As much as I strive to preach and practice the dying art of stoicism, we all have our pet peeves, bete noires and personal vexations. One thing that really rustles my jimmies, so much so, in fact, that seeing an increased frequency of this occurrence was one of the main impetuses for starting my blog, is seeing people get fired for making some tasteless joke or comment over social media.
The honest truth is that I am such a staunch advocate and believer in free speech that in my benevolent dictatorship even inciting violence would be protected speech, along with hate speech, such as calling for genocide. Please don’t confuse this with condoning such speech. I only condone people’s rights to express themselves, I don’t condone the hateful expression itself, as nobody should, but if someone on social media told you to jump off a bridge and you decided to do it, who’s the real asshole in that scenario?
Unfortunately for humanity in general, and Tiana McHenry in particular I’ve not yet ascended to my birthright as Glorious Leader and enacted my plan of making all speech protected, even from termination. Someone who, in my humble opinion, was motivated either by political ideology or perhaps just old fashioned sadism, decided to fink on young Tiana and report the tweet to her employer.
In the end the informer got the desired result and Tiana lost her job.
Click the image above to visit the facebook page where you can see it isn’t just a single person calling for the termination but rather a public rallying cry. What happens is a tweet like that gets posted on reddit or reblogged by someone with a large following and next thing you know you got yourself a good old fashion lynch mob with the ability to make a company capitulate quickly to demands in the face of the threat of bad PR.
This type of thing makes me so uncomfortable. It amazes me how people can be so callous about getting someone fired, which is such a serious thing to do to someone, it can literally ruin their life. It must be too easy for people to be disconnected from that reality when sitting behind a computer screen. It takes merely seconds to craft a message that can result in someone living on the streets or committing suicide, and is ever any thought given to what other dependents these people might have, like children or invalids?
I understand why people would feel that someone inciting violence in this way should be held accountable, but I don’t buy in this case. If people had legitimate concerns they would contact the FBI, and then they would get laughed off the line because the FBI doesn’t waste it’s precious time on threats that are obviously not credible. So instead people contact the employer. They aren’t doing this for safety reasons but for ideological ones. It’s scary as fuck if you actually stop to think about it.
Anyone who knows anything about me knows that one of my favorite films of all time is Swing Kids. The film takes place in Nazi Germany and there are multiple scenes that revolve around the idea of citizens reporting on each other. This serves to create a climate of fear and more and more we are seeing this same climate being fostered on social media. From insincere threats to offensive slurs to simply ‘liking’ the wrong innocuous jokes, we are being taught of the very real world consequences that we face if we step out of line.
This is not the internet that I want. This is not the world that I want. We must collectively come back to our senses and ask ourselves what it means to live in a free and open society. One where we can celebrate differences of opinion and taste rather than seek to punish them.