“So what if you’re offended”

You’ve seen this, no doubt.

If I never have to see this quote or picture again, I think the world would be a better place.

Now, it’s not because it’s false. It’s not because Fry isn’t spot on about this being a sometimes correct reaction to, say, wide-eyed religious conservatives who want to ban books, censor science, etc. Indeed, the context was in conversation with Christopher Hitchens about the pernicous way “offense” from religious people was seen as sufficient reason to censor – it was about the idiot notion of blasphemy as still regarded as legitimate in secular, civil society. (South Africa couldn’t distribute a book some years ago because it offended some members of the Muslim community. That mindset, years ago, is also why I heard about and wanted to read The Satanic Verses; and one-two-skip-a-few I’m now an ex-Muslim. Streisand Effect leading to atheism.) [Read more...]

Abortion, choice and stigma

My latest for The Daily Beast is a criticism of apparent moral hypocrisy regarding a woman’s choice to have an abortion, premised on disliking a women’s chosen career path. There’s more to it than that, of course, but I really dislike the idea that people can be pro-choice – but only for some women (who are not “sluts”, “famewhores , etc., like aspiring model Josie Cunningham).

There’s a debate to have on what “pro-choice” means – which choice, etc. – but that’s different to being a hypocrite, which we all need to be careful of. Especially if it feeds in to an already prevalent and powerful stigma that has damaging repercussions on actual policy.

Go to JustineSacco.com

This

Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!

— Justine Sacco Tweet (@JustineSacco) December 20, 2013

…led to someone taking time to not send threats to Ms Sacco or merely complain to their friends about how nasty racists are (who would disagree?) and do this: http://justinesacco.com/

Using attention, current focus and intense emotions and funneling it properly. Excellent. Truly excellent. Want to do something about people like Sacco? Go donate to Aids charities, encourage others to, and don’t send that threatening Tweet or yell about more obvious moral standing (“racism is bad!”).

I will write something on this later. For now, it’s a little too fresh.

Melissa Bachman, hunting and the ethics of outrage

In my latest for The Guardian, I examine the backlash against hunter Melissa Bachman who killed a lion then posted a picture of her successful kill on social media. The backlash, more than the kill itself, worries me. That doesn’t mean I support hunting – I still don’t know my moral position on it – but it does confirm my worry over pile-ons, hate and indications of sexism that poisons much discussion of women on the Internet. [Read more...]

Outrage, social media and knee-jerk responses

I have a new post up at the Guardian that you can go and fight with.

Additionally:

I quite like this piece by Laura Hudson at Wired on when the bullied becomes the bullies in the age of social media.

I think it’s a difficult discussion and, though I like the article, I’m not sure how far I agree. Probably about *sucks thumb* 90%.

As should be obvious from my Guardian piece, I am worried about the kinds of reactions we have; the sort of horrible name-calling, derision, threats, and pile-ons that can occur – even for a good cause.

After all, we don’t have licence to, for example, threaten homophobes with death. (I wouldn’t want to associate with anyone that did that, which would undermine the cause itself.)

To think we’re immune in our responses because we’re on the moral side is a dangerous precedent, I think. Just because we’re morally right in our position doesn’t make automatically morally right in whatever way we respond.