About a year ago, I complained about the San Francisco 49ers’ management. This year, I have a new complaint that’s closely tied to sports (and the 49ers): circle jerks. But it will take me three posts to get to the heart of what I want to say. This post is a set up for the next two.
Now, I want to discuss what circle jerks are and why I can’t stand them. In short, it’s about people who love something or someone (fans and fanboys/girls) and others who love to hate (anti-fans). I especially despise anti-fandoms because they are often what make circle jerks so frustrating.
What Are Circle Jerks?
Well, “circle jerk” is a phrase with … um … a sexual history. The earliest known usage of the term was 1979 and was originally used to describe the act of men taking part in a collective masturbating session while sitting in a circle. The men were jerking off in a circle, hence the term circle jerk.
By the 1990’s the phrase was used to describe a pointless activity in real life. It ultimately developed into slang to describe certain online forum or community discussions.
Today, on online circle jerk can mean several things:
- A situation where users form a rep-circle, in which they give each other positive ratings and/or forum points.
- A thread in which most or all users are self-congratulatory, whereas they are using the thread to stroke their own egos.
- A thread in which users are reaffirming and reinforcing their own views and biases on a specific topic. This is essentially an echo chamber.
The discussions I hate the most have some combination of the three aspects I pointed to above. Of course, I’m talking about online circle jerks, but especially the ones which are often matched with television and live-discussion components.
For example, say that there is a top-rating television show with a large online following. The show would be promoted (ad nauseum) on TV, on social media, and on the news. The message sent is this: You MUST like this show or you’re a loser/hater.
This message will be reinforced by fans online and in real life. Every cautiously positive or negative review will be countered if seen and those who aren’t sufficiently onboard will have their fandoms and sanity questioned. WE MUST CRUSH DISSENT!! The reverse will happen when there is an inevitable backlash.
What Do I Hate Circle Jerks?
Short answer: Circle jerks take the worst aspects of fandoms, anti-fandoms, or combine them.
When I view forums or blog sites online, I may like to partake in some of the discussions (if I’m inclined to sign up), but I don’t want to step into a thread where there is too much positivity or negativity, depending on the topic. If there is a story about murder, I’m not bothered by the comments that express shock or anger. If there is a story about a heroic rescue, I’m not bothered by the posts expressing relief, admiration, and a renewed faith in humanity. But if there’s a topic where points of view will differ, not all opinions should be homogenized.
I like a little pushback, especially on topics like forms of entertainment. Not everyone has to like the same music, movies, or sports, etc. I like a little disagreement because a discussion where everyone agrees about everything is a circle jerk. Circle jerks are boring or downright infuriating.
That said, I don’t care for bad trolling (as good trolling is harmless and humorous) or for people who just walk into discussions just to cause discord. This can be done by fans or anti-fans.
How Fanboys Derail Arguments
People can get carried away with their fandoms. When they reach a certain level, they even disgust the more reasonable fans of the same things.
Now, there are good fanboys/fangirls. These people may unabashedly stick to what they love, but they want to share their passion with others and be a part of a community based on their common appreciation. There’s no harm in that.
However, there are bad fans who exhibit traits that derail discussions, especially online. Sometimes fans go into discussions meant to criticize a character, story, athlete, coach, etc. because they’re mad that others have a dissenting opinion.
This is what you’ll find with bad fanboys:
- Their propensity to blow up whenever someone criticizes their faves, regardless of the legitimacy of the points made.
- Their reliance on ad hominems.
- Their overreliance on other logical fallacies (like appeals to authority, strawmen, either/or, special pleading, and tu quoque).
- Trolling when they know they’ve lost the argument.
Furthermore: Online fans often then defend who or what they love to the death and try to drive out users with dissenting opinions by insulting them, harassing them, giving them negative ratings, or even going to the lengths of stalking (online or offline). That last part’s extreme, but the other options are regular occurrences.
How Anti-Fans Derail Arguments
Other times, anti-fans and detractors feel the urge to go into positive discussions because they hate to see what they don’t like be praised on any level. They may even enjoy the same thing as the fanboys, but they viciously disagree on one or more aspects of it. They have this herd mentality that turns into tribalism.
This is basically what you’ll get with anti-fans:
- Their refusals to allow most positive comments about the target of their ire go unopposed, even if harmless.
- The standard use of ad hominems.
- The overreliance of other logical fallacies (especially hasty generalizations, sweeping generalizations, strawmen, either/or, ad populum, and circular reasoning)
- Trolling at any stage of the argument.
Add in their tendency to use their own heroes as sticks to beat others with, and you get an even bigger monster.
Sure, there times when the fans of a person/thing are out of line and make the anti-fans look reasonable. Yet the anti-fans are often worse because they will do much of the same while obsessing over someone or something they despise. That is a truly useless exercise.
Is That All?
Yep, that’s it for now. When I finish up this topic, I will discuss a few specific cases that have earned my ire and concern. I just felt the need to set up the points I needed to make.
- Next: Enough, Already! Why I Really Don’t Care for Circle Jerks (Part 2)
- After That: Enough, Already! Why I Really Don’t Care for Circle Jerks (Part 3)