Recently I authored a piece on the Higgs Boson discovery, in which I pointed out that the physicists in question haven’t proven anything yet. I compared the standard model of physics to a religious doctrine and its adherents to crazed zealots. This earned me a prime-time spot on the Reddit drama discussion board, which funnels thousands of professional trolls to various websites for their own amusement.
The vast majority of responses to the article were simply people calling me stupid, a quack, etc.. One of my favorite comments was “Get off my fucking internet you queeosexual ron cunt.” He even bothered to capitalize the first word of the sentence and include a period at the end.
While I take great amusement in the comments, I couldn’t figure out why so many people took time out of their day to troll this particular article. I’ve authored thousands of articles on thousands of different subjects, and many of them were far more controversial than this one. I’ve written a fully sourced thesis on the problems of the standard model and barely heard a peep about it. The Higgs article has by far received the most flaming out of any article I have ever written to date. The comments are not just confined to my blog, the number of hostile comments across all the various Reddit boards and internet blogs easily reaches into the thousands. On the libertarian board, this comment received nearly 200 down votes alone:
So why is there such widespread anger and outrage over this particular article?
It struck me that people really do consider the Higgs field to be “the God particle.” Questioning its existence is like questioning a religious doctrine. And questioning how the research is funded is like questioning church donations (obviously not quite the same, given that churches are funded voluntarily.) Consider that thousands of people took time out of their day to sling a nasty comment my way because I had the gall to question the existence of some obscure hypothetical subatomic particle. I find this to be a very interesting phenomena in its own right.
While I’m quite accustom to being called all manner of names over my beliefs, the hostility to this article actually made me stop and think about why I’m OK with that. Why is it that the nasty comments don’t bother me? Some people kill themselves over these kinds of things. Yet for some reason, I’m willing to operate an entire blog that’s dedicated to questioning established dogma.
After some reflection, I think it really comes down to how much I value my own opinions and beliefs above others. In order for a nasty comment to have an emotional impact on its intended target, that target has to care about what the other person thinks of them. This has some applicability to racist comments as well. When a black person calls a white person a cracker, it’s almost a joke. The impact isn’t nearly the same as a white person calling a black person a nigger. The difference in impact comes from the value each person assigns to themselves. The person who assumes a higher self-worth looks on any derogatory comments coming from the person of lower value as if they were being insulted by a child. That’s not to say I think black people have the value of children, but that I think many black people have a low self-worth, which ends up making them much more sensitive to racist insults.
I think high self-worth also plays a vital role in spread of libertarian doctrine as well. In order for people to associate themselves with a position that they know will be mocked and ridiculed by the childlike dependent masses, one must have a high self-worth. – The way I phrased that last sentence makes it clear how I view myself in comparison to the rest of society that does not share my beliefs, and its common to hear other libertarian authors use that same kind of phraseology.
If one looks more deeply at the situation, it seems that elevating people’s self-worth is a necessary and important step toward getting them to question established dogma and accept the libertarian non-aggression principle. This is why I’ve been spending more time lately writing about spiritual things, because I think this gives people a strong foundation from which to build up their own self-worth. When people value their own opinions and beliefs above others, they are much more apt to question what other people tell them, and much less likely to care when people mock them for questioning the status quo.
Libertarians who do decide to pick up the cross of questioning established dogma should also remember that, just as it is inappropriate to become hostile with an obnoxious child, it is equally important to exercise self-control when dealing with internet trolls. Just remember, they do what they do out of ignorance and fear. Don’t blame them or hate them, for they truly “know not what they do.”
Historian Tom Woods comments on the tendency for people to unquestioningly defer to authority: