sketch. Some nights I succeed. Others, I don't.
What is it about bullshitting about opinions, particularly political opinions, that is so addicting? Opinion bullshitting is probably the major use of the internet. Comments sections of weblogs are filled with people arguing all night with an urgency that is preposterous.
Of course, there are a few weblogs and websites that are important presenters of opinion, like Steve Sailer's blog, probably the most influential on the web. Although Sailer has not endorsed Donald Trump for president, Sailer's explosive (and witty) deconstruction of political correctness may be the most significant factor in Trump's rise. The fact that Sailer now draws in excess of 200 comments per post is a demonstration of the demand for heretical commentary. Most people are followers who wait for somebody else to take the hit for saying that it is obvious that the emperor is naked.
The rest of us are just weighing in with our two cents, getting pissed off because other people don't agree with us, and filling our time with... what?
When I am gone from this vale of tears, what will be the most important thing about me that will remain on this earth? Obviously, my progeny. My children and grandchildren will be my most important legacies. My artwork seems altogether likely to be forgotten. My political opinions, already of little consequence, will disappear into the electronic ether.
I chose the graphic above because it's funny. No, my opinion isn't important to the website, blog or newspaper that tries to attract my comments. What's important is that my click to these sites can be counted by advertisers paying for web page views.
So, what is this endless bickering on the web about? What else would we do on the internet other than argue about politics? Why do we seem to believe that the first measure of compatibility with other people is political opinion agreement?
I only have a few answers.
Back during the dot-com era, I worked for a number of very ambition start-ups. By ambitious, I mean that these companies planned to produce compelling, interesting and, often, educational original content on CDs and on the web. These start-ups all went bankrupt, often after blowing through $100 million in venture capital. Why? The cost of creating that original content could not possibly be recaptured in sales. Teams of engineers, programmers and content creatures consumed money at an astonishing rate.
Political opinion, on the other hand, is dirt cheap... maybe even free. It can be produced in unlimited quantity daily with very little effort. And, people seem to have an unlimited willingness to consume the product. The emotional furor produced by disagreement is a powerful drug that keeps people engaged.
What else would you do besides fight about politics on the web? MIT has a great online education site. Despite my good intentions, I have yet to take a course.