Monday, 14 January 2013

What about the shadowy half-brother of "taking offence"?

It's been an interesting few days for those within certain circles on Twitter, and no doubt regular readers of either the New Statesman and Observer. Those who seem to dip in to professional trolling have had a big fight about being trolled...someone has "quit" Twitter because she was bullied only to have her friend bully without a hint of irony in one of the most vile ways I've ever read.

There are a couple of other blog postings that cover that particular issue and it's direct philosophical musings very well, I suggest you go read.

What I want to talk about is the rather overlooked issue of those who have taken justification. This shadowy half-brother of taking offence is overlooked, yet is actually the bigger problem that results from usually half-thought-out ramblings.

Take "James Delingpole". Charlie Brooker here is right, when you have professional trolls paid by the big publishers to get page views then what they are writing is not worth your time getting offended...or at least not pursuing after you've been offended.

But that doesn't solve the problem of those that have taken justification at his views. Those who will point to a prominent article written in a national paper (with it's own regulation!) and claim some kind of endorsement of their own prejudice.

Does James Delingpole or Jan Moir really hate as many people as they seem to? Maybe. Is that a problem? Only in so much as they normalise and legitimise what they're saying because of the (debatable) breadth of their reach and the reputation the brand they're writing under gives them.

To those sitting at the end of the Burchill Observer travesty and saying simply that people should not get offended so easily, or that they should just ignore it, are missing that, in this specific instance, that very charge against the victims of a heavily weighed attack on their way of life is an insult in itself. People that are forgotten about, or where they are not are ridiculed as somehow being "lesser", being told to just "live with it" is hardly a compassionate or reasonable thing to say.

But it is made even less reasonable because of that issue of those that take compliment. Those people that will look at the article and not see a horrible piece of hypocritical hate speech, but instead vindication of their own prejudices that they themselves cannot actually see as wrong.

We don't equally turn to these people and say they have no right to take someone's article and feel that sense of vindication, we for some reason only focus on those who get offended. Both sides are vocal, though admittedly those who are offended are usually more so, but those who decry (for example) twitter's downfall in to "twitterstorms" and "twittermobs" only focus on those people.

And of course the reason is that those who are offended are all too ready to say "I don't think this should be said" rather than their half-brothers and half-sisters who are massaging egos while shouting "No, I love hearing this, write more cheap trash!"

I'll never be happy in a world where those writing either their own blogs, or in the newspapers, feel that they need to self-censor hugely. If someone feels something they should feel free to write about that, as wrong or right as modern society believes that to be. There is a responsibility here, and not one that resides in writing up your piece and then deciding not to run with it, or with an editor saying "You're going to cause too much heat, let's not publish this one"...but with not engaging those you disagree with in such a manner that you provide ammunition against those that may not be too dissimilar to yourself to those who look for any bit of apologist rhetoric that they can use to justify their anti-equality agenda.

A little bit of compassion goes a long way, and by engaging with your detractors you not only help to stop the storms and mobs that you supposedly hate, but you also keep your views from becoming the property of those with agendas that you would rather not be aiding. If you say something stupid and can't stop yourself from saying it, fine...but please learn when you put your hands up and say "sorry" instead of shouting "shut up, troll"