Saturday, June 04, 2016

Orthocuban on platitudes, preaching and panic-a riff on insulting platitudes as a hortatory approach in watchblogging and their commenters


But, the worst challenge to a priest/pastor/preacher is the challenge of beginning to use platitudes. What is a platitude? A platitude is, “a remark or statement, especially one with a moral content, that has been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful.” Did you catch that? It is a statement that has been used, “… too often to be interesting or thoughtful.”

In the activity of blogging, particularly in the subcategory of blogging that people call watchblogging, platitudes are legion.

LOL, Don't drink the Kool-aid
Wake up, sheeple!
It's all about the money.

Obregon also wrote:

The problem with platitudes is that quite often they are half-truths. Sometimes, they are even fully false. But, they have the sound of a wise saying when they are actually misleading, but correct-sounding, clich├ęs.

Of course Obregon was blogging about pastoral responsibility and the avoidance of platitudes that have the appearance of wisdom but are in the end merely platitudes.  Here that's not what I tend to look at.  Most of the platitudes about how you should be true to yourself or let your freak flag fly are idiotic to me because the people who have shouted those platitudes have tended to be the kinds of conformists who parade their conformity as individualism.

Not without cause did South Park send up Goth kids as the kids who complain about conformists while they wear the same black clothes and listen to the same bands, not recognizing their own capacity for conformity. Nothing's more boringly American than the motto "I rebel".  It's one of the reasons Rogue One doesn't look that promising to me.  Been there.  Done that. Because we already have the platitude from American popular cinema that the greatest non-conformist rebel could be the greatest champion for a great cause with a little more discipline.  Obstinately rebelling for the right reasons is the foundation myth of the United States, after all. 

One of the platitudes about cult leaders is that they are charismatic an win people over because they want something.  But that's not necessarily true.  Jacques Ellul's observation about propagandists was that they can't start from nothing. They have to accurately observe and cater to a stereotype.  Stereotypes simply do not come out of thin air.  Now here in the United States we have red-state stereotypes (from and about) and we have blue state stereotypes (from and about).  What an able demagogue can do is cater to these stereotypes and whether it's the angry white radicals or reactionaries we can get ourselves a Sanders or a Trump whose agitating lingo can inspire the herds. 

Well, unless you're supporting one or the other and then you're not part of a herd of lemmings, you're advocating for the voice of the people, of course. 

In the realm of watchblogging the temptation to not merely resort to but to actively think in platitudes is almost unavoidable. No, strike that, the temptation cannot be avoided at all.  If you choose to interact with people or their ideas at the level of platitudes you've lost.  The terrible truth about those who think in terms of platitudes when dealing with those they believe are mired in platitudes is there is no exit. 

One of the most popular hortatory methods in watchblogging, whether by bloggers or commenters, can summed up as the "WAKE UP SHEEPLE! STOP DRINKING THE KOOL-AID" school of ... persuasion.  Notice I didn't say "school of thought" but "school of persuasion".  I've seen this one resorted to so many times it's not even worth it trying to recount the number of times it's been used.  This method has no demonstrable success but the power of the platitudes that drive it seems beyond estimation.  This hortatory method hinges on the sincere belief that if you insult people for their loves and loyalties long enough by directly labeling them as idiots that they will all of a sudden see the light, abandon their foolish ways and errant loyalties and become more sane and human, in other words ... more like you. The only power this method seems to have is the sense of power the person has who uses it, the moral gratification one can bathe in resorting to it.

I've loathed this approach for a long time.  I was a former Mars Hill member and attender and I can tell you that this "wake up sheeple" approach not only never worked, it inspired people to double down on their loyalties.  One of the paradoxes in the history of Mars Hill is that insulting platitudes may have done as much to cement people in their loyalty to Mars Hill as anything Mark Driscoll might have said from the pulpit.  We can't know for certain but as a former member who had a ten year connection to the church, more or less, it seems to me that derogatory platitudes can inspire people to double down on an identity and even make it a matter of pride.  For some folks that identity might be found in the label "gay" and for others it might be "member of Mars Hill" but the psychological dynamic of doubling down on an identity in response to insults can be the same.

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