Friday, 4 November 2011

Hater, or simply alienated?

    It's a hoary old trope I've seen in a thousand ranty online arguments. Usually just before someone mentions the Nazis and invokes Godwin's Law, someone says something like "If you substituted 'Jew' or 'Black person' for (insert trigger word here) and said that, you'd be locked up!".
    At that point I think the argument is lost from all sides and everybody would be better off putting the keyboard down and backing away. Sadly it doesn't seem to work that way.
    It is however all too easy to become wrapped up in the perceived truths of one's own bubble and forget that without thought being given to how they are presented they might appear alienating and offensive to outsiders. Alienated and offended people do the strangest things.
    To that end if I say something I try to imagine how it might play when read in the soft glow of someone else's computer monitor. Someone, that is, who knows nothing about me beyond what the medium in which they encounter me. They don't know I'm either a harmless but scruffy bloke or an amiable but improbable girl, they only have what I've said to go on. Sometimes I'll get it right, occasionally I won't and I'll be called out on it. Being called out is part of life, engage with civility, after all the caller-out often has a point.
    It's interesting though to think about it, those of us in smaller bubbles are quick to label those in larger ones as haters when in fact they may simply be normal people who have been alienated or offended by something we've said or done. Hell, they might even be won over if engaged with rather than met with a counter-display.
    I have to admit to falling into this trap myself at times. Maybe you have too. I'm pretty sure I've also at times been someone alienated and thus labeled a hater, simply because of who I am.
    It's something to think about, engagement rather than anger. If I try it I wonder how long I can keep it up.


  1. Hi Jenny. I like to think that I am one of those "normal people who have been alienated or offended by something", said.

    On more than one occasion I have attempted to engage and coherently present my views, (or objection to the views of others), only to find myself under a withering verbal assault from many quarters.

    I understand that my views happen to reflct those of the hated and "privilged" mainstream of society, but rather even ATTEMPT to engage or even TRY to understand my POV, I am simpy and summarilay vilified, demonized and even hatefully mis-gendered as a hater/seperatist/bigot/elitist/transphobic....fraud.

    The truth is Jenny, it is very difficult to "engage" underthose circumstances.

    I stand ready to be disavowed of my current belief that this "behavior" is but a tried and true "Alinsky-esque" tactic to simply SILENCE me and prevent my POV from being heard.

    ....and why? Well, IMHO, because my perspective represents a threat to the dogma/agenda of those whose views differ from mine.


  2. I think we've all been there Jenny. In the past I have been on the receiving end of a nasty rebuttal even though my intentions were purely honourable. Well I thought they were and that I think is the problem as you say. Another reason for people getting hold of the wrong end of the stick, to coin a phrase, could be a simple difference in humour. In my case I am quick witted, which seemingly is a trait of those of us born and brought up in Liverpool. Scouse humour as it is called can often be taken the wrong way. Quite often too we may pass a comment that riducules or makes light of something but it is all in fun and is in fact a form of endearment. The problem is that unless the recipient is aware of the jovial banter they can feel offended. As an example, recently I passed a remark about the T shirt someone was wearing. It had a picture of Mickey Mouse on the front and I said, at the tail end of a relevant comment, that it was a shame about the Mickey mouse T shirt. I was of course joking because that expression is used as a joke in these parts. The recipient seemingly took it to heart. It is so easy to hurt someones feelings by the things we say which we don't consider to be offensive but on the other hand many people are too sensitive. The key is knowing which is which.

    Shirley Anne xxx

  3. You might have guessed I love a good political fracas... :-) Always have and likely always will! I also have little hesitation using someone's words and tactics against them; it comes with the territory of politics and controversy. ("Woe is me" is not a valid excuse in politically-inclined wordsmithing.)

    I don't think the problem is figuring out how someone will read "your" words - it's making sure your point is expressed. I recently stated exactly what you pose in your first few sentences; I assert that if you insert some other class or group of people into your sentence and it still comes across as discriminatory - the reader will have no trouble ascertaining your actual intent.

    For instance, if someone asserts: "transvestites shouldn't be allowed to use the Ladies", you can insert blacks or Jews in place "transvestites" and the sense still retains its odiousness. Whether it becomes even more odious is a matter of debate. Motivations for the claim may differ (they don't, when you add it all up), but the end goal is the same: derogatory differentiation based on a personal characteristic.

    That's *not* invoking Godwin's slightly ridiculous but disturbingly accurate law. That's simple political discourse.

    For instance, we can discriminate against able-bodied people and deny them some facility in order to allow and enable the not-able-bodied access to those facilities. That's positive discrimination. But denying someone access to those same facilities based on some characteristic that is either none of our business or simply because of how "you" perceive them? That's derogatory discrimination. (English, it seems, really does need the impersonal equivalent of "vous"!)

    In the battle of ideas that is the blogosphere, it can be taken as XKCD said ("It's important! Someone's wrong on the internet!") or you can look past the medium and examine the actual ideas. For myself, I look at the foundation of the expressed idea. If I can't figure out what it is, I often suspect it's because there isn't one. Or if there is, I only need wait a short while and the true nature of beast will expose itself.

    And sometimes I think that beast needs a bit of a hiding, which I am (then) happy to administer. In those circumstances, I do try to craft my sentences so their intent is as understood as their overt meaning. In other words, I try to ensure there's no mistaking my intention.

    I also love irony. So I do try to employ the tactics of the person I'm happily critiquing. After all - if you advance a controversial idea, "poor little me" is a piss-poor defense! Even, especially, on the internet, controversial ideas do invite a controversial response. *I* expect it, and think the lament shouldn't be that controversial speech exists, but that so few seem to be able to accept that their controversial ideas will invite the ire of someone who vehemently disagrees with their discriminatory opinion!

    Carolyn Ann

  4. Shirley Anne, irony does not travel well. It often derails, tips over and generally causes a fuss where none is needed. ;-)

    I couldn't help notice: Anne, Shirley Anne, and Carolyn Ann! There's a theme going on here... I wonder what it is? ;-)

  5. It's called "mimicry", a high form of flattery

  6. Carolyn Anne, not everyone can be perfect like me.....LOL....Anne is a great name, simple as that.

    Shirley Anne xxx

  7. Have a look at the Baby Name Wizard to see how on-trend your name is.

    This piece has nothing to do with this sphere, a scruffy bloke somewhere was alienated by a piece of Received Opinion from another group and said so. Cue the "You're oppressing me so I'm taking my ball home" defence, which troubled me. Did I do the right thing or should I have kept quiet. On balance if someone says something outrageous I will always say so politely because to not do so it to let the ourtageous become the acceptable.

  8. Verbal or written communication usually involves one party attempting to express an idea through words and sometimes images, while the other party interprets them. Often time, especially in this medium these ideas are expressed/interpreted via/through the individual's personal experiences.

    For example if the last time one engaged with a member of a particular group and was verbally malighned or abused, one might be predisposed to be treated in a similar manner when encountering another person from that group.

    This predisposition causes a biased persception of the incoming information. It can then easily be interpreted as an attack, expecially when difficlut issues are being talked about or when alternative persception might differ.

    This is further exacerbated when one individual is heavily invested in their own personal position/opinion.