A while back I blogged about shaming, civility, tolerance, etc.: Pax Dickinson: Thought Crime, Public Shaming and Thick Liberty in the Internet Age.
I've wanted to revisit the topic because I have more to say, but most of the events I've seen that would serve as a trigger / a convenient peg to hang my hat on have had a flaw: they've all been right-wingers getting their oxes gored in front of an audience of millions.
While, culturally, I lean more to the right than to the left, my take on this topic is content and viewpoint neutral, and so I've really not wanted to uncork while defending another righty, lest my point be buried under the appearance of always sticking up for members of the Coke party.
Today I have a few minutes to spare and an internet bullying victim who is on the left.
Let's talk about "#pajamaboy".
We all know the background: yesterday President Obama tweeted an ad designed to encourage people to tupperware-party his signature healthcare law to captive friends and family.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) December 17, 2013
As a quick aside, this is one of the most catastrophically tone-deaf pieces of propaganda I've seen since…well, since most of the other Obamacare ads I've seen. But that's neither here nor there.
The internet erupted in a tizzy. As predicted, photoshops ran wild.
…and then something really weird and, to my mind, unsettling happened.
People started doxing the model in the ad.
It quickly turned out that he is an Obama partisan and an employee at Organizing For Action, so this isn't quite as weird and wrong as possible.
…but it's still weird and wrong.
The Washington Examiner not only gave the model's name (which I, as a point of principal, will not repeat), pointed to his personal twitter feed, they screen-grabbed pictures he uploaded to Facebook.
Jamie Wearing Fools pulled his linked in resume.
Politico, Hot Air, etc. have all mocked him.
A site that I won't even link to has dug up his home address, Google streetview stalked him, and concluded based on the price of the house he lives in and the minivan parked out front that he lives with his parents.
My question, put succinctly, is: What. The. !@#$?
PajamaGuy clearly has politics different from mine. He's in favor of socializing healthcare in the US. He's even in favor of using force to do so: he likes the idea of a mandatory fine if I don't get my healthcare in the way he wants, and – presumably – he's in favor of State violence against me if I refuse to pay that fine.
So let us mock the ad if we want. Let us mock and debate the policy.
…but why in the name of all that's holy would we try to shame him? Specifically, shame him for being some twenty something nerdy man-child? I think it's safe to say that none of the people hurling this abuse has ever met the guy. We don't know if he's nerdy. We don't know if he's a man-child. And even if he is: so what? What has he done to deserve the weight of the entire internet raining abuse down on him?
One of my favorite political and economic writers, Megan McArdle, wrote recently (in a different context):
I’ve been trying to cut down on the snark…
why? Out of pity for my victims? Oh, sure, that’s a factor…
[ but ] the main reason I avoid the joys of snarky takedowns is that it’s not very good for you. Snark is immense, immense fun…
Whatever the ostensible subject of the snark, you’re always really saying the same thing: “Look at me! I am so smart and funny! Not like this stupid person I am making fun of! You should think less of them and more of me!”…
(By the way, it's one of Megan's better pieces, and given the high quality of her "average", that's saying a lot. Go. Read.)
So, anyway, this is why I defend Pajama Guy and suggest that – no matter how much he pushes the cultural buttons of those on the right – they should leave him – the real him, the actual human being him- alone:
1) It would be better for all of us to live in a culture where we can take political positions without being doxed, without having our personal pictures grabbed from social media and used to illustrate to an audience of millions how we are complete and utter failures.
2) It would be better to have a cultural norm where we can achieve step #1 via manners, instead of draconian privacy controls on social media and document sharing (think of the
children deadweight loss!)
3) Using snark as a tool is like eating cookies for every meal. It's utterly delicious…and not only are you doing bad things to yourself, but you'll feel bad
4) Not a single one of us would (a) enjoy having the weight of the internet come down on us, nor (b) would we look particularly cool if the other side had infinite resources to pick over our online presence and cherry pick items to make us look bad.
Put down your stones of personal reputation destruction and mockery. Do it even if you think the other side (whichever side that is) is living to a lower standard. It's good for your soul.
Last 5 posts by Clark
- Clark's Farewell To Popehat - December 30th, 2015
- The Current Refugee Crisis - November 18th, 2015
- Top Seven Things I Like About Internet Shame Mobs - July 29th, 2015
Gamer Gate vs Anti Gamer GateA Civil Discussion on Inclusiveness - June 23rd, 2015
- Two Kinds of Freedom of Speech (or #Strangeloop vs. Curtis Yarvin) - June 10th, 2015