The world is perishing in an orgy of self-righteousness.
People from Wisecrack always manage to put a smile on my face. They give me hope that there are still people of reason in this world. This essay is inspired by that video and the gathering of complementary thoughts.
As an engineer I always find myself baffled by what we are able to create. As an engineer, no one could ever think that one of the most fabulous creations of humankind, the internet, and it's most successful streak of hits - ubiquitous mobile access and social networks that can gather a considerable amount of people at the same time - could ever be used as weapons of mass destruction.
Far from the only instance of this kind of case, but as an example, a few days ago I was surprised by a small piece of news. James Gunn, the beloved director of 2 of the best hits in the MCU with his Guardians of the Galaxy was fired because of tweets he made 10 years ago.
I am not here to judge the merits of the tweets or if his apologies are good enough.
And actually, by just stating neutrality, I am automatically judged as being in favor. And this is the problem here.
Today we've seen right-wing-like pages, accounts being deleted from Facebook. This is from their ongoing efforts to fight against "fake news" and this is indeed a problem of modern days, where news outlets have become click-bait factories, accurately how Wisecrack's video describes.
Who's to decide what "fake news" is? It "offends" a particular demographic, this demographic is loud and generates clicks. Therefore we must ban the other side.
Reminds me of a cliche phrase from The Lord of the Rings that always resonated with me. When the fellowship was trying to go through Moria, Frodo laments to Gandalf:
'What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!'
To which Gandalf replies:
'Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity.'
And then concludes:
'Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.
For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many – yours not least.'
Back to Gunn what surprised me was not that those tweets were republished or the public outcry (and of course, no sane person supports the specific contents literally). What really surprised me was the incredible velocity that a mega-corporation the size of Disney responded with a swift beheading, literally terminating a great career, in less than a few hours.
Reminds me of equally quick public sentences without trials or due process. And again, I'm not advocating for these people, but James Damore vs. Google. Brendan Eich vs. Netscape, James Watson vs. Nobel.
And most of you or your friends would say, "of course they were ousted, they are bad people, we must police ourselves to remove these villains from our midst."
Can you give back their future if you were wrong? What makes you entitled to be jury and judge?
Careful. An average, reasonable person, when antagonized should dialogue in private, as any civilized society learned to do. But social networks motivate people to do the worst: call out in public.
This is Mob Formation. This is plain old bullying. I suffered forms of bully my entire life - being a Japanese minority in a Western country -, I know how bad being bullied feels, which is why I never bully back.
If you call out someone in public, you're not practicing "justice." You are a mere bully. No matter the subject at hand.
"I Disapprove of What You Say, But I Will Defend to the Death Your Right to Say It." - Evelyn Beatrice Hall.
And I believe that.
I shall never shame someone in public. Only cowards do that. Shaming someone in the open has the sole purpose of mobbing people, transforming the herd in maneuvering mass to swiftly perform a public execution, and thus, make your point without having to defend it.
"But I have the right not to be offended."
No, you don't.
Another movie I talked about years ago and cropped a segment to upload in my blog is Oliver Stone's masterpiece The People vs. Larry Flynt.
It tells the story of the founder of the pornography magazine Hustler. By all means, a despicable person.
But this is precisely the point. Larry did things that most of you would condemn. Not only publishing porn, but doing satire out of public people, bad taste jokes, but jokes nonetheless. The segment that really had an impact on me was the concept that people have no right not to be offended. This is a subjective matter that has no place in court because we can't legally define taste.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you have heard a lot today, and I'm not gonna go back over it, but you have to go into that room and make some decisions. But before you do, there's something you need to know. I am not trying to suggest that you should like what Larry Flynt does. I don't like what Larry Flynt does, but what I do like is the fact that I live in a country where you and I can make that decision for ourselves. I like the fact that I live in a country where I can pick up Hustler magazine and read it, or throw it in the garbage can if that's where I think it belongs."
Anyone has the right to do and say whatever he or she wants to the limit that this doesn't bring loss to the other person. It's a delicate matter because my rights should end where your rights start.
"If the First Amendment will protect a scumbag like me, it will protect all of you." - Larry Flynt.
But because it can't be decided in court, radical people are taking matters with their own hands, using the most powerful weapon ever devised: social networks. They can quickly gather a large jury and determine the public execution. It's like handing a loaded gun to a toddler.
This is Inquisition territory. Galileo was judged and sentenced because he offended the Catholic society by stating that Earth and the planets revolve around the Sun and not the other way around. Seems stupidly trivial today, but it was a big deal back then. People would choose to die than accept this offensive statement. That's what would be trending in the Twitter of 1600's, and public execution would be quickly demanded.
This "I'm offended" justification is what ultimately led to assassinations such as Luther King, JFK, Lennon, the arrest of Gandhi, and the genocide of the Jews. Intolerance.
