So this here is a true story, with, obviously, the name of the person I am going to refer to removed.
I don’t write this thinking it will change someone, or change how they see the world, or change their mind on what they believe.
I write these blogs, as I have said, as my own statement of how I see the world.
I hope that if something profound finds its way here then someone gets something from it but I don’t count on it or assume it will happen.
Life isn’t that way.
As we all have seen and experienced, the internet is a wonderful and horrifying place.
No need to go deeper than that because we all know it.
There has always been the dark alleyways and the overgrown and wild places.
And there have always been people lying to us.
On dating profiles, in our emails, on websites, and on and on.
Lying isn’t new to the web.
It just wasn’t weaponized as efficiently as it has been in recent years.
There’s suddenly two strains of people running the mean streets of the web – the trolls and the goblins. I dunno if goblin is a proper term but to me it feels right.
Trolls are the angry idiots that get upset at every last thing and want to make sure you know it.
By god it’s their world and we’re just taking up space in it.
Goblins, again, my term, are the people who get paid to sell lies and untruths – even if that pay is in glee.
Trolls are ugly, are horrible, but goblins are the more dangerous because their lies have enough of the truth in them to draw in people looking for answers and desperate to have the world explained to them, even if that explanation seems like a long drink of madness.
I had a friend who fell prey to the darkness of the web. Whether its trolls or goblins that tricked him I can’t say because there’s a point where both factions fight on the same field, shoulder to shoulder because all either side wants to do is burn down the world, at least the parts of if that don’t ascribe to the world they see.
My friend was an angry guy who had the intelligence, skills, and charisma to get a lot further in life than he found himself but every frustration, every setback, every challenge only deepened his bitterness and anger and showed him that the game was rigged, the rules hacked, and the world was against him.
I can’t tell you what set him off.
Was it his folks splitting up?
Was it a girl doing him wrong?
Was it a job that lead him astray?
I dunno, but if I think about it for a moment I can see that he was always broken, I just hadn’t realized how broken he was and overlooked the cracks.
Maybe out of friendship.
Maybe because I saw my own cracks more clearly.
Or maybe because it’s just hard to admit to the darkness you find in someone’s heart.
That was my friend.
A lot of us saw personalities traits that were damaged but we overlooked them.
Overlooked them until he found himself lost with no way for us to reach him any longer.
He had called me one night to tell me that he saw a UFO hanging still in the sky. It was something he couldn’t explain and he wanted me to see it. He rushed over and we got my binoculars out and we looked and he was right. It was a lighted object in the sky a bit off just hanging still and silent. He claimed he’d seen another but I didn’t see it. And it was weird but if it was of origins of another world I wouldn’t commit. He was certain though. When my wife returned home later that night and I told her she gave me the easy and obvious answer – it was a police helicopter near the scene of a shooting.
This was the point where my former friend began moving away from the rest of us.
He began diving into YouTube and the web for answers.
And finally, a flat earth.
When he began talking about all of this we laughed. It was crazy. Who would believe that?
That the earth was flat?
Everything seemed to come clear to him – there was a vast conspiracy to lie to us about how our world was under a dome, on a disc, and that there was an alien presence that ran the show. Governments were in collusion. There was no moon landing. The truth was hidden in nature but we just wouldn’t see it. Divinity existed, even for someone who had once been an atheist, and it was all around us.
Taken together it was beyond madness.
It was illogical.
I don’t have to believe in everything that everyone does.
My belief only has bearing on me.
The thing is though that once you start denying truths that have been proved over and over and over again, choosing instead to believe in the harder story, the stranger story, I have a problem.
We proved the earth was flat back when there were only manually operated scientific instruments and the courage of people to see what happens when you sailed further than was reasonable.
We have proven over and over and over certain things.
The thing though is that there are people who are so damaged that they believe the whole world is lying to them, is against them, and is conspiring to make them fools.
They will buy into any lie that tells them they are right.
Flat-Earthers are the sore thumbs that stick out the most but the notion incels have that women owe them sex and companionship, the notion gamergaters have that videogames should be only white and hyper-masculine, or that some religious people have that anyone that does not fall into the binary heterosexual lifestyle is sick.
We are in an era where the lies have become bigger than the truths because we take the truth for granted.
We take it as an obvious thing.
Too many others don’t.
Even if they may believe, deep down, that the world isn’t how they see it, by god, they will do whatever it takes to make it into what they believe.
It’s the last efforts of someone, of a group of people, losing their grip on a shifting landscape.
Losing connection to a world they don’t feel they can control.
It is what someone desperate does.
They revert to the cold comfort of hate and ignorance because there is nothing better, nothing that feels purer than the simple act of being against the norm.
By god, you won’t change me.
I won’t let you change my mind, my heart, or my body.
This has become a scary world.
A scary country.
We want freedom…for us and those we love.
We want rights, for ourselves.
We want knowledge, for the things we feel are right.
We hide behind gods and politicians and blame them when our truths are shown to have holes.
We are a broken people with no desire to patch ourselves up.
Our friends went so far out to sea that we couldn’t reach him.
One night I tried to connect with him, went to pick him up and hang out and he asked on the way to my house if it was an intervention.
It wasn’t, and sadly, I was the last of his friends to care enough to even reach out to him.
I had thought we’d watch something on TV, talk, and just have fun.
He had other ideas.
He had made up a PowerPoint presentation to show me his beliefs and, presumably, to convert me.
Alas, as soon as he started it he lost me.
I can reason out a lot of the mysteries he was fascinated by and those that I couldn’t weren’t enough to drive me towards declaring wrong things that science had already proven out.
And that was it.
I remained his friend until he started to get aggressive online any time someone questioned his claims and his YouTube links. His answers came in the form of other people’s diatribes posted online or videos that were supposed to prove out things that had already been proven hundreds of years earlier.
Nothing would break through.
He had made his choice.
I should have seen it coming.
He had quit his jobs.
He had moved into what was essentially a hovel in a sketchy part of town.
He sold his car and just rode his bike.
He cut off everyone who didn’t see the world the way he did.
It all added up to someone removing themselves from society.
That isn’t always a bad thing, at all, but taken with his world views, it’s a dangerous thing.
And I find now that I worry about him, and about what he has become.
He’s not yet 40 and has already given up on people.
I don’t know what sort of future he has.
Just day after day after day.
Fighting a world that you can’t convince, though I think if he did he’d probably change again.
Better to be alone and righteous than surrounded and part of the herd.
And I can’t help but think that the trolls and goblins online preyed upon him as they prey upon anyone broken enough to look for truth and answers from random strangers with a video account or people with a website…or book…or some sort of bully pulpit.
Act as if you have authority and knowledge and you will call the weak and fallen to you like lost lambs.
Look around and you see it. Facebook is still full of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Websites that JUST want a little info that they swear they won’t sell. Maybe.
Social sites that want your feedback as they tell you what other people voted…the man behind the curtain a firm that is using your data to preach to you about a specific topic, dressed up as hard journalism.
We all get conned.
Some of us worse than others.
We want to believe.
In ourselves, in others, and the world.
Alas, the world has gotten uglier and it’s gotten easier to fool strangers for fun and profit.
And when our leaders are part of that system of lies, when they profit from it and excel because of it there is no one to help guide us back to reasonable truth.
It’s a lot more comforting to be a zealot than it is to be part of the pack.
And so few want the drama of speaking up and correcting people.
So few want to deal with the trouble of this world that the lies get grander and sink deeper until you start to wonder – but what if…
Everyone has an agenda, we figure, and everyone is on the take.
Every great movement has holes in its base which people pick at until the whole of it falls apart.
ALL this are ALL of that.
There are no grays, just black and white and red all over.
God is dead in a world full of Judases.
And we’re bound to lose friends when the truth of people comes out.
Because how do you look past deep-seated ignorance, or abuse, or bigotry, or sexism, or hatred, or any of the ugly parts of ourselves that we all have an ounce of in us?
How do you forgive someone who wants to see the world burn so they can feel warmed by its fire?
In this area of truth, the only thing we can depend on is that truth is malleable and changing and that you have to go with your heart to find what is truest of all and even then you have to look deeper at whether you too might just be wrong.