Tag Archives: Misogyny

The Psychology of Online Comments

By Maria Konnikova

Several weeks ago, on September 24th, Popular Science announced that it would banish comments from its Web site. The editors argued that Internet comments, particularly anonymous ones, undermine the integrity of science and lead to a culture of aggression and mockery that hinders substantive discourse. “Even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader’s perception of a story,” wrote the online-content director Suzanne LaBarre, citing a recent study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison as evidence. While it’s tempting to blame the Internet, incendiary rhetoric has long been a mainstay of public discourse. Cicero, for one, openly called Mark Antony a “public prostitute,” concluding, “but let us say no more of your profligacy and debauchery.” What, then, has changed with the advent of online comments?

Anonymity, for one thing. According to a September Pew poll, a quarter of Internet users have posted comments anonymously. As the age of a user decreases, his reluctance to link a real name with an online remark increases; forty per cent of people in the eighteen-to-twenty-nine-year-old demographic have posted anonymously. One of the most common critiques of online comments cites a disconnect between the commenter’s identity and what he is saying, a phenomenon that the psychologist John Suler memorably termed the “online disinhibition effect.” The theory is that the moment you shed your identity the usual constraints on your behavior go, too—or, to rearticulate the 1993 Peter Steiner cartoon, on the Internet, nobody knows you’re not a dog. When Arthur Santana, a communications professor at the University of Houston, analyzed nine hundred randomly chosen user comments on articles about immigration, half from newspapers that allowed anonymous postings, such as the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle, and half from ones that didn’t, including USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, he discovered that anonymity made a perceptible difference: a full fifty-three per cent of anonymous commenters were uncivil, as opposed to twenty-nine per cent of registered, non-anonymous commenters. Anonymity, Santana concluded, encouraged incivility.

On the other hand, anonymity has also been shown to encourage participation; by promoting a greater sense of community identity, users don’t have to worry about standing out individually. Anonymity can also boost a certain kind of creative thinking and lead to improvements in problem-solving. In a study that examined student learning, the psychologists Ina Blau and Avner Caspi found that, while face-to-face interactions tended to provide greater satisfaction, in anonymous settings participation and risk-taking flourished.

Anonymous forums can also be remarkably self-regulating: we tend to discount anonymous or pseudonymous comments to a much larger degree than commentary from other, more easily identifiable sources. In a 2012 study of anonymity in computer interactions, researchers found that, while anonymous comments were more likely to be contrarian and extreme than non-anonymous ones, they were also far less likely to change a subject’s opinion on an ethical issue, echoing earlier results from the University of Arizona. In fact, as the Stanford computer scientist Michael Bernstein found when he analyzed the /b/ board of 4chan, an online discussion forum that has been referred to as the Internet’s “rude, raunchy underbelly” and where over ninety per cent of posts are wholly anonymous, mechanisms spontaneously emerged to monitor user interactions and establish a commenter’s status as more or less influential—and credible.

Owing to the conflicting effects of anonymity, and in response to the changing nature of online publishing itself, Internet researchers have begun shifting their focus away from anonymity toward other aspects of the online environment, such as tone and content. The University of Wisconsin-Madison study that Popular Science cited, for instance, was focussed on whether comments themselves, anonymous or otherwise, made people less civil. The authors found that the nastier the comments, the more polarized readers became about the contents of the article, a phenomenon they dubbed the “nasty effect.” But the nasty effect isn’t new, or unique to the Internet. Psychologists have long worried about the difference between face-to-face communication and more removed ways of talking—the letter, the telegraph, the phone. Without the traditional trappings of personal communication, like non-verbal cues, context, and tone, comments can become overly impersonal and cold.

But a ban on article comments may simply move them to a different venue, such as Twitter or Facebook—from a community centered around a single publication or idea to one without any discernible common identity. Such large group environments, in turn, often produce less than desirable effects, including a diffusion of responsibility: you feel less accountable for your own actions, and become more likely to engage in amoral behavior. In his classic work on the role of groups and media exposure in violence, the social cognitive psychologist Alfred Bandura found that, as personal responsibility becomes more diffused in a group, people tend to dehumanize others and become more aggressive toward them. At the same time, people become more likely to justify their actions in self-absolving ways. Multiple studies have also illustrated that when people don’t think they are going to be held immediately accountable for their words they are more likely to fall back on mental shortcuts in their thinking and writing, processing information less thoroughly. They become, as a result, more likely to resort to simplistic evaluations of complicated issues, as the psychologist Philip Tetlock has repeatedly found over several decades of research on accountability.

Removing comments also affects the reading experience itself: it may take away the motivation to engage with a topic more deeply, and to share it with a wider group of readers. In a phenomenon known as shared reality, our experience of something is affected by whether or not we will share it socially. Take away comments entirely, and you take away some of that shared reality, which is why we often want to share or comment in the first place. We want to believe that others will read and react to our ideas.

What the University of Wisconsin-Madison study may ultimately show isn’t the negative power of a comment in itself but, rather, the cumulative effect of a lot of positivity or negativity in one place, a conclusion that is far less revolutionary. One of the most important controls of our behavior is the established norms within any given community. For the most part, we act consistently with the space and the situation; a football game is different from a wedding, usually. The same phenomenon may come into play in different online forums, in which the tone of existing comments and the publication itself may set the pace for a majority of subsequent interactions. Anderson, Brossard, and their colleagues’ experiment lacks the crucial element of setting, since the researchers created fake comments on a fake post, where the tone was simply either civil or uncivil (“If you don’t see the benefits … you’re an idiot”).

