Class Warfare Blog

August 14, 2020

It’s a Shame

Filed under: Culture — Steve Ruis @ 12:24 pm
Tags: ,

A new post on Ben’s blog “Life After Religion” began this way:

“There is a growing trend in the world, specifically in the US, of attacking anything and everything different than ourselves and our beliefs. If someone says something that we disagree with, instead of saying, “well, that’s just their opinion”, we try to destroy and discredit them. Celebrities and powerful business people are the usual (and easiest) targets. The media calls it Cancel Culture when people use online vehicles for public shaming. I just call it wrong. But it isn’t only the rich and powerful who get shamed for their beliefs. It can, and does, happen to people from all walks of life.”

Unfortunately comments weren’t available for this post so I am doing it here.

My point is this: shaming is a control mechanism of a social species, a vital control mechanism. For example, shaming, or the threat of being shamed in public, had almost removed racist comments from the public sphere . . . until along came the Internet.

By communicating via the Internet, often anonymously, people could go back to making statements they had stopped making in public from fear of shaming. It took a while but the practice of first, flaming, and now shaming has caught up with the breakers of social norms.

But there is a problem. The problem is that the immense communication network which is the Internet created the problem (by allowing trash talking that was anonymous) is now exacerbating the problem by insulating the shamers from feedback. In an openly public forum, if someone undertook to shame another person, and were out of line in that effort, well they would be shamed themselves. (This is a common trope in movies in which some busybody tries to shame our hero and her posse turns against her and she tramps off in high dudgeon, shamed herself.) This close feedback was a control mechanism for the whole system and now it is broken.

Shaming people used to be a useful, possibly necessary, tool for our social species. Now it is broken and possibly cannot be healed.

We will rue its loss.

July 17, 2020

Oh, Oh, Oh, the Cancel Culture

The American Right Wing has lost its mind again. And it is such a small thing it is hard to find once lost, so I feel for them. I also wonder why they call it a right wing as there is no left wing any more and a bird consisting of one wing and a body cannot fly . . . but I digress.

Regarding the “cancel culture,” the Right is decrying the few protests that have resulted in right-wing speaker’s speaking gigs getting canceled, mostly because of Internet protests.

“Ow, ow, ow,” they cry, earning a Snowflake Award.

I have commented before on the role the Internet has played in the expansion of atheism and racism in this country. The Internet provides forums which creates distance between those interacting and, in many cases, anonymity. This has allowed many people, previously squelched by public opinion, to speak there minds.

In the case of atheism this has allowed many atheists to find out that they are not alone and there are a great many other people who have the same thoughts and attitudes. Since this has expanded and reinforced people of this ilk (of which I am one) and we do no harm to our fellow citizens, I consider this a net good thing.

In the case of racism, the exact same thing has occurred. Prior to the development of Internet chatting, racists were more and more isolated and racist comments became less and less acceptable across the country. The reason was public disapproval. Gossip and shaming are social controls that evolved millennia ago to help us keep society reined in. And then came the anonymity of the Internet and racists, separated from those who would chastise them for their comments, found fellow travelers and were reinforced in their attitudes. They discovered that they weren’t as alone as they thought they were. Since racists do harm to our fellow citizens, even if minimally spreading bad attitudes toward certain groups of people, I consider this a net bad thing.

And, now we are here.

Now we are seeing public gossip and shaming catching up with the special interest groups on the Internet. We cannot be present to squelch bad behavior but we can do it via the Internet! No longer are torch lit parades necessary to flaunt one’s approval or disapproval of a social group, one can do it from the comfort of one’s home while wearing pajamas.

And, who disapproves of this esteemed social mechanism rebalancing itself from having gotten out of whack through unforeseen new technologies? The bastions of the status quo, the protectors of tradition, aka cultural inertia, the supporters of social institutions like churches, police forces, the military . . . the Grand Old Party, the Republicans.

As always, in politics in this country, it really does depend upon whose ox is getting gored.

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