You can lead a horse to the internet, but you can’t make him look anything up

I guess it’s much more fun being ignorant. That’s all I can think when I come upon a comment this stupid:

Just how in hell did a white Hispanic get a Hebrew name like Zimmerman?

That sterling piece of insight came from someone called “dmorris” on a comment thread on a post at Mitchieville, which is a Canadian website. The post is commentary on the Trayvon Martin shooting. Trayvon Martin was shot in Florida, which is not in Canada, but lots of Canadians go to Florida so I suppose they, like everyone else in the goddamn world who went to Disney World a couple of times, think they are qualified to talk about the place and its goings on. But leaving that aside…

I left a comment there calling dmorris an ignorant, possibly anti-Semitic moron, because I’ve had it with right wing websites giving houseroom to this kind of drool. So I doubt that comment will ever see the light of day over there, as is the website owner’s right. Fortunately, I have my own blog right here, and I’ll tell you what I found out in a simple Google search using the terms “jews german names.” Because Zimmerman isn’t a “Hebrew” name, it’s German, as anyone with half a brain in their skull, at least in this part of the world, should know. Or so I thought. Anyway, this is what I found out:

A lot of the surnames that sound Jewish to Americans are simply German names such as Klein, Gross or Grossman, Weiss or Weisman, Rosen, Schwartz or Schwartzman, Segal, Siegal or Sagal, and anything that contains berg, stein, man, thal or bluth. German surnames are very common among American Jews, and many people seem to have inferred the converse: if most Jews have German surnames, then most people with German surnames must be Jews. The reasoning is appealing on a gut-level but logically flawed. Consider this absurd but logically identical argument: most Jews have ten fingers, therefore most people with ten fingers must be Jews.

Bolds mine. The next paragraph goes on to explain that the prevalence of German surnames in Jews of European origin stemmed from a decree passed when the Austro-Hungarian Empire controlled much of Europe. Everyone had to have a surname (Jews didn’t — they used patronymics — “David ben Gurion” — i.e., “David son of Gurion”). I found all that out, and I didn’t have to get in my car and drive to the library. Isn’t the age of the internet marvelous?

But blah blah boring history, it’s much more fun to be an ignorant clod fapping on about “white Hispanics” with “Hebrew names.” In other words, yes, Kathy, they are “making you look bad,” but not for the reasons you think. Not that linking to someone else’s post means you approve of what their commenters say, but that’s why I’m careful what I link to, especially these days. I just don’t want to be associated with certain things. Of course I realize that blog owners are not responsible for policing the thoughts of their readers, but they are responsible for what those readers put in their comment threads. As in: they can confront bigoted bile, instead of just letting it sit there festering. They don’t have to delete the garbage if they have some sort of (quite mistaken) idea that doing so is a repression of “free speech.” But not calling these people out when they spew their trash is the same as giving them tacit approval, and that attracts others of their ilk.

That brings me to another issue. Some people troll comment threads to start trouble and make you look bad. This has happened to a website I will not link to and no longer comment on. (See the previous paragraph where I stated that I don’t want to be associated with certain things.) The website owner chose to “ignore” the troll but not delete any of his disgusting racist garbage because apparently that would be playing his game or something. But here’s the thing. On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog. No one can read your mind — if you disapprove of a comment, but refuse to either confront the commenter or delete his leavings, other people reading your site simply assume you are okay with what he said. How can they know? You won’t even say anything yea or nay, because in your head you’re above all that. But no one can see you up there on your shining pedestal. It’s one thing to be unconcerned with what people think about you when it comes to your own beliefs and ideas that you have communicated to the world. It’s another to not care what people think about you because you don’t seem to understand that communication comes in many forms, and one of them is silence and inaction on a situation under your control. “That guy over there taking a dump in the corner of my living room? Just ignore him like I am. He means nothing to me.” But other people aren’t you. They might not be able to ignore the stench of shit.

Update: oh dear. Cry moar, emo “satire” site. Oh well, if we can’t laugh at some kid getting shot to death because he has a “funny” name what can we laugh at?

22 thoughts on “You can lead a horse to the internet, but you can’t make him look anything up

  1. Every so often I still encounter some clod who assumed Rush Limbaugh must be Jewish. Still, the champions for the you-must-be-Jewish assumption seems to be people of Arab origin. There’s a subset of the infidel-hater population thereof, that seems to assume any infidel who is willing to speak up for the victims of infidel-hater violence must be Jewish.

    It is, as you say, nothing more than the utterer/typer of such nonsense bolting a revolving searchlight on his head that displays on the clouds above the words, “I’m a moron.” But the only thing scary about them is that they vote.

    • Yes, but no Arabs were involved in this particular instance, as far as I can tell (see “on the internet, no one knows you’re a dog”). And it’s not accusations of being Jewish that I’m concerned about either (though dmorris seems to be ignorant of the fact that the Zimmermans were/are devout Catholics, not Jewish). It’s the all-over ignorance that just has anti-Semitism as an ingredient. I could understand if, say, dmorris were from Pakistan, or Liberia, or some Jews-with-German-names-lite area of the world, but somehow I doubt that is the case. If you live in the US or Canada, countries with large Jewish and German-immigrant-descended populations, you’d know that the name “Zimmerman” was not “Hebrew,” but German. And I’d even give the guy a pass if he’d said “Jewish” instead of “Hebrew” because yes lots of Jews use the name “Zimmerman.” But he didn’t. It’s been my experience that people who use “Hebrew” in that manner are, if not flaming anti-Semites, are at least giving off wisps of “Jews are weird and alien” smoke.

