Posted by: JDM..... | February 29, 2012

Freddie Mac & the Factory Worker vs. the Editor & his Puppets….

creating battles out of….kilobytes….

Sometimes it’s just as interesting to read the comments and discussions that follow online news items as it is to read the articles themselves.

A case in point would be a story I decided to take a look at one morning about a man in California who …. , well, let’s start with the story itself.

The headline read: Marine makes last stand in foreclosed home

The storyline itself was almost painfully trite in this day and age when economies teeter on the edge of one abyss or another and people suffer unemployment and the loss of financial stability. It reported that a 46 year old aerospace factory supervisor who had lost his home of ten years when his employer had reduced his hours decided to defy the eviction and moved back in. “Occupying” various chunks of real estate, usually belonging to someone else, has become the “ME TOO” de jour for 2012, it seems, following a long tradition of such venerable traditions of mass hysteria as polyester leisure suits, Beanie Babies, and elephantine denim pants bedecked with enough chains to moor the Queen Mary.

Anyway, it was a sad but all too common tale of misfortune with the caveat of marketability being that the unremarkable and bespectacled middle aged gentleman did his version of Howard Beale’s iconic 1976 movie speech by declaring “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore,” and then climbed back into the home from which Freddie Mac had evicted him, declaring that he wasn’t leaving.

The writer described how the man allegedly had made numerous honest efforts to resolve the problem with the lender to no avail, and included allegations by the lender that the man’s claims were untrue.

The headline, of course, had evoked visions of some poor combat veteran of the Middle East wars returning home only to have the evil antagonist Freddie Mac kick him out of his house. That wasn’t the case, however, and the fact that he had served five years in the Marine Corps a couple of decades earlier really wasn’t germane to the point of the article.

Nice filler piece, but not earthshaking. I found the ensuing comments and counter-comments by other readers sucked in by the headline to be far more entertaining, and perhaps even educational from a behavioral science perspective.


Many of the readers had little or nothing to say about the man’s plight, but focused on various aspects of his association with the Marine Corps. If he was retired, he should have been able to afford his house payments. Was he retired or not retired? Retirement pay isn’t enough. The article didn’t say he was retired. The article DID say he was retired. Is it OK to say “ex” Marine or “former” Marine?….and so on and so forth.

My own brief read of the article only revealed that he served in the Marine Corps for five years. It didn’t say when. It didn’t say where.

They battled back and forth, sarcastically suggesting that, had others actually READ the article, they would KNOW (whatever the commenter of the moment’s opinion supported). It was a superb demonstration of intellectual King of the Mountain, locker-room towel snapping, my noogie was better than yours, and “end of story”/ “so’s yer old lady” attempts to declare oneself winner by turning off the microphone. There were also the inevitable “fixers” who tried to jump in and civilize things, but most of them were either sucked into the fray by well-placed below the intellectual belt blows, or rendered impotent and silent because they were completely ignored.

While I declined to read each and every comment (I confess, that does sound hypocritical), I have no intention of alleging facts or calling anyone names on the basis of what I did read. I will offer the observation, however, that the particular “discussion” (to use the term loosely) in question was not unlike other internet based exchanges I have visited.

Most of them exhibit poor reading comprehension skills, poor communication skills, and poor interpersonal skills.

I learned my way around those venues, to the extent that I did, in the days of paper and pencil, eyeball to eyeball communication. There was no internet yet at that time, so if one wished to flip off the meanest dog in the junk yard he either had to have big friends or fast sneakers. Your face and even your name in many cases were known to the targets of your insolence. Crossing the line had tangible consequences in the pre-computer, pre-internet world. Bare-bones (and sometimes bare-knuckle) behavior modification techniques were swift and effective teachers.

I have to wonder how the absence of direct interpersonal communication and interaction experience will affect our culture and our society in the future. A part of me wants to offer the pap that everything will work out just fine because there have always been generational differences, conflicts, and transitions. On the other hand, I feel justified in suggesting that the last few decades, as well as those in the immediate future, will prove to have been a time of significant transition in the nature of communication.

I’m sure those who live in that yet to develop future will do just fine in the context of their own existence, but I don’t think I’d want to try to live there and then.

Anonymity has its value, but accessing those benefits places the onus of accountability squarely in the camp of the nameless author. That in turn requires a certain level of maturity, of course, but more importantly, such an unbounded field of action requires an experience based understanding of just what “boundaries” and “limits” are in the first place, and just what purpose they serve.

Recorded history seems heavily weighted with excesses of boundaries, rules, regulations, and laws, almost universally created by one individual or group in order to control and direct the behaviors and even the thoughts of other individuals or groups. That circumstance at least provides those seeking fewer restrictions on their life processes and activities identifiable and quantifiable frames of reference. When one’s interpersonal skills have been acquired primarily in the anonymous safety of an intangible and shapeless universe of Avatar human surrogates, there is little or no reality based environment from which to learn.

It is obvious from a rudimentary observation of all but the most rigidly controlled “discussion” websites with narrowly focused fields of interest that internet society mirrors the behavioral characteristics of its real world role model in levels of violence and feral self interest. It is tempting to visualize some stereotypical cyberslug sitting in his computer cave, half clad and surrounded by empty pizza boxes and soda cans, punching out one-finger insults and character assassinations on a stained keyboard. I’m sure there may be some of that, but I suspect the bulk of this freestyle antisocial never-never land is populated by adolescents avoiding the stress of eyeball to eyeball peer interactions, and by adults unloading the burdens of a day at the office, perhaps acting out some deep-seated need to tell the boss to impossibly perform certain biological functions solo. .

In either case, accountability is absent and as a consequence there can be no learning and no framework for self regulation.



  1. Another sad aspect of this cyber-space “never-never” land is the “unfriending” of someone on FB and other social sites. People no longer know how to disagree and call it a day. You get mad at someone in the real world and then get online and unfriend them instead of telling them off and confronting the issue. It’s silly and it’s sad

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