Monday, August 07, 2006

Paltalk: A Mixed Review

Paltalk is a website of a multitude of chat rooms, organized into a multitude of categories, from Music to Religion and Theology to Friends, Love and Romance to Computers and Technology, and so forth. Paltalk distinguishes itself by being foremost a vocal chat room, with participants lining up to get on “the mic” in order to speak and be heard by the others in the room. Some of the “hosts” (who have certain powers, such as being able to “red-dot” a participant—i.e., to render him incapable of typing or speaking—or to “bounce” a participant—i.e., to kick them out of the room) as well as some of the regulars of the rooms on Paltalk sometimes become quite belligerent in their insistence that participants not merely type their remarks, but “come up to the mic” to speak them vocally. However, this does not stop chatters in some rooms from generating a moving torrent of typed comments on the screen, in the traditional vein of chat rooms. (While Yahoo chat also provides the opportunity to speak and be heard on mic, it is not quite the vocal culture that Paltalk is.)

Today’s post is not about Paltalk in general, however. I want to focus particularly on the anti-Islam rooms, which are exclusively located under the subcategory of “Human Rights” itself under the category of “Social Issues and Politics”.

I first checked out Paltalk over a year ago, after I had heard about the story of the Egyptian Coptic family in New Jersey who had been slaughtered in their apartment—slaughtered, some alleged, because they, as Coptic Christians hated by Muslims (particularly) in Egypt, had been, on Paltalk, aggressively debating Muslims (as well as, apparently, in person, as one of the daughters of the family was said to have done in her neighborhood). The case has been off the radar for several months now, after New Jersey police claimed that it was just a conventional robbery homicide perpetrated by a pair of apparently white non-Muslim criminals, and that it had nothing to do with religion (i.e., Islam). After I checked this chat site out, I noticed that a couple of rooms had a quite active anti-Islamic position; and, since I had never encountered such a refreshing bias on any other chat room, I stuck around and would pop back in at least once or twice a week since that time.

For many months now, the main anti-Islam room—the one with always the most people and the most effervescent (though usually not all that substantive) conversational dynamism—has been called “Mohammedans Your Jihad Stops Now” or some such variant. Prior to that, if my memory serves me correctly, the main anti-Islam room usually featured the phrase “The Two Faces of Islam”—again, with slight variants to the title.

I will now divide my “mixed review” into pros and cons, in order to adumbrate my ambivalence about the Paltalk anti-Islam room.


1) A small handful of the regular participants (and sometimes functioning as hosts) seem to be authentic Middle Easterners of various flavors who are highly critical of Islam—I have noted the regular attendance of a Moroccan woman, a Lebanese girl (who says she is 18 years old), an Egyptian man, and others of whose national provenance I am unsure. I say “seem to be” because in chat rooms on-line, one never knows for sure. Nevertheless, I am confident they are what they say they are. Their observations and testimony about the pernicious aspects of Islam and Muslims ring true and are invaluable, though not to be swallowed whole without some grains of salt (I’ll get to that in my ‘cons’ section.) Relevant to this particular ‘pro’ is a Paltalk regular who never seems to be in the main anti-Islam room, but regularly (though less often) hosts his own room, a room whose title seems to vary a lot. This particular host’s name is ‘Christian Prince’, and he not only seems to be a bona fide Middle Easterner (I believe he once intimated he was from Saudi Arabia, or at least had studied to be a Muslim cleric there, though he could be Egyptian), he is obviously deeply and broadly learned in Islam and Islamic culture, and claims to be an ex-Muslim who for apparently many years has been a Greek Orthodox convert—which is noteworthy, as most anti-Islam Paltalk Christians seem to be American Protestants.

2) These rooms (particularly the main room noted above) offer a vibrant arena for relatively uncensored (other than an imposed ‘G’ rating that forbids the usual cuss words) and heated discussions, which have their advantages in allowing the venting of emotions and a free flow of thoughts about the general Problem of Islam. A closely related ‘pro’ here is the sense of mutual encouragement and comraderie (along with humor ranging from sparkling wit to horrible groaners) that seems to develop—particularly for the regulars, but also spilling out for everybody.

