You may have noticed this strange phenomena happening in the online social world. It’s permeating blogs, Facebook posts, tweets, and honest-to-goodness legitimate news sites (like HuffPo, because that’s totally legit.) I call it Respect Mongering. More and more people are clamoring about feeling disrespected, marginalized, victimized, and bashed.
Respect mongering isn’t the same as being justifiably upset about a real affront. When 50 Cent made injudicious and derogatory statements about a derelict fan “looking autistic”, it was justifiable to be insulted by the tone and intent of the remark.
When that teacher in New Jersey was caught by a recording device calling Stuart Chaifetz’s kid a “bastard”, outrage was an acceptable reaction because there is never, ever a circumstance where a teacher should EVER call a student a name, especially an autistic student. That is just flat-out abuse.
But these aren’t the kind of occurrences I’m referring to here. I’m talking about when people leave nasty comments about a blog post where someone talks about their own experience with something, and they express their own opinions about that experience. Similarly, I’ve seen this when someone expresses an opinion on Facebook that meets with venomous attacks.
It’s one thing to say something completely horrible, like “conservatives are evil, face-eating zombies.” Ok, see that there? That is a statement that frames a whole group of people in a negative light, and makes a false assertion about said group. That is a bad thing. That is something that invites vitriolic opposition.
But what’s been happening is more like this: someone says on their blog, or in a Facebook Comment that “my conservative next-door neighbors remind me of evil, face-eating zombies.” Now this is different. See, the person has expressed their own opinion, not about a large group, but about someone specific to their social sphere, and is probably referring to some kind of negative interaction they have had with this specific neighbor. Maybe they even know for a fact that their neighbor engages in the abuse of bath salts. Who knows? But this is the kind of statement that will bring a barrage of nasty, hate-filled comments by people that are OUTRAGED that someone could be so prejudiced against the face-eating zombie people that are out there in the world doing good deeds and contributing to society.
Similarly, it will also spur negative responses from people that believe the statement implies that ALL conservatives are face-eating zombies. And OHMYSWEETBABYJESUS, Sarah Palin could never be a face-eating zombie, because she lives right there by Russia, and they would not allow the threat of face-eating zombies to be that close to the Mother Land. And Sarah cares to much about America and she knows lots of things about stuff to ever be a face-eating zombie, so WHERE DO YOU GET OFF SLANDERING SARAH PALIN??
Do you see how this might be a tad…nit-picky? Perhaps a bit over-the-top?
But this happens almost every day to someone who has innocently put forth their own opinion based on their own experience. You know, it’s like when someone writes about their personal parenting experience of their autistic child, in their own home, and maybe they decide to write about how difficult or challenging they are finding it, and someone goes all unhinged and starts a campaign to shut them down.
Yeah, maybe like that.
Or, like when someone *cough* makes up a cutesy picture with a snappy saying about parenting a child on the spectrum, and someone completely loses it and accuses the person of being “defamatory and ruthlessly harsh”. Especially when the person, who is usually inclined toward a biting sarcasm (cough), went out of their way to make something happy and positive.
Here’s the thing. We live in a free country where expressing our thoughts and opinions is a right and freedom that is protected. It’s protected even if you don’t agree. So, while I may have personally thought that 50 Cent’s comment was insulting and hurtful, and perhaps I did or did not partake in a Twitter campaign of sending out dozens of pre-scheduled tweets educating him about autism and requesting an apology, I still would not deny him the right to say such stupid and ignorant things publicly.
And if someone on their blog, or their Facebook feed makes a statement about their own personal experience with something, as long as it doesn’t degrade and insult a whole group of people, then why not let it be?
I’ll leave you with one more example:
If someone on, say, Facebook, compares liberals to “people that wear helmets and lick the Windex off of bus windows”, then this is pretty unkind and an obvious attack on people with special needs. It may be a crude attempt at humor, but it is still bad and wrong and ugly. This thing invites unhappy comments.
But if someone says that liberals are “a silly bunch of clowns”, then that statement is okay. It’s not okay because it’s a true statement, because obviously that is just WRONG. It’s okay because clowns aren’t offended at being compared to liberals, and people in general just don’t like clowns. And frankly, clowns are silly sometimes.
Do you see?
Restraint and humor, that’s what we all need to exercise when trolling around the alternate universe of the interwebs. Maybe instead of all this respect mongering, we can learn to laugh and learn to accept that we may be reading one person’s personal account, not an across-the-board depiction of someone or something.
But hey, if you wanna bash…gimme a sec to get these earrings off, and let’s have a go, shall we?