In Oklahoma City there is one daily newspaper. In the way we are familiar with from old westerns, the publisher with money made elsewhere managed to use muscle and political connections to eliminate competition since before statehood. As a result for a time there was only one major news outlet, and unfortunately for its audience, it has been deemed not only the most conservative newspaper in the country, but the worst as well.
Because of its monopoly, it also, therefore, managed to control what the majority of people think on any given topic, and it has been able to use this thought control for its own benefit and that of its political and religious allies.
Thankfully, as more people began to seek news from outside this limited access by going on the internet when it became available, the newspaper has lost some of its control, but, unfortunately, too many people seek out news outlets with which they feel comfortable, agree with what the newspaper tells them they should think, and which don’t threaten those beliefs they have arrived at by the control of the editorial writers.
The more rural parts of the state have limited internet access, however, so the attitudes of the people in those parts of the state have stayed pretty much in the past.
This will change with time.
As a result, many people who may claim they are the controllers of their own thoughts, and who feel their opinions have been independently arrived at are unaware that they merely parrot what they have been told to believe, and in defending their supposed independent thoughts actually defend the newspaper. They have been told what to think, and they will defend those thoughts because they think they are their own.
Just as with this web site, the online version of that paper has a section for comments at the end of each article, although when they know people might express an opinion, or reveal facts that oppose the company line they will block comments on a selective basis.
When I lived there, and even now when I check to see what is going on in a city where I spent 18 years of my life and was an active citizen, I see that a gentleman who signs his comments “Bert from Henrietta” is still actively commenting.
Bert comments on everything. I am sure he is an expert in some things, but to read his comments it is obvious he holds himself an expert in all things. Bert obviously listens to certain conservative radio talk shows and watches Fox News because if a current event is covered in my blog and also covered in the OKC newspaper around the same time, not only are some of his comments and those of some people on this site similar in thought, but both use the same words and phrases I heard on Rush and Fox around that time as well.
His general approach and belief seem to be that once he has made his comment, the matter has been settled, and he does not handle opposing opinions, or even further ones that agree with him very well. Opposing opinions and further comments result in Bert insulting those commenters.
Bert also holds closely to the newspaper’s decidedly one sided, limited, and unreasonably conservative mindset, and even when irrelevant will, when convenient, attempt to change the topic in the comment thread to what he wants to discuss , refuse to answer a direct question, and resort to wild attacks on the person with whom he disagrees.
Bert also seems to have a lot of time on his hands and a desire to be heard, and a need to say something about everything even if he really has nothing to say, as he comments on everything all day long, even when an article really does not call for a comment.
But what strikes anyone who reads the comments at the end of articles is that Bert has to say something about everything as if it is a compulsion, a form of keyboard Turrets. He seems to have a pathological need to be heard no matter what.
Since this web site has added the comment section at the end of articles and blogs, I have noticed that no matter what the topic is, and no matter who writes the blog or article, the same names show up making expert comments on everything, and that they seem to be in the style of Bert from Henrietta.
They are experts on everything, repeat much of what has been said on such outlets as Fox News and WXTK, as the words and phrases, the labels used on opponents, and the regular references to long debunked misinformation are the same.
I noticed some people will argue a point, and if pressed by other commenters will eventually contradict themselves, if not later on the same thread, on what they had declared on past occasions.
I decided to conduct an unscientific experiment, not to establish anything major, but just to see if my suspicions were correct.
So on Friday, September 13, without any comment or any point of reference, I published a picture of a gun.
Obviously, there was nothing to agree or disagree with, and as nothing was said beyond the label, “GUN”, there was nothing to discuss. It was a cartoon of a gun.
What could anyone have to say, and would it demonstrate that some people just have to say something, no matter what, as if it were a compulsion, if not a meaningful outlet for them to have their say? Would it show that for some their comments are simply reflexive acts, like a Pavlovian dog and a bell, which would illustrate that their opinions are actually empty and void of real substance because no matter what was there, and no matter how unworthy of comment, they just had to say something. It is not so much they have an opinion that needs to be expressed for the benefit of those who read the comment, it is just that given the stimulus, they are compelled to respond, in this case in the form of a comment.
The comments began with those by the same people who seem to begin their days in this manner - the Berts from Cape Cod. They seemed to want to begin a dialog on what they hoped would become a topic, but after two days and in spite of there being 16 comments on nothing, the discussion they hoped for did not begin as the people who argue from reason and the presentation of facts saw nothing there to deal with.
16 comments on nothing, and serious ones by the same people.
How substantive can their opinions be if they are so eager to comment on everything, attempt to change the topic as if the blog is just an excuse for them to write on a pet subject, or take time to write about a picture of a gun and attempt a discussion on nothing?
It was an interesting experiment.
Then there was the pie.