“How One Tweet Can Ruin Your Life” – John Ronson

What we have here, is a must see for everyone.

Long ago (or so it would seem now) in 2013, there was a woman named Justine Sacco.

Some readers may remember the name. I don’t.
Unsurprising, being that I was not really a heavy twitter user back then (despite having it), and since I tend to avoid whats trending ANYWHERE because I normally find it annoying, stupid or otherwise offensive to my intelligence.

Her claim to infamy was a tweet. During a London layover of a trip originating in New York and ending in South Africa, she decided to send a tweet. To make a joke based off of silly western stereotypes essentially.

It was in very poor taste.

No.

I can’t say that. If I did then I would be hypocritical, since I have said worse things myself. Maybe I was annoyed or angry (likely a good 75% of the time). Or an opportunity presented itself. Or it was out before I really realized it. I have said some quite eye opening things in my time. I’m sure many of us have.

Why? I don’t know. It’s just what I do, who I am.

Either way, had I run across Justine’s tweet, I would likely have been amused. But unfortunately, net-zens the world over were not amused. And as is the status quo in the age of social media, no good outrage will ever go to waste. Though Justine herself only had a few hundred followers, a reporter from Gawker somehow seen (and subsequently retweeted) it, savoring in the deliciousness that is orchestrating the destruction of an evil human being. Which meant that long before Justine even knew it (being at 35,000ft for almost 12 hours!), her life was essentially torn apart.

Though many likely seen the initial tweet, I’m guessing many didn’t know about (or maybe didn’t CARE about) the many following tweets such as these:

Really, why would you want to see these? They are dripping with human emotion, which is antithetical to the inhuman robot that Justine (and anyone like her) needs to be in order to justify such a visceral reaction from THE WORLD at large.

Fortunately, Justine seems to have put the incident behind her, as is indicated by this article. An article was written by the reporter who started the problem in the first place. The article detailed how he had (over a year later) connected with and met Justine over drinks and food, and settled things. The article also detailed how the author had ended up putting themselves in the bull’s eye of the social media rage machine by way of an ambiguous joke. He took a lesson from Justine, which does not engage. And I took a lesson which was . . . I need to be more careful myself.

Earlier in this piece, I had essentially dehumanized the author/reporter sight unseen based only on his action. It was only after looking into how Justine is doing now, that I realized my mistake.

My hypocrisy.

It’s insidious, the urge to dehumanize. One must always be vigilant.

The social media outrage machine

I hear about it almost every day in some form or another. Whether it’s on youtube, twitter or facebook, rarely a day goes by without the words free speech entering my frame of thought.
Generally, I tend to be more annoyed by this than anything else. A combination of mass ignorance of the true meaning of the phrase, and it becoming the popular bandwagon to cash in on of late.It’s yet another source of copious amounts of white noise.
Then again, social media is a sea of ideological white noise masquerading as intellectual exploration.

Typically, this whole online backlash thing is not really an issue that I consider. Well, I guess that is not entirely true. In my gradual change over the last 3 or 4 years into the extremely analytical (of pretty much everything!) person that I am today, I have found myself in a somewhat odd position in the grand scheme of things.

I try to always place myself outside of issues. As far away from them as I can.

A life lesson of recent years has been how much of societal discourse falls within countless sets of dichotomies. Arguably, I have been dancing around this conclusion my whole life. Even in high school (long before I know of the term dichotomy, let alone how it was applicable to the world around me) I recognized the groups and cliques that my teenage counterparts, and our adult teachers, willingly placed themselves. I don’t recall directly coming out against this at the time (the typical teenage rebel). What I do remember, however, is eventually learning that conformity really doesn’t matter. As is eluded, I was once somewhat envious and a bit bitter that I couldn’t fit in directly for various reasons (one being family financial limitations). But I would eventually learn to accept my differences.  To accept my place as . . . none of the above.

However, the dichotomy is an ingrained part of society and social interaction. So much so that one’s participation becomes almost mandatory, even if one may not even be aware of their own bending to fit the status quo. I would not make this realization until a number of years after high school was far beyond the horizon of life’s rear view mirror.

