complaints, musings

Silencing the critics…

Well hello there, folks. It’s another snowy day here in Wiesbaden. This year, we’re getting a lot more white stuff than we have over the past couple of years. Bill and I now live in a town that is kind of in a valley, so when it does snow, it tends to be light and not hang around for long. When we lived in Jettingen, down near Stuttgart, we would get snow that would hang around for weeks, because we were higher in elevation. I kind of miss the deeper snows. Right now, our backyard is positively sodden with mud.

Now, with the obligatory weather discussion done, on with today’s topic. As you know, if you’ve read my stuff often, I often torture myself with comments on Facebook. I also get comments on my blog posts. I do publish the vast majority of non-spam comments I receive, even if they’re critical. I am a believer in people being able to speak up if they feel inclined to voice an opinion. I do not publish comments that are insulting or abusive, unless I’m turning that comment into a rant… which I feel fine with doing when someone is an asshole. Hey– if you don’t want me to rant about you, be very careful what you post.

One thing I’ve noticed a lot of is that people seem to get very upset when someone takes an opposing or unusual view. For instance, a few days ago, I got a comment from a “stranger”– that is, someone who had never commented on my blog before. This person, name of Judy, felt the need to correct my opinion about Skylar Mack’s punishment in the Cayman Islands. Although her comment was written, and therefore didn’t have an audible tone, per se, I could tell that she felt I was wrong and needed to be put in my place. She seemed to think I should be silenced, perhaps.

Frankly, it seemed to me that Judy’s comment probably came more from an emotional reaction than rational thought. Yes, she seemed angry that Skylar Mack had gone to the Cayman Islands and broke quarantine. As an American, maybe she was embarrassed on Skylar’s behalf. Or maybe she was jealous that Skylar got to travel to “paradise”, but then didn’t have enough respect for the rules. Or maybe she was just virtue signaling; that is, showing everyone what a “good and respectful” person she is by siding with the morality police. There’s nothing wrong with being good and respectful, unless, of course, you’re only doing it “for show”.

I wrote back to Judy. My comment was kind of long and involved, and I doubt Judy ever read it, but Skylar Mack’s case is one I’ve thought about a lot. It’s not so much that I think so highly of her or what she did. It’s more because the public response to her case happens to be a recent one that outlines a problem I’ve noticed lately. It seems like people have become more black and white in their thinking. And a lot of people seem to have lost their capacity for forbearance and mercy. We’re all very quick to turn on each other and become completely unreasonable.

I’ve noticed the same thing on other comment sections, especially on Facebook, but also on news sites. Someone will post a comment that isn’t the status quo, and people will just glom on, often with insults or derision. I can understand doing that when someone is obviously being snarky about a serious topic. However, I’ve also seen people do it when a person has obviously put some thought and effort into their comment and hasn’t been rude. If what the person has written doesn’t follow the common thinking on a topic, he or she will get trounced by others.

I wonder where this comes from. Are we all so afraid of other viewpoints that we have to “silence the critics” who dare to think outside of the box or say something that isn’t the party line? And why, if we feel the need to offer a rebuttal, must it so often be done in a disrespectful, derisive way? Why is it necessary to insult people when they disagree? Especially if you don’t even know the person?

I like to read thoughtful comments. Sometimes, people present perspectives I haven’t considered, or they have knowledge that I don’t have. But so often, intelligent comments on Facebook or news sites are diluted by rudeness or insults or outright spam. That makes me wonder if people ever think beyond their own opinions. Are we just interested in being in echo chambers, confident and comforted that we all agree? Or do people like to learn from others?

Of course, sometimes people attack and shame people online because of nefarious reasons. For example, one of the reasons I moved my blog from Blogger is because I had a persistent “stalker” (for lack of a better word) who was monitoring my posts and stirring up trouble with other people. This person also had the nerve to send me private messages and leave comments on my blog, which she later deleted. Her comments were often in support of what I’d written. But then after I responded to her, she’d remove them, because she no doubt was singing a different tune to the other side. I didn’t confront her about the deletions, but I knew something was off about it. Clearly, she was trying to play both sides and remove proof– classic triangulation.

My theory is that she was doing these things, not so much because she truly believed I was wrong and needed to be “set straight”, but more because she knew I was right and was about to bust her for being the dishonest snake she is. I had figured some things out about her and the person with whom she had shared my posts. I had voiced them on my blog. She didn’t want the other side, with whom she was sharing my posts, to see that she had agreed on some level, nor did she want me to jar the other side into thinking differently about her. For some reason, she valued a relationship with the other side, and she didn’t want to be outed for being a liar. Of course, the other side was just as dishonest as she was, and they both had a lot to gain by forcing Bill and me to literally pay for their shady behavior.

I also realized that she and her accomplice had lied to Bill and me. She thought we were suckers, and probably figured she could pressure us into taking the fall for things she did, while maintaining a facade of innocence. So she’d send me these shaming comments and private messages, hoping I’d be scared into silence.

She may not realize, or even care that what she did was very damaging to me on a personal level. It may not seem like it to everyone who reads my blogs, but I’m a very decent and responsible person. I try to be fair and open to different perspectives on most matters. I tend to think long and hard about most of my opinions, although I can’t say that I don’t sometimes “pop off” when I get upset about something. I can and do change my mind when new information is presented, though, and I am willing to apologize when I get something wrong. I was very upset when she made some damning insinuations about my character, especially since she was totally wrong.

Then, after the dust had settled a bit, I started to think more about what had actually happened. I remembered meeting her in person. I remembered her body language and things she and her husband said, as well as the way her accomplices behaved. I started thinking about all of the interactions we’d had online. And then I realized, she obviously thought I was a sucker and was playing the other side, too. She had recognized me as a kind, understanding, conscientious person, and she thought that giving me negative and shaming feedback would scare me into being quiet. I wonder how she feels now, since it was proven that Bill and I were not the ones who were doing things wrong. She’d just wanted to “silence the critics”, so she could get away with being a completely irresponsible creep.

I was initially hurt by her accusations and attacks. Now, I’m left here still feeling angry, but vindicated. Because in the end, she and her toxic buddy were not successful in what they were trying to do. She picked the wrong person to screw with, if only because Bill and I have had years of experience dealing with dishonest, toxic people like her who lie, cheat, and steal. But I won’t say that the experience wasn’t hurtful for us. We lost about two years of our lives to it. And going through an experience like that can make it much harder to be a “truth teller”.

I realize that the last few paragraphs might seem kind of cryptic. You might blame that on what that person did. She spent several years monitoring me from afar, causing trouble behind the scenes, and finally trying very hard to get us to pay for her dishonesty and duplicity. Maybe others have had similar experiences, and that’s why so many of us are so afraid of views that are disagreeable. Maybe it feels “unsafe” to disagree.

So, when someone posts a comment that is, for example, not 100% in favor of wearing face masks until death, lots of people will feel free to pile on. And they disagree by being insulting, rude, or just flat out disagreeing with no attempt to even consider why the other person came up with a different perspective. If you’re strongly in favor of the status quo, people are less likely to attack you. Right now, face masks are many people’s panacea against COVID-19. If you’re not 100% for them, you must be part of the problem AND you must also support Trumpism. But that’s not really true, is it? Could there be more to that issue than just black or white? I think so.

It doesn’t seem to occur to some people that you can have a respectful and thoughtful discussion with another person. Maybe you won’t change the other person’s mind, but you will have offered some food for thought. I like those kinds of discussions. I’d like to have more of them, especially with thoughtful people who can talk about things without trying to silence the critics..

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