3) It is a situation of interestingly free and open interchanges—provocative and challenging for any Muslim visitors—which perhaps, on some level, for at least a few of the Muslims who enter the rooms, must have some relatively incremental salutary effects. I wouldn’t want to exaggerate this benefit, since the brainwashing and poor thinking habits of Muslims in general (particularly those who inhabit Internet chat rooms, which tends to attract a lower intellectual denominator across the board in all groups) for the most part would inoculate them from such effects; but still, at times while I am in one or another of those rooms, I wonder if at least one or two Muslims now and again are not having some of their encrusted defenses surreptitiously chipped away as they continue to parrot their fascistic braggadocio.

4) It can be a place for ‘Jihad Watchers’ (see a previous post of mine, ‘Elites’—a peculiar obsession of Jihad Watchers, for my definition of this term) to share valuable information on the general Problem of Islam. One participant (who also seems to be a host at times) in particular will spend most of her time contributing to the ongoing stream of text being typed by chatters by simply pasting in links (along with a brief explanatory blurb) of often interesting news stories relating to the Problem of Islam; other chatters will offer bits of information now and again—though, of course, rarely documenting or referencing them. And, as mentioned in #1 above, there are the occasional invaluable offerings of personal experiences by Middle Easterners, either non-Muslims or ex-Muslims, about Islam and its uglier sides.

5) Not infrequently, visitors to the room will be treated to the spectacle of the room in general (or certain key participants) challenging a particular Muslim to answer some pertinent question (usually a shamelessly rhetorical question that patently highlights a certain pernicious and/or ridiculous feature of Islam). The point, of course, is not to wait for the Muslim to actually answer the question: most Muslims out of sheer reflexive deceptiveness will try to avoid directly responding to such questions. The point—and the fun—of these spectacles is to watch the Muslim tap-dance around the question. It is not merely fun, but also instructive, in that one can enjoyably study the evasive tactics, ranging from the sophistical to the embarrasingly crass and truculent, of Muslims when they are cornered by the facts. (The room manned by the aforementioned ‘Christian Prince’ seems to engage in this tactic almost exclusively and, while this tactic benefits from the Islamic literacy and wit of ‘Christian Prince’, it is, once again, too much of a good thing.)


1) All of the ‘pros’ listed above—particularly #1 and #4—suffer from the fact that, for the most part, the rooms at any given time will manifest more chaos than order. This unfortunate quality is aggravated when there are more people in the room—and more and more these days, the main room seems to have over 70 people, exceeding 100 during the peak hours (which seems to be the late evenings according to the Pacific time zone). By ‘chaos’ I mean:

a) There is rarely any structured debate around one manageable topic; and the few times one seems to be going on, it often does not last long, but degenerates and dissipates into unrelated topics, or into distracting side shows. The main exception to this is whenever the ‘pro’ listed as #5 above comes into play: perhaps because it is so fun for the anti-Islam chatters, it is more sustainable.

b) It is not the best place—although it easily could be—for interested visitors to get information they want about the Problem of Islam. When one requests such information, one will be met with either silence, or a delayed reaction (you might get a response after you have waited for three minutes and decided to get up to go get a Pepsi, thereby missing the response), or responses of dubious merit and substance. I myself have had the disheartening experience, several different times on different days, of asking, over and over again, for the precise citation (e.g., in the Hadiths or in the Koran) which some chatter or speaker on the mic has mentioned, only to receive either no response at all, or maddeningly incomplete responses, or mistaken responses that had little to do with my question. These rooms—particularly the main room—could be a great and vibrant repository of lots of important and (more importantly) referenced information about the Problem of Islam, but the regulars seem to be having too much fun to knuckle down and provide such a resource; or the anti-intellectualism and perhaps slovenly personal habits of some of them gets in the way of the requisite discipline.

c) And, finally, by ‘chaos’ I mean what is usually meant: it is often a madhouse of criss-crossing comments, sort of like a frenetic cocktail party where meaningful discussion for any sustained period of time is positively discouraged.