If not being offended is an ultimate goal, intolerance is the only path, and the murder of Freedom the worst consequence.
Every atrocity in humankind starts with mob behavior around the "I shouldn't feel offended."
That's the story behind Fahrenheit 451 that Wisecrack explains. At one point people just start creating an echo chamber. Every Twitter feed and Facebook timelines are, by definition, echo chambers. You only receive content meticulously curated by advanced machine learning carefully configured to spit out posts with content that will not offend you, that won't ever challenge your points of view.
You create and live in a bubble, and you immediately get outraged when your reality is challenged by any thought-provoking idea. You limit yourself to your personalized and narrow status quo.
It's a lie when you say "I'm open-minded" but continuously call out people and whine about how offended you are. You are not open-minded. You can't have your lunch and eat it too. At least admit the truth: that you're narrow-minded and intolerant.
And contrary to what many of us believe, the internet was supposed to set us free from the governments, authoritarian institutions, and the big media channels that supposedly controlled the point of view of the masses.
We were supposed to have access to a broader range of knowledge, without borders, without prejudice, and that would help us advance faster into the future, into more innovation.
Innovation, by definition, is a challenge against the status quo. You can't innovate and please everybody at the same time, that's impossible. Otherwise, it's just more of the same.
The invention of fire challenged nature, the invention of heliocentrism questioned God, the design of natural selection challenged the soul of humankind.
Social networks transformed a free, decentralized internet, and put it on a very tight leash, controlled by "Influencers." People with charisma, not righteousness, much less wisdom, just plain charisma. Allure is what attracts large amounts of people as followers. The network effect is vicious.
We were supposed to be all together collaborating to the betterment of humankind, regardless of race, geography, and political inclinations.
Be warned, you are all falling for the Eight stages of Genocide. Behold:
- Classification: People are divided into "them and us".
- Symbolization: "When combined with hatred, symbols may be forced upon unwilling members of pariah groups..."
- Dehumanization: "One group denies the humanity of the other group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects, or diseases."
- Organization: "Genocide is always organized... Special army units or militias are often trained and armed..."
- Polarization: "Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda..."
- Preparation: "Victims are identified and separated out because of their ethnic or religious identity..."
- Extermination: "It is 'extermination' to the killers because they do not believe their victims to be fully human".
- Denial: "The perpetrators... deny that they committed any crimes..."
This is the original Nazi modus operandi, and you are perpetuating those steps. I am not a Jew, but I deeply admire and respect their history and resilience. I have been to the official Holocaust Institute in Yad Vashem, Israel and went to the Washington D.C. one because I respect the lessons they left behind. And it was supposed to be our duty not to let history repeat itself.
But, such is the power of blind ideology and the leadership of charismatic celebrities.
We had charismatic leaders doing good things and bad things, but charismatic nonetheless. For every Lincoln or Churchill, we had a Stalin or Castro.
What's more difficult is that we can only really know that something went horrendously bad in hindsight, from History. There is no such thing as a black and white "good" vs. "evil." You always think that you are doing an excellent job by following sure charismatic people that seems to be only promoting the well being of a minority group.
Ask yourself: are you really following a person that is selfless, that can treat another person with more humanity than he or she is initially being treated? Or does it sound more like selfish revenge and payback? Hate is always the stuff of evil. A righteous person does not mimic what they are supposedly fighting against. Anyone advocating "let's do to them what they did to us" is most probably Evil. You cite people like Gandhi, and did you learn nothing from what he taught all his life?
Every Fidel, every Mussolini, every Hitler, they all really believed that they were fighting for the well being of their people. Every Nazi acted thinking they were doing the right thing for the future of their sons and daughters, that the sacrifices would pay off. That they were being Noble for killing people.
There has never been a better platform to mob people into irrational herds than now. There are YouTubers out there that have millions of more followers than any Hitler ever had.
And to put injury to misery, we have formed the online consensus that people has a magical inherent right to "never be offended." They shall not be offended by 200 characters tweets. That's a capital sin, and the perpetrator must die. Apologies are not enough. The thought police are such that one out of context tweet is already enough to judge and execute the life of a person, without recourse, without parole.
It's fascinating to see how a series of technologies and innovations supposed to broaden the freedom of everybody would turn to become the most potent weapon of mass destruction ever devised. And it didn't need a newborn Hitler.
The end of the world doesn't necessarily need to be a catastrophic physical event such as a nuclear blast. I think that even worse is the destruction of the fabric of society itself. It's not a big evil dictator that will kill Freedom, it's the people that don't deserve it. It's way more nefarious and can be even more damning.
That's the lesson, it's not an Omar Bashir, or a Bashar Al-Assad, or a Nicolás Maduro that, alone will single-handedly be responsible for destroying society.
Every evildoer in history did what they did "in the name of the people."
And it all starts with "I shouldn't be offended."