The realization came from a close friend of mine. A man of little traditional formal education, yet a man of an astute wisdom of the overall human condition and of human interactions. A man that resides far from mainstream society, both physically and intellectually. I suspect that it is this overall distance that enables such a clear view of reality.
Either way, I would first come across his influence a couple years back on one of his rare visits to my part of the world (a place that he would likely nickname Hell. Basically, any city or other clusters of multiple humans). At the time I was reeling with the falling out that I was having with the atheist community. At the time I called myself an agnostic, feeling a need to replace the now defunct label of previous. After listening to that babble (looking back . . .), he smacked the whole thing down by putting it all in perspective. I am but one of the many arguing about and fretting about labels when it really doesn’t matter. Who gives a shit.

Like many things, it was filed away in my brain. But I would not truly realize the words until somewhat later. Namely, I do not need to defend opting out. And I don’t have to engage in these types of conversations anyway. Who cares what other people say or regurgitate. Step aside and find better uses of your time.

Which is in a nutshell, why I said that I find myself in an odd position of late. Though some could say that my time could be better utilized in other ways, some old topics I am drawn to. Mainly because placing myself far away provides me with interesting insights that I find fulfilling to explore, even if I don’t go out of my way to share these conclusions.
A topic that tops the list is secularism, and Atheism. Dissecting Apistevist and Atheism (as commonly defined) among other things was enjoyable. The reactions of those that stumble across these works are often less than enthused, but who cares.
Then there is my opinion about the European Brotherhood. Overtaking my first Apistevist post in the last couple years in terms of daily views, it’s another piece I am proud of. Being that many commenters call it propaganda (with one going as far as calling me (Paul) Joseph Goebbels), I suspect that I hit a nerve.

Dare I say, I triggered some. Too bad for them that this is not a safe space.

Either way, this self-distancing has put me in a weird position in many respects. Even if I may feel that I have something to add to some dialogue, it’s often easier to just shy away, being that one often can’t get past the whole distance thing.
I called it None Of The Above before, as was applicable in high school and for much of my life. But it’s not anymore, as that in itself becomes a label. If one side of any dialogue is Vancouver, and the other is San Francisco, then I am either out in the Pacific or in Montana. Or at least I try to maintain such impartiality.

It may be wondered where I am going with this, in terms of Free Speech. Read on.

Before now, though I found myself in disagreement with large cohorts due to my evaluation of often universally accepted ideological tenants, I have never felt threatened. Annoyed at seeming hypocrisy, yes. Disappointed that fulfilling conversation is a rare to come by, yes. But threatened by doxing, mob mentality or another such insanity?

No.

At least, until quite recently. In my Facebook travels, I came across a post from a friend of mine. It was a January 2016 article from UK news source The Mirror which was about an apparent change in UK law that allowed the importation of child sex dolls. My friend didn’t react well, as was the case with one commenter. After coming across this reactionary reaction to this article with more or less the same tone, I realized that I had an opinion that was differing to the obvious status quo. I can make the argument of why such dolls may be positive. But I also realized the hot potato that I was dealing with. As Justine Sacco learned, when it comes to the irrational, nuance rarely matters when these things happen. Even being SUSPECTED a villain is all you need.

After some research, I found (and ended up sharing with the 2 reactionaries) some conflicting information. The Guardian covered a story in June 2017 in which a UK man was prosecuted after attempting to import a child sex doll. A seeming rebuttal to the former story.

I have the same disagreements as I did before. If anything, the latter story adds a new dynamic to my criticism. Yet I am still a bit hesitant as to if this should be explored or not.

But I will leave off with a quote from John Ronson, taken from near the tail end of the video embedded above.

Maybe there are 2 types of people in the world. These people who favor humans over ideology, and those people that favor ideology over humans. I favor humans over ideology, but right now the ideolouges are winning, and their creating a stage for constant artifisial high dramas, where everyone is either a magnificent hero, or a sickening villan, even though we all know that’s not true about our fellow humans.

What’s true is that we are clever and stupid. What’s true is that we’re grey areas. The great thing about social media is that it gave a voice to voiceless people. But we’re now createing a survailance society, where the smartest way to survive is to go back to being voiceless.

Let’s not do that.

 

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