2) The quality of discussion tends to be crude and anti-intellectual, rather than substantive and courteous.

a) I don’t mind taking verbal jabs at Muslims now and then, as an occasional tonic relaxant; but when such crass diatribes are repeated as much as they are at Paltalk, it gets old fast. Apparently, it is not getting old for the regulars there: they keep setting up straw Muslims to punch and knock down over and over again, like lab monkeys operating the same stimulating lever, over and over and over again. It is plainly an addictive behavior, and the only real benefit that comes of it is the relief of the stress which the Problem of Islam is causing all of us; but surely, more constructive things can be done with the time of Paltalkers—such as my suggestion implied in #1b above.

b) This crude and anti-intellectual atmosphere, furthermore, from my experience there, is decidedly indifferent (if not sometimes hostile) to the subtler, wittier and more erudite intercourse that would be a refreshing change now and again from the standard fare there of “Islam sucks!” and “Mo was a pervert!”, and so forth, repeated in incessant barrages and waves across the screen, ad nauseam.

c) The crude and anti-intellectual atmosphere also seems to foster a growing constellation of assumptions about the Problem of Islam, some of which I find to be unhelpful, if not outright balderdash:

i) Frequently, many participants (and some hosts) will couch their diatribes against Muslims in general, or specific Muslims in the room, in Christian apocalyptic terms in the framework not necessarily of orthodox Christianity, but of oftentimes peculiar Protestant variants of dubious orthodoxy.

ii) Again frequently, many participants (and some hosts) will exaggerate the mutual bonhommie of Jews and Christians, which I can understand from a tactical point of view—i.e., “we need to stick together against our common enemy”—but the fiercely obtuse manner in which most of these Paltalkers will defend this tactic, as though any slight moment of doubt or inquiry or dilation of intellectual curiosity in the interest of honesty and integrity is a distraction from the fight against Islam tantamount to treason is, frankly, ridiculous and barbaric. (In fact, this seems to have caused a serious rift between the regulars of the main room and the aforementioned host of his own room ‘Christian Prince’ who, along with a sometime co-host of his room, has occasionally given vent to parenthetical statements that could be construed as anti-Semitic (and I have personally seen him and his co-host say in no uncertain terms that they consider the Jewish text called the Talmud “evil”; though their ostracization by the regulars of the main room is disingenuous, if not ignorant of history.) At any rate, if these same Paltalkers took the time and trouble to make their room a fairly orderly (and therefore productive and constructive) resource for valuable information and insightful and pedagogical discussions, I would be more inclined to forgive their hobbyhorses.

iii) Again frequently, many participants (and some hosts) seem to agree with some script about the Problem of Islam, such that certain givens are bandied about:

that Islam is “not a religion!”

that President Bush does not really mean what he says when he says over and over again that “Islam is a great and noble religion of peace”

that Islam is not growing demographically at all but is in fact diminishing, in their embarrasingly childish attempts to counter the frequent (and also childish) boast of Muslims that Islam is the “fastest growing religion”

that “we are not scared of you Muzzies!”—when in fact, any reasonable Infidel, if he or she is honest, will admit to being scared of Muslims (unless they are not scared of being unpredictably blown to smithereens while shopping at Walmart on any given afternoon, or of waking up one morning to learn from the TV that their entire city has been infected with a deadly germ warfare attack: if they are not scared of such things—not only for themselves but for their loved ones—then they must be zombies)

that (closely related to the previous one) “if any of you Muzzies tried that here [‘here’ invariably being some place in the U.S.A.] you wouldn’t last two seconds!”—which is a patently absurd and, frankly, infantile boast that flies in the face of the way Americans, and Westerners in general, have been behaving since 911: mostly as relatively passive wimps who cannot muster even a mass protest in one city against Islam (even after 911 and a string of subsequent ‘personal jihad’ attacks, along with several aborted plots) ; which leads us to the next point:

