I don’t know why, but in the past week or two I’ve been exposed to an unprecedented level of hatred on the internet. It has not been directed at me personally (one of the benefits of obscurity), but as I “listen in” on the conversation in the public sphere I grow increasingly depressed. Is this the best we can do?
One of the first was the vitriol directed at Sandra Jansen when she crossed the floor from being a member of the PC party to joining the NDP party. Personally, I’m opposed to party switching; it smacks of opportunism, attention grabbing and a total lack of dedication to one’s principles. If you no longer agree with the party you stood for in the last election then resign.
But she ended up on the receiving end of far worse criticisms than what I just offered.
“What a traitorous bitch …
“You are both a disgrace to Alberta, lying bitches …
“Now you have two blond bimbos in a party that is clueless …
“Another useless tit goes NDP …
“Dead meat …
“Sandra should stay in the kitchen where she belongs …
‘”Fly with the crows and get shot …
“Dumb broad — a good place for her to be is with the rest of the queers.”
You get the picture. Not exactly the shining pinnacle of Western democracy, to say the least.
Then there’s the story of young Sam Oosterhoff, the most recent member of the Ontario legislature. According to the National Post he’s the youngest-ever MPP and “his political career is already doomed.” Why?
Oosterhoff is an orthodox Christian and a social conservative, in an era when being such is tantamount to thought crime, punishable by revulsion, penalty to be administered by flash mob on social media. This is the new face of tolerance in liberal Ontario.
[You’ll notice the old claim that giving voice to social conservatives is automatically a political death sentence. As I blogged previously, history suggests otherwise.]
The press were contemptuous toward him – almost as though the press had an innate liberal bias – and then social media took over from there, as the author describes,
More bizarre still, though, was the tone of many of the reporters’ questions, which were framed as accusations, with nary a cursory effort to mask the questioners’ contempt. Later, as the video made the rounds on social media, the Greek Chorus of revulsion chimed in: “This guy is an ignorant f—!” read one Facebook post. “Scum,” wrote another. “Seriously f— this little shit,” wrote a third. “Somebody buy the little twerp an hour at a massage parlour,” ventured a fourth. Maybe then he’ll shut up.”
So vitriol of that sort can be directed toward folks on the left, and toward folks on the right. Men and women. It can come from random strangers, and it can come from the mainstream media.
[As if the media doesn’t already have enough problems, as I previously blogged. If their interviewee isn’t going to be sensational enough on his own then they have to impose sensationalism on him, I suppose?]
And, of course, such vitriol naturally and inevitably takes over social media from there.
The recent election south of the border makes these examples of being offensive look childish by comparison. For the thought crime of failing to support Trump, here are a few snapshots of what one American went through.
I distinctly remember the first time I saw a picture of my then-seven-year-old daughter’s face [photoshopped] in a gas chamber.
The alt-right unleashed on my wife, Nancy, claiming that she had slept with black men while I was deployed to Iraq, and that I loved to watch while she had sex with “black bucks.” People sent her pornographic images of black men having sex with white women, with someone photoshopped to look like me, watching.
We contacted law enforcement, she got her handgun-carry permit, and life returned to the new normal of daily Twitter harassment, until the day this month when an angry voice actually broke into a phone conversation between my wife and her elderly father, screaming about Trump and spewing profanities. My wife was on her iPhone. Her father was on a landline. That launched a brief, anxious search inside my father-in-law’s home for a potential intruder and yet another call to law enforcement.
The article goes on to share some of the terribly frightening stories of what other folks went through as well. It was a wide-spread phenomenon.
In other cases hatred takes a less terrifying form, but a form still squarely dedicated at attacking and silencing dissenting views. PragerU – a conservative but generally well reasoned resource – had one of their videos at YouTube removed. The reason? It was tagged as “hate speech.”
Watch the video here. The video certainly does centre on the theme of hatred, but the message – stated with absolutely no hint of uncertainty or ambiguity – is to get rid of hate. It is a video explicitly intended to break down barriers by encouraging people to get to know each other. Read. Learn. Love.
But for some reason people apparently disagree with this message, so they went out of their way to tag it as “hate speech.” YouTube complied. The only thing hateful in this entire situation is the hatred of those who disagree with the message of love and understanding that is central to the video. Apparently they would like to see more hatred in the world? Especially hatred of Jews, it would seem.
I do some guest speaking with an organization called Faith Beyond Belief. In their most recent newsletter they described how the mainstream media got wind of their presentation on homosexuality (among other talks) and reported on it in predictably unflattering terms. Sounds a bit like what happened in Ontario, wouldn’t you say? Claims were made that FBB is intolerant, and denounces the queer community. FBB allegedly spreads misinformation and hate.
There’s that “hate” word again, and it’s cousin “intolerance.” The irony is that some of the sources quoted in the article were not even present at the event! They speak with such authority, without bothering to hear the words of those they denounce. Does that sound more like love or hate to you?
Apparently FBB issued a blanket invitation to these anonymous critics that the newspaper blindly trusted, to discuss the issues with FBB representatives in person.
They are still waiting for a response.
I don’t get it, I really don’t. Have we really descended so far as a civilization that we no longer know how to disagree with each other without screaming vulgarities, uttering threats, and generally acting like spoiled brats who didn’t get what they wanted for Christmas? How can so many adults act in a manner more befitting of a two-year-old?
I’d like to say it’s just a few strangers cowering in their bedrooms afraid to enter the real world and disagree with real people about real subjects, but this hatred involves even mainstream journalists, as noted above. It involves real people hacking into the real phone lines of people they disagree with just so they can yell and swear at them. We’ve moved beyond merely those who hide behind the anonymity of the internet to hurl insults and accusations from the safety of their twitter account; this is producing real effects in the real world.
It probably is still a minority, I’ll agree with that, but it is a very vocal minority, and it is a minority that is shifting the course of culture for the rest of us. I find that a lot of the people I talk to are able to have reasoned discussions on subjects about which we disagree. Most people, in other words, can still disagree with civility. But the vocal, hateful, minority are starting to make things worse for the rest of us. We feel like we have to walk on eggshells even when disagreeing with somebody we know is not going to get offended. We dare not express our socially conservative views. We dare not question Trump. We dare not support the NDP. And when we do disagree with somebody else we must go out of our way to affirm, again and again, that we don’t mean anything personal by it. Please don’t be offended simply because I don’t think the same way you do. We have to waste a whole bunch of communication effort saying what ought to be self-evident, but no longer is self-evident because of the overall heated temperature of the political / ideological climate these days.
Many people come to believe that the best course of action is to keep their mouths shut and their heads down in the hope that the folks with the megaphones and an attitude problem don’t notice they are there. Share their views? Yeah, right; I don’t think so!
This is not a healthy democracy.
We can do better. We must.