Monday, 22 April 2013

How very dare you!

If you’ll allow me I will summarise: So here we go: last week on Twitter seemed to be very much all about competitive moral outrage. Starting with general pro and anti-Thatcher sentiment and then devolving down to the more intimate minutiae. What was very clear was the underlying theme: ‘My personal grief is very much more important than your personal grief’. Well duh-err!

I am always taken somewhat aback by how poorly the majority of you mere humans can expunge emotion from your judgement. For most of you there appears to be a line beyond which thou shalt not trespass. A hitherto hilarious comedian becomes a pariah the instant he crosses that line. An ally becomes an enemy because of a few sounds in the air or characters on a page or screen. The trouble is the borderline of rationality is set at varying distances inside each individual’s perimeter of indifference.

For some it is deemed acceptable to attack the personal lives of any opposing political affiliation’s Members of Parliament but probably not the personal lives of their supporters, the rationale presumably being that the MPs have chosen to live a public life but their supporters merely lack judgement. Or, it is absolutely okay to rail against the parents of marginalised, criminalised, dehumanised children but not against the system that allowed this state of affairs to come about, maybe because ‘there but for the grace of god…’? Alternatively, the parents of one lost child are fair game for personal attack but the parents of another are not?

Richard Dawkins came under attack yesterday for ostensibly dismissing Mehdi Hassan’s views and opinions on anything at all because he holds what Dawkins (and I; let’s nail my colours to this mast) knows to be utterly irrational religious beliefs. He has a point – practically by definition all religious beliefs are irrational - but recently he has become so vociferous and fanatical in his atheism that it is tantamount to fundamentalism in its own right. Fucking hell it’s complicated, all this thinking shit, isn’t it?

And it gets worse still when you have to ponder this: at what point does an ill-considered opinion become an actionable crime? When you think it? When you voice it? Or when you deliberately provoke others to join in? And does the threat have to be physical, or is mere online harassment a crime in itself? If a social media mob bays for blood using the personal details of an individual most of us would consider that unacceptable. But if the attack is in the form of a caricature of an entire city, surely its individual citizens can be big enough to shrug it off? Is it less offensive if nearly everybody else agrees and finds it funny; consensus ridicule? Apparently not.

It’s not often I get to take the moral high ground but have you listened to yourselves lately? I’m all for freedom of expression yet there are definitely some things I would censor; even I have a line. But where does my opinion of what should be allowed differ from yours? As soon as you introduce any form of proscription you introduce a hydra with more heads than the ones you can imagine. Laws tend to get used in ways you didn't foresee and one day the mob may come for you.

The whirling hamster wheel of rage.
Grrrr, I'm hopping mad!

They say that offence can not be given, only taken. That's palpable crap - any deliberate attempt to provoke an emotional outburst is expressly intended to offend. So, if that's the case it strikes me the best possible line of defence is not to accept that offence. Grow a thicker skin. On my planet we call it growing up. 

Oh and once you've mastered the growing up thing you can try another little technique we like to call moving on. Life's too short.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a four-eyed, big nosed, fat ginger. I've got skin like a rhino.