and, more generally and implicitly, that the Problem of Islam is mostly a problem emanating from Muslims, and not also a gargantuan problem emanating from our own West through the PC multiculturalism that enthralls our sociopolitical institutions and cultural atmospherics. Frequently, I will see the painfully embarrassing encounter in the main Paltalk room when a certain visitor, who is plainly a Western PC multiculturalist (most likely a Leftist), is ganged up on and accused of being a Muslim—as though anyone who says anything wrong about the Problem of Islam must be a Muslim. This is not only an assinine attitude, it also implies a serious ignorance of the dimensions of the problem of PC multiculturalism.

that when people type “Xty” for “Christianity” in the Paltalk chat room they are being not only disrespectful, but also revealing themselves to be “Muzzies”—which is childish and ridiculous, as that abbreviation has been common for years and in fact has historical grounding in the fact that early Christians persecuted by the pagan Roman Empire often had the code of the Greek letter X (chi) to denote Christ or Christian (the Greek letter chi being the first letter of the Greek word from which English derives “Christ” and “Christianity”)

that “Allah” does not mean “God”—when, in fact, on a purely linguistic basis, it does mean “God” and is used by the Judaeo-Christian Bible of some Arab Christians.

(There may be more of these givens which I cannot remember now, and I will update this post as they occur to me.)

iv) More generally, there is a kind of groupthink that accrues momentum and traction in the main Paltalk room, where any deviations that imply deeper or subtler thought or interest in exploring nuances—or even (Heaven forbid!) issues involving constructive self-criticism—are met with hostile denunciations, and if pursued for long (particularly on the mic), with accusations of being a Muslim, if not with being summarily ‘red-dotted’ or ‘bounced’ out of the room. This groupthink attitude acquires a kind of fever-pitch at times, as though everyone in the room is having an orgy and is constantly on the verge of orgasm, and anyone who thinks to speak outside the box is a spoilsport who would ruin the deadly-serious fun. This attitude, needless to say, is counter-productive—particularly when it is the norm, as it is in the main Paltalk room—to a genuine and substantive discussion and marshalling of talents in the important fight against Islam.

3) Apropos of our #5 ‘pro’ (where Muslim visitors are regularly submitted to the spectacle of becoming the amusing whipping-boy of a challenging rhetorical question about Islam), far too little advantage is taken of the opportunity to engage Muslim visitors in more substantive debate:

a) Insofar as the #5 ‘pro’ itself could benefit from several Paltalkers having at their fingertips all the required data they need to make sure the Muslim interlocutor does not try to pull the wool over their eyes (and simply pelting him with crude insults is not a substitute for this), a concerted effort to take the time and trouble to make the room itself a repository of that required data, as I have more than once suggested above, would be helpful.

b) Beyond the #5 ‘pro’ itself, Musim visitors could, for example, be encouraged (i.e., goaded) to articulate the merits of Islam until their articulation unravels the revelation of their hidden agendas.

This #3 ‘con’ is, however, highlighted by the fact that (a) and (b) are sorely lacking from the main Paltalk room, where even the #5 ‘pro’ degenerates into a cackling lynch mob against the Muslim in question. Don’t get me wrong: Muslims deserve such a cackling lynch mob: but again, when this is repeated ad nauseam for hours, days, weeks, and months, it loses its luster, and I think the time spent could be better served by Paltalkers getting their shit together. I’m not sure, however, that they want to be torn away from their collective fun of playing with their feces and flinging them at Muslims in general or particular Muslim visitors who happen to drop in. It’s a shame, because the main anti-Islam Paltalk room has a lot of potential to be a productive and constructive resource for the fight against Islam, and they could still have fun now and again—just not so obsessively all the goddamned time.

No comments: