Every human being has a set of strategies in their social toolkit designed to protect themselves from the unpleasant rigors of empathy, self-examination, and the dreaded realization of their true place in the universe. There’s nothing wrong with this, provided you take inventory of these tendencies so that they don’t pop up unrecognized, use them only when appropriate and keep them properly calibrated to prevent them from harming another person in their use.
I’ve been carefully updating my own inventory by observing the online comics fan community, where one can see a variety of social strategies deployed in a full range of severity.
For example, just this week on this very blog I encountered a number of people employing a tactic known throughout the activist blogosphere as “Silencing.” Sometimes, when a person speaks an unpleasant truth that other people don’t wish to discuss the other people will gather round and do what they can from stopping the person from talking about it.
There are a number of ways to do this.
There’s the ever-popular shame tactic:
The reactions do not in any way do anything to dissuade outsiders who think Islam is an angry religion. Even the slightest perceived slight seems to be treated as supreme blasphemy.
This one is particularly useful (Despite being utterly illogical. I mean, since when does a strongly-worded comment on a superhero-focused website imply that any one demographic is particularly violent? The standard of discourse in many places was set by Green Lantern fans) because the end goal is to make the person feel as though they are contributing to the very problem they wish to solve.
There’s complete dismissal of the matter:
I’m so glad I am not a person who gets easily offended. I had to re-read the interview 3 times, then the article, and finally all the responses in order to actually figure out what the hell was supposedly so offensive.
The goal here depends on the target. One may try to chip away at the offended party’s self-confidence, and make them think perhaps they are worried about nothing. This one relies on a foundation of social conditioning that’s designed to make the offended party believe that their concerns and feelings are of little import. If the offended party is stronger than this, there may still be enough onlookers who consider the words “politically correct” a form of profanity that they may come to the silencer’s aid with other tactics.
There’s distraction with other grievances:
It gets fixed if it relates to a DC story. Brady cares about DC, not Oni.
Anyway. Matt Brady in censoring Marvel news piece. Film at 11.
In this case the grievance is completely absurd but if you find one with enough sympathy you can completely destroy a formerly productive conversation.
And of course, there’s the old standby of making the conversation all about the silencer and his/her personal grievances, which has the added bonus of feeding a starving ego. I trust you can find those attention-seeking examples on your own.
While I can imagine some of these tactics being put to goo and noble use (“So I forgot your birthday! That’s nothing, once Aunt Gina–rest her soul–forgot I was divorced on my anniversary!”) and have the potential to be a valuable tool in the human social toolkit, on the whole I think it’s best we learn to identify and avoid such dishonest debate strategies in the future. As such, we should call attention to them whenever we see them.