Would the results have been the same if the uncivil remarks were part of a string of comments on a New York Times article or a Gawker post, where comments can be promoted or demoted by other users? On Gawker, in the process of voting a comment up or down, users can set the tone of the comments, creating a surprisingly civil result. The readership, in other words, spots the dog at the other of the end of the keyboard, and puts him down.

As the psychologists Marco Yzer and Brian Southwell put it, “new communication technologies do not fundamentally alter the theoretical bounds of human interaction; such interaction continues to be governed by basic human tendencies.” Whether online, on the phone, by telegraph, or in person, we are governed by the same basic principles. The medium may change, but people do not. The question instead is whether the outliers, the trolls and the flamers, will hold outsized influence—and the answer seems to be that, even protected by the shade of anonymity, a dog will often make himself known with a stray, accidental bark. Then, hopefully, he will be treated accordingly.

Maria Konnikova is the author of the New York Times best-seller “Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes.” She has a Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University.

Source: http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/the-psychology-of-online-comments

Heinrich Himmler’s Gynocentric(?) Worldview

The role of men, according to Himmler, is to protect and provide for women; to fight and die for the women, children and NS state (which itself exists only to protect women and children). National Socialism is collectivist as well as woman and child centered: procreation/demographics plays a central role in NS politics. (Himmler bashes the priesthood and homosexuality not because he sees it as amoral, but because it leads to declining birthrates for the German ‘race’.)

“150 years ago someone at a Catholic university wrote a doctoral thesis with the title: “Does a woman have a soul?” From this the whole tendency of Christianity emerges: it is directed at the absolute destruction of women and at emphasizing the inferiority of women. The entire substance of the priesthood and of the whole of Christianity is, I am firmly convinced, an erotic union of men (Männerbund) for the erection and maintenance of this 2000-year old Bolshevism. I reach that conclusion because I know very well the history of Christianity in Rome. I am of the conviction that the Roman emperors, who eradicated (ausrotteten) the first Christians, did exactly the same thing that we are doing with the communists. These Christians were then the worst yeast which the great city contained, the worst Jewish people, the worst Bolsheviks that there were.

The Bolshevism of that time had now the power to become great on the carcass of the dying Rome. The priesthood of the Christian church which later subjugated the Aryan church in unending conflicts goes on, since the 4th or 5th Century, too long for the celibacy of priests. It relies on Paul and the very first apostles who derogate the woman as something sinful and permit or recommend marriage as merely a legal way out of prostitution – that is in the Bible – and derogate the procreation of children as a necessary evil. This priesthood continues along in this way for several centuries until in 1139 the celibacy of priests is fully implemented.

I am furthermore convinced that the way out for the few who do not want to yield to this homosexuality, especially for the country parsons, the majority of whom – more than 50 % – I estimate not to be gay, is to procure for themselves in confession the necessary married and single women; I assume that in the monasteries the homosexuality ranges from 90 or 95 to100%.

If today the trials that concern homosexuality among priests went on again and if we would treat the priests as [we do] any citizen in Germany, then I would undertake to guarantee for the next three to four years 200 or more such trials. The realization of the trials fails to take place not because there is a lack of cases, but because we just do not have as many officials and judges as we would need to employ. Within the next four years very conclusive evidence will be produced – I hope – that the Church organization in its leadership, its priesthood, is for the most part a homosexual erotic men-union (Männerbund) that on this basis has been terrorizing humanity for the past 1800 years, demands from it the greatest blood sacrifice, and has been sadistically perverse in its utterances in the past. I need only to recall the witch and heretic trials.

The attitude about the inferiority of women is a typical Christian attitude, and we also who have been national socialists up to this day – many even who are strict heathens – have unwittingly adopted this set of ideas. I know even today very many party members who believe they have to prove the special firmness of their worldview (Weltanschauung) and their own special masculinity through very rowdy and truculent behaviour toward women.”

–Heinrich Himmler

Apparently, Heinrich Himmler was a feminist of sorts. But before we get too excited about the so-called “superior” Germanic (versus Roman Catholic) treatment of women, we read from the same speech by Himmler that:

“The whole theory which one has rightly built up that the Germanic girl, if she is unlucky enough not to get married until 26 or 30-years old, lived up to that time as a nun, is a myth. The blood laws, however, were strict, that no guy and no girl was allowed to mess around with someone of inferior blood. That law was relentlessly and strictly observed. Furthermore this was strict: marital fidelity. If that was broken by the woman, the death penalty was imposed. For from that there was a danger that foreign blood come in.”

The ancient Germans murdered wives who “cheated” on husbands, but not vice versa. Male sexual hypocrisy and double standardism is not limited to Islam, Roman Catholics, Orthodox Jews or non-white men. It’s a male thing, not an “ism” or racial thing. Contrary to WN myth, which would have us women believing that we will have full rights and power as a group and as individuals in an NS society, NS gynocentrism came with a high price for women: total control over their job prospects, earning potential, sexuality and reproduction. German women were viewed solely as “baby makers” for the state and race. Unlike their NS male peers, who were individuals and achievers outside the home and bedroom, NS women could not hope to aspire to much more than a life of housework and motherhood.

No thanks.

Heinrich Himmler – Speech about Homosexuality to the SS Group Leaders