We live in a hypersensitive society where just using the wrong pronoun for someone may lead a person to be publicly denounced. Never mind that someone may associate with the wrong people, those ideologically impure. It may even come down to the information someone consumes. Watch Fox News? You’re a right-wing, Nazi. MSNBC? A communist, anarchy supporter. The online sites a person may occasionally peruse would also be suspect. We’ve decided, well not all of us, but a vocal number of people, that what you read, who a person may occasionally associate with, is what defines that person.
Several months ago I was invited to a small dinner party of good friends. In my friends home, out for everyone to see, was a small, bookcase. Being nosey, I walked over to glance at the books collected. Seeing what a person reads sometimes tells me a lot about that person. Are they interested in science, or history, or mysteries? Maybe some of all. What I happened to notice on one shelf was a copy of Mein Kampf. Extraordinary. He must be a neo-Nazi, or a supporter of Nazism, or a White Supremacist. No, I actually didn’t think that, but I did find it interesting, if for nothing else than that our host was black.
Had the host been white, would there have been an argument that he was a fan or supporter of Hitler or the noxious ideas within that book? For some today, the answer would probably be a definite yes. Some may say we are at a crossroad today where anything a person says, or writes comes under extreme scrutiny and that care needs to be taken in all aspects of life, simply because it will not only affect someone’s social status, but their livelihood as well. That may be true but I think the evidence right now is mostly anecdotal. Have there been those that have been shunned by their peers or lost an employment opportunity based, for instance, their activity on social media? I’ve seem some instances of those claims, but what I’d find more interesting is if there were an actual study (more than one preferably) that might show a correlation. There may be some, but I’ve yet to see one cited anywhere that I’ve read of instances of discrimination due to social media presence.
Although I said I think that what someone reads or writes can tell me something about the person, that doesn’t mean that it defines who that person is or what they believe. I’m a curious type, where I read a lot of different authors and topics that I may or may not agree with because I’m interested in what people think or believe. I often learn from those that I may have no ideological sympathy with and there have been occasions where I’ve actually changed my mind based on a better argument. those same books or articles may be considered anathema to others, but I have always found that trying to keep an open mind, even towards an argument I may initially be vehemently opposed to, is worth the effort. too many times, as I have learned from experience, those arguments have been used out of context to attack the author, and usually, most of the time in fact, those same have never actually read that same work, article or book, context included.
It’s too easy to judge someone by what they are believed to have said instead of what they actually articulated. The attack may come due to an unfortunate phrasing and instead of asking for a clarification, the decision is that this person must be that which otherwise, would never be considered. The mob, arises based on a few (possibly just a single) critiques. It goes viral, and suddenly there are hundreds or thousands denouncing what may be an innocent error, or more so, a simple disagreement. Most of those that pile on have never read or listened to anything of the accused. They know this person, who knows the other person, that has made the accusation and that’s good enough to trample someone’s life.
It’s too easy today to condemn someone of racism, or sexism, or any other -ism, even phobia simply because there may be someone that disagrees with the idea(s) presented. It’s become so common that real issues are often overlooked, or dismissed. In the same way a person may be labeled due to their associations, aren’t those that perpetuate the allegations guilty of the same? Think about it.
It’s time that instead of judging by emotion, arguments are made using reason. I’m actually old enough to remember the time when that was the regular order, and when there was a idea that may be offensive, instead of making assumptions, that people investigated instead of believing what they were told. Instead of making a counter argument to refute what we may disagree with we attack the person that made the initial claim, smearing their character, and ruining what may be an otherwise impeccable reputation. All based on ideology.