If there is a place where any comment can and will be construed as having the most offensive meaning possible given its limited length and wording, that place is every comment forum on the internet.
On YouTube, the comment section underneath each video — regardless of the video’s content — is a virtual Wild West, occupied by an infinite herd of heavily-opinionated web users. It doesn’t make a difference if the video in question is a cat swatting at a printer or an amateur dancer’s choreography to Katy Perry’s “Firework;” just south of the clip, you can count on finding a maelstrom of syntactically broken attempts at defending and attacking opinions that couldn’t possibly be changed, particularly via the comment section underneath a video.
One of the most common disputes I’ve witnessed is that of gay rights — maybe the most prevalent type of discussion thread on the internet when Rebecca Black hasn’t recently dropped a single or Lady Gaga hasn’t shown up in public wearing a frock made of flank steak. Never do these chats lead to any sort of mutual understanding — “You know, I see what you’re saying about Leviticus now. What a refreshing perspective even if I don’t necessarily agree!” — nor do they lead to any sort of conclusion. More often than not (read: every time without fail), one person goes to sleep that night reminded about how much they disagree with homosexuality, while the other goes to sleep fuming about the fact that homophobia is just plain hateful. It’s the perpetual battle of moral vs. immoral, Pepsi vs. Coke, Twilight vs. Harry Potter — pure subjectivity.
If only the divide could be that simple though; as sure as the clash of the cyber trolls will never actually be resolved, there will always be the anonymous user who swoops in with their good-intentioned, over generalized rebuttal: I love the gays. The gays are beautiful human beings. The gays are people just like you and me. Placing aside the outstanding observation that homosexuals are, in fact, also Homo sapiens, these comments are silly for various other reasons. Good intentions or not, they are formed from the same oblivion that births the idea that all gay men find every straight man automatically and magnetically attractive and all lesbians want to ride motorcycles and rock boyish coifs.
Maybe you love the gays that you’ve seen on television, with their swishy wrist movements and eyes for fashion; perhaps you love the “Hollywood Gays” of “progressive” 21st century rom-coms, perpetually awaiting their girlfriends with a fruity cocktail and piece of seasoned lover’s advice. It may even be the case that the gay you love the most is the Sassy Gay Friend of YouTube fame, spewing razor sharp dialogue before tossing his diaphanous scarf and delivering the punch line “you stupid bitch.” But rest assured: these gays — in addition to the handful of gays you know in real life — do not constitute “the gays”.
Even with my homosexual tendencies, I don’t claim to love all the people clustered underneath the umbrella term “gays.” In fact, most of the gay people who I’ve associated myself with have rarely ended up being good friends, let alone someone close enough to claim to love. I’ve encountered gays who I downright dislike — two of them I’ve blocked on Facebook. This leads me to another substantive claim to the discredit of anyone who purports to love all of the gays: I’m kind of an asshole.
It’s not so much that there’s anything particularly wrong with claiming to love an entire demographic — it’s just wildly incorrect. It’s a very troubling thing to see a person openly declare hatred for any general group of people, especially if the vessel for doing so is as chintzy as the comment section underneath a video. Even more frustrating, though, may be how perfectly aware the rest of us are that such a declaration couldn’t realistically be so utterly all encompassing.
The generality of the emotion is entirely unjust, as it never allots for possible outliers — exceptions to the pre-established sentiment, be it of hatred or love. I have no problem admitting that, while I may like some gays, I certainly don’t like all the gays. Hell, they probably aren’t the biggest fans of me either (definitely not anymore). But I’m content to amass a few enemies if it means abstaining from fighting verbal fire with fire — and so long as I’ll never see them in person.
DYLAN GALLAGHER’s blog, cleverblog.tumblr.com, now accepts and burns all fan mail on the spot, but he can also occasionally be reached at email@example.com.