The Trouble with Lemmings

curmudgeon logo2About a year ago, after deciding that social media wasn’t a fad that was going to disappear any time soon, I joined Facebook.  I did it primarily as a way to reconnect with old students, keep up on what my own children were up to, perhaps find old acquaintances, and trade interesting tidbits with current friends.  As you might imagine, my “friends” list is a mish-mash of the extreme left, the extreme right, middle-of-the-roaders, and people whose only joy in life seems to be sharing a picture of another cat.

This really isn’t that much of a problem because A) you don’t really have to read everything that shows up on your Facebook newsfeed, and B) you certainly don’t have to comment – especially where cat pictures are concerned.  So for the most part, it’s all good.

But now and then I get curious and start to read some of the many diatribes that flood through my monitor daily.  I can ignore cats, but there are some clever internet memes out there and they are often accompanied by a comment or a short novel on whatever the topic might be.   This is where I usually get in trouble.

At one time, before he moved away, I used to get regular visits from a Jehovah’s Witness who maintained that evolution was a myth and that what we were seeing was de-evolution.  He must have seen my Facebook newsfeed.  Apparently, human beings, at least in this country, are rapidly devolving into lemmings…except for the cat people.  I think they hope to become feline.

One “friend” (whom I have not seen in over 30 years) recently posted a link to a web site with an article on how students arriving at a school in the Midwest were greeted on the first day by a hallway-long mural depicting the Five Pillars of Islam.  This article went on to say how ridiculous it was that Christians can’t pray in schools but that the educational system was now foisting off Islam on students.

Now, on the face of it, this is something I suppose I might have some sympathy for.   Teachers should not be seen pushing any one religion over another.   But there was a “tell” that made me dig a little deeper.  Did you catch it?  “Christians can’t pray in schools…”  I hear that sort of thing all the time.  It isn’t true, of course, but I hear it all the time.  Why is that?  Apparently it’s because someone else heard it too, and they repeated it.  And then someone else repeated it and so forth until it had a life of its own and became self-perpetuating – in some circles.  And when you hear it, you can be pretty sure what circles the speaker frequents.

So I did a little research.  The web site was a right-wing mouthpiece… not necessarily a bad thing by itself, but when you started to read some of the other articles on the site it became clear that whatever little tidbit of anti-left, anti-Obama, anti-black, anti-secularist rumors they could find, they published.  And whatever they published, this Facebook stalwart who posts several times a day would repeat, apparently without a second thought as to whether there was any truth to it.  After all, it supported his viewpoint.  It must be true.

But apparently this time he knew someone in the town where this “atrocity” took place and called to get more information.  It turns out that the mural was part of a much larger classroom curriculum that covered all world religions, including Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, and others.  The mural was a class project devoted to that week’s subject, not something children found when they arrived on the first day.  Hmmm.  Never mind.

So my Facebook lemming “friend” posted a comment on the web site admonishing them for not doing appropriate research and stating that he loved reposting their stuff, but he had to know that it was factual!

Here’s a tip for all of us who travel the interwebs:  If you don’t want to spread diarrhea, don’t drink the water.

I thought it was great that this gentleman had the guts to post his comment to the website on his Facebook page as a sort of mea culpa and I told him so.  I also pointed out that his more recent post – a letter supposedly from a teacher to Obama which was getting her fired despite the first amendment – was just as bogus.  (I know.  I know.  I should keep my mouth shut, but this was too good to pass up.)

I’ve talked before about cognitive dissonance.  It is the root cause of the lemming pandemic in America.  Lemmings are these almost-cute little mousey critters who will follow one another off a cliff in a mass suicide of sorts.  Once one goes, they all go.  I saw them do it in a Disney documentary when I was a kid.   One person shouts “death panels” and before you can say, ”Obama’s a Kenyan,” everyone who has a beef with the health care overhaul is shouting “death panels.”

People don’t want to look outside their comfort zone.  It’s too damn, well, uncomfortable.  So the same old crap just keeps getting recycled.  And Facebook is one of those places where you can see it happening clearly.  Let one web site popular with a political view post something and you’ll have five copies on your newsfeed in an hour whether it’s true or not.

And it’s not just your Facebook friends.  Listen to politicians carefully and you’ll hear the same catch phrases over and over.  It’s almost as though original thinking is as unpopular as original sin.

But for about a week it looked like the political lemming pandemic was waning.  The president said he wanted to take military action against Syria for using poison gas.  Suddenly the media was full of “Obama Is Starting a WAR” talk and all the lemmings started lining up in two lines facing the cliff in the distance.  But then some strange stuff started happening.  Individual lemmings started popping up their heads in the middle of their line and going, ”Crap, that’s like a cliff out there!  Count me out, man.”  Hawks started to sound like doves and doves started to flex their talons, and it looked like people in congress might have to actually think and make a decision.

But then John Kerry made an off-hand remark and Putin seized on it in a heartbeat and now there is a diplomatic solution and things can go back to the way they were and everyone is lining back up in an orderly fashion.

Never mind.

The trouble with lemmings is that they contribute nothing to society.  They are simply human mimeograph machines.  Someone has to think for them.  They have a drum and a crank but no functioning brain.  Once an idea is out there they can reproduce it ad infinitum, but left to their own devices they can only produce blank sheets.  And they have no way to discern the truth of what they reproduce because if they seek truth they might find out they are wrong.  And that’s uncomfortable.  So they just make purple copies and an unpleasant odor.

But  there are plenty of people who do think and who take advantage of those unfortunate, cognitively dissonant souls and offer a constant stream of propaganda to be blindly reproduced.  That’s why I have all that crap on my Facebook newsfeed.

Another problem with lemmings (the real ones): is that they don’t really get in a line and march off a cliff, following the leader in a suicide plunge! That’s just what Disney wants you to think.  Remember that documentary I saw?  It was called White Wilderness and the whole lemming sequence was faked.  Disney rounded up a bunch of lemmings and herded them off that cliff.  Yeah.  Animals were hurt in the making of this film.  You even have to doubt Mickey Mouse these days.

Never mind.

Your Humble Servant,

The Willowbrook Curmudgeon

2 thoughts on “The Trouble with Lemmings

  1. ‘human mimeograph machines’ the audacity of those brave mindless followers. Mimeograph – aging us again ? I still remember the smell. Why wont it leave me alone ?


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