      But leaving all that aside for the moment, all he had to do was look up — anything, anything at all. Articles on Zimmerman’s family. Real Hebrew names. Anything. And I haven’t even touched on the bizarre snark about Bob Dylan. Yeah, it’s real big news (sarcasm warning) that Dylan’s real last name is Zimmerman. Like, I’m sure there must be someone — maybe on Mars — who doesn’t know that. Big scoop there.

    • I suppose I’ll point out the elephant in the room – Germanic surnames are common among American Jews in large part because they took those names with them when fleeing for their lives from the Fatherland. It’s why folks tend to be touchy when the hints of that old hatred seem to follow the Jewish people. It takes very little for that hint to become open hatred and criminal, vicious thuggery.

      Based on the post in which said comment was left, I would not feel quite comfortable in trusting to the “regular commenter” dmorris, nor the proprietor of his stomping grounds. Regulars know darned well what can fly and what cannot. This flew – and indeed, flew to an extent that the original poster feels he ought to defend the regular on other websites that call out his (at best) ignorance, and (at worst) bigotry.

      Hence Ms. Harris’ point. An ugly and overblown “satire,” badly-aimed, made someone feel safe to express the world’s oldest hatred. Far from merely missing it or ignoring it, now you’re over here trying to call out someone who noticed.

    • Sarcasm is very difficult to convey in text, especially in comment threads on a subject which has already garnered quite a lot of openly racist commentary, from “white Hispanic” to the mocking of African-American naming conventions (i.e., making fun of Trayvon Martin’s first name), and so on. I’ve gotten in trouble myself when I’ve written something I thought was clever and then had my dry, understated humor completely misunderstood. It’s the nature of the medium.

  2. Well, the idea, the meme, of calling people ‘White-Hispanic’ seems to have appeared with this particular crime. It has unsavory implications, but if the authors of the meme want to run with it, then it is rope around their neck, er, sharpening the guillotine being prepared for their necks.

    I presume dmorris was running with this meme and tapping into the ‘evil Israel’ meme that those that who created the ‘White Hispanic’ are also fond of. Which is to say, to demonize the Zimmerman unit, why not label him a ‘White Israeli Hispanic’. Two negative adjectives, that way.

    But, dmorris, is the best person to explain his reasoning. Unless of course everyone you disagree with is stupid. Then he is incapable of reason.

    • Unfortunately, intent does not matter. I’ve never encountered this dmorris person to my knowledge, so I have no basis to go by to tell whether or not he was intending merely to riff off the racist statements of others merely to mock them. Now if he is in the habit of doing this on certain websites, and all the other commenters are used to it, in the manner of friends just shooting the shit, then that is one thing. But a public website isn’t exactly the best venue for this sort of exchange.

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  4. Sorry Ms. Spinster but you have misjudged the commenter dmorris and the web site.
    The whole blog is based on sarcasm,black humour, parody,disinformation , skill testing questions
    and the odd bit of social discourse.
    So do not take any material there that disturbs you, to heart.

    • A single space goes after commas.
      I’m not sure how you got the odd line spacing to work, though. Posting from a smartphone? Or is it some sort of experimental poem style?

      • Okay, I see one possibility from my own comment there — I hit the enter key once after the first sentence, and got a line break, not a paragraph break.
        structural problems in their setup. (Also the
        comment box tends to stop opening up as you type after a while, which is annoying
        and which I have
        noticed on other blog sites.

        Okay, no more weird line breaks, I promise.

  5. You bloody idiots! Mitchieville,where I made the “Zimmerman” comment,is the FOREMOST INTERNET HUMOUR SITE IN ALL OF CANADA!

    Almost nothing is said on that site that isn’t a parody of someone,in this case,the idiots who make assumptions based on a surname,or race, or color,or religion.

    If you have no understanding of sarcasm, facetiousness, irony,and every other humourous device in the book, DO NOT surf over to Mitchieville.

    Oh,and Fenris,I KNOW you’re laughing all the way to the telemarketing cave!

    And,”Twisted spinster”,a humour site is exactly where we should be poking fun at all the shitheads currently trying to turn this event into a race war.

    • “That was a joke.”
      “You have no sense of humor.”
      “It’s a satire site!”

      Yeah, I’ve heard them all before. The thing is, to be satire, you have to be funny. But I’ll take your word that it was all meant in jest. I’m still having trouble laughing at dead kids, though. Maybe I need to read more “satire.”

  6. By the way, it looks like my new commenters have decided to use my website to have some sort of conversation amongst themselves, and I’m not running a pub. So sayonara, fellas! It’s been real. I’ll leave trackbacks on in case you need to leave a breadbcrumb trail.

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