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Medred: If we can't debate nicely, can we at least get better at insulting each other?

Craig Medred
OPINION: Acrimony over current events has reached a fever pitch. And we all need to get a sense of humor about it, myself included. Until that happens, we need to get more creative about our insults. Aaron Jansen illustration

Imagine this: Alaska was the only state in the nation where gross domestic product -- the measure of economic success -- fell last year. Another chunk of our economy appears to have been put on a barge and shipped south to Seattle.

It might not be so bad if not for the indications that even more creative talent shipped out with it. After a few days of being called all sorts of lame names on Facebook, I'm worried about this state.

It appears even creative name-calling is dead in the north.

Please somebody bring back to life state Sen. Bill Ray, D-Juneau, circa 1978: "What do you know? You're just some doofus paddlin' down the Yukon. You can't even find the Capitol and you live here."

Today, Alaska appears stuck in a remake of the movie Groundhog Day set in an elementary school classroom: "You're stupid!" "No, you're stupid!" "No, you're stupid!"

C'mon people. Alaskans can do better than this. We ought to be able to raise the bar a little. Say maybe just to the level of "you're a damn troglodyte; that's what you are."

Troglodyte, for those unfamiliar with the term, means "a person who lived in a cave in prehistoric times." It is unclear whether we still have people living in caves in Alaska, but we do sometimes seem caught in prehistoric times and we did have a guy living in a bus until he died. There are also rumored to be some militia types living in bunkers in the hills above Fairbanks.

What's a bunker but a cave with better ventilation and more comfortable accommodations?

Or how about just calling someone a "mook." You don't hear that every day, and it's sure to make some heads spin. Imagine the fun in forcing someone to Google the name you've called them. Imagine that person is conservative radio talking head Dave Stieren or Dan Fagan and you've required them to open a PBS webpage -- God forbid! -- to find out what you're talking about.

Furious folderol, enjoyable enmity

Name calling ought to be fun. Instead it's become a lot like Alaska politics, or American politics in general, dreadfully un-fun.

We need an Alaska version of the late Spiro Agnew with his attacks on "the nattering nabobs of negativism," the “pusillanimous pussyfooters,” the “vicars of vacillation,” and “the hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.” Sure he got a lot of help from Pat Buchanan and the late William Safire in crafting these phrases, but the whole gang of them was even then a pack of effete Easterners.

Young, energetic, Frontier Alaskans -- or even old, barely-hanging-in-there Frontier Alaskans -- ought to be able to do better.

I, of course, got called names this week because I took a columnist for Alaska Dispatch News to task for trying to associate Gov. Sean Parnell with Robert Hansen, the most despicable serial killer in state history. It wasn't funny, and I responded by ranting a bit.

A couple people emailed me to say "you sounded angry." I was. I apologize. I shouldn't have ranted.

I was overcome by my prejudice for fact-based commentary. Not wild accusations, or partisan stereotyping, or guilt by association. Associations might raise questions that need to be explored, but they don't make anyone guilty of anything. I should now probably confess I once worked for crazy U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel, D-Alaska. That does not mean I support a giant domed city in Denali National Park and Preserve.

I actually think the dome should be constructed over Kenai and the mouth of the Kenai River so other dipnetters and I can fish in climate-controlled comfort. Just kidding. But maybe now you can see how much more fun humor is than anger. Or maybe not.

The money emotion

There seem to be a lot of capitalists out there who think anger is the money emotion. Both Fox News and MSNBC get deep into it at times. Talk radio everywhere seems all over it.

Lefty capitalist Shannyn Moore meet righty capitalists Fagan, Steiren, et al. These are all people looking for attention. Their shows depend on it. Sometimes they get upset about name calling, but then they slip back into it. The slobbering screamer in the studio might get someone's attention. Maybe. Hopefully.

More people listening means more bucks. More bucks keep people in business. Commentators might all be victims of the medium, and in a country where everyone seems to be a victim of something, what better thing can there be? They have an excuse.

It's not really their fault. They're just trying to survive in world where it's hard to get attention. I understand.

Pay attention to me, dammit people! We need you clicking online to survive here too. And now go read a couple advertisements to help pay the bills.

As for all you individuals out there in Facebook world, what's your excuse for the mean-spirited name calling? Well, maybe you're victims of the medium, too. When Facebook isn't making us all "friends," whether we know each other or not, it sure seems to be making us a lot less friendly.

It must be some computer virus in the tubes. From now on, if you call someone a name on Facebook, take comfort in the idea you didn't want to do it, Facebook made you do it. That damn Zuckerman!

Oh crap. There I went and called someone a name. See how easy it is to slip into the ditch? And I did a lousy job. Facebook's founder is named Zuckerberg.

Agnew and his gang surely would have done way better. But then Agnew made most of his comments in speeches, and the medium influences the message. There's no denying that. Dan Aykroyd's opening response in a Point-Counterpoint skit -- "Jane, you ignorant slut" -- was funny on Saturday Night Live TV; "Dan, you big fat tub of lard" would not be a funny response to Fagan here.

He, sadly, has a weight problem. He's wrestling with it. I have a weight problem. I'm wrestling with it. Who in America doesn't have a weight problem?

Lighten up people!

It's summer in Alaska. Go kill some fish. Grab a billy and empty your aggressions on the head of some poor salmon. Fall will be here soon, and then the long, cold, dark winter. That's the time to go spend your hours in a dark room sitting in front of a computer typing out insults.

Hey, lizard brain!

Meanwhile, let's all try to get better at treating each other poorly. Look, here's a story from CBS explaining that trying to do it better is actually good for you: "Want to Boost Creativity? Try Clever Put Downs."

"The researchers, like the rest of us, conclude that the sheer terror of seeing angry outbursts and imagining they might be directed at us causes the brain to go into a bunker-like mode of self-preservation," wrote Jessica Stillman. "When you're thinking with your lizard brain, obviously you're not going to be your most innovative."

"Lizard brain," I love it.

"Yo, lizard brain, what were you thinking when...."

Oh wait. That's not exactly what the story is suggesting if, of course, you read the story. But who needs to read anything before reacting these days? That's not much fun.

Contact Craig Medred at craig@alaskadispatch.com

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.