The quest for enlightenment

I’m attempting to make use of an opportunity for enlightenment here, by asking someone to explain why it’s pleasurable and fun to skip over the substantive content of a disagreement and just call people ugly (fat, old, smelly – the usual shame-labels) instead.

It starts with someone who is a complete stranger to me tweeting at me.


WaddleDee @chsvns

@OpheliaBenson @thunderf00t I agree. Nice of you to admit that thundef00t is right about something.

Ophelia Benson @OpheliaBenson

@chsvns You agree with what? Right about what?

WaddleDee @chsvns

@OpheliaBenson @thunderf00t the part about him being a mensch, and the part him observing that you are ugly.

Ophelia Benson @OpheliaBenson

@chsvns So, to be clear, you’re tweeting me to tell me I’m ugly?


WaddleDee @chsvns

@OpheliaBenson Oh no you’re beautiful. How could you think that?

Ophelia Benson @OpheliaBenson

@chsvns So that’s a yes. Question: why? What’s the point? What’s my being ugly got to do with anything?

WaddleDee @chsvns

@OpheliaBenson To be an asshole of course. Is it really that difficult to figure out?

Ophelia Benson @OpheliaBenson

@chsvns In one way, no. In another way, yes. Why be an asshole? It is hard to figure out why that’s pleasurable.


WaddleDee @chsvns

@OpheliaBenson You pretty much explain it it your second sentence. It is pleasurable. It’s fun to watch, so I wanted to try it out.

Ophelia Benson @OpheliaBenson

@chsvns But my question was & still is WHY is it pleasurable? What’s fun to watch about it?

I’m not very confident that I will get anything that is actually explanatory, but I thought I might as well try, because it is something I’m permanently curious and puzzled about. It truly seems the very opposite of pleasurable and fun, to me. If I try to imagine engaging in it myself it feels actively painful – not just boring or meh but acutely horrible. I’m curious about why it feels like fun to other people, and why there are so many people who experience it that way.


  1. R Johnston says

    To skip over the substantive content of a disagreement there has to be actual substantive content and an actual disagreement. In cases like Phil Mason and the troglodytes who are his hangers-on, there is no substance or actual disagreement. The name calling is a defense mechanism to allow them to fail to come to grips with the fact that if they actually tried to honestly articulate their own positions they’d have to retire in shame from the public sphere. If they didn’t hate and vacuously dismiss people they “digasgree” with then they’d have to examine their own beliefs and they’d have to hate themselves. Their options are to insult you or to cry themselves to sleep every night over how much they hate themselves for their lifestyle of entirely avoiding substantive beliefs and rational arguments.

  2. atheist says

    Wow, some douchebag named “WaddleDee” is literally this much of a troglodyte. His mom must be so proud.

  3. Bjarte Foshaug says

    To be an asshole of course.

    At least this one is more honest than the ones who pretend it’s about “disagreement” and “free speech” and “true skepticism™” and stuff…

  4. ismenia says

    I think it’s the thrill of power that makes people do it. They can say something that will get an emotional reaction, thus making the other person weaker. It’s just like the school playground. As an adult this kind of behaviour is harder to get away with so the internet is a good outlet for that childish impulse.

  5. seraphymcrash says

    I second the power dynamic. I would also say that sometimes when you are in pain you lash out to make someone else feel pain too. Especially if you are powerless to combat the pain you are feeling, at least you can make someone else hurt too.

    The human drive to inflict suffering on others is one of the more terrible things about us.

  6. says

    I agree on a power display. He gets to go through the motions of looking powerful. He can make someone else feel bad and there are no repercussions. Additionally they are enjoying feeling powerful and doing so with a group with similar values. So it’s a personal and tribal power-trip.

    The sad part is that they are pretty much creating themselves into a monster. Lots of human behavior is reinforcing pleasurable feelings via associated actions. If the rush is good enough they will find other outlets to do it in. the tragedy is in the psychological tools that they will leave themselves in the process. Sure they can get away with it online but what about the real world?

    This is why unwiring all these screwed up social interactions and structures are so hard. He must feel so special, but he’s not. He’s common, and petty.

  7. johnthedrunkard says

    Gad, there is a whiff of sulphur in this. A kind of casual evil that challenges any hope for human beings.

    I was most strongly reminded of Kitty Genovese…

  8. rnilsson says

    Oh fart.
    Charles Evans, here’s a toast to Ms Benson in your dishonorable name.
    May you choke on it, Chokes.

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