Comment Of The Day: “From ‘The Ethicist’: Revealing The Real Bigots Among Us”

A.M. Golden asks, in his Comment of the Day, “When did Americans start thinking that destroying someone and/or that person’s livelihood is acceptable behavior when it comes to a difference in opinion?” It is an issue also raised in the previous COTD, considering the mall Santa fired after someone complained about his Facebook post showing him as the Jolly Old Elf, but wearing a red MAGA cap. A.M. understands that this is not an idle question, but an important one that raises vital concerns about the erosion of core American values, the public’s belief in our founding documents, and the acceptance of the ethical standard of reciprocity.

Here is A.M.’s Comment of the Day on the post, “From The Ethicist: Revealing The Real Bigots Among Us.”

When did Americans start thinking that destroying someone and/or that person’s livelihood is acceptable behavior when it comes to a difference in opinion?

This goes far beyond boycotts to allow blacks to sit at the front of the bus or at lunch counters. This goes well beyond punishing companies for dangerous or illegal practices that have harmed customers. It goes against the heart of what it means to be an American. Too often, we are told that opinions have consequences. Sure, they do. They always have. Doesn’t it seem, though, that the consequences have become far more ominous than they used to be?

I have never understood ideological boycotts. I remember the Disney boycotts of the ’90s when people with too much time on their hands began seeing obscene Easter Eggs in the new animated films. When gays started congregating at Disney parks on certain days, the company was castigated for not warning people ahead of time that it was Gay Day, despite its protests that Disney had no sponsored days for any groups at its parks.

I thought the whole thing was silly then and it’s still silly.

While in college, I worked at a McDonald’s restaurant. One day, sitting in church, a woman pressed a news article into my hands that reported on health benefits being extended to same-sex partners at McDonald’s corporate offices (I didn’t have health benefits myself at the store where I worked).

I gave her a funny look as if to say, “What am I supposed to do with this?”. She whispered, “Well, you WORK there!”

I got it. I worked for a McDonald’s franchise as a low-ranking cog in the machine and had absolutely no power to open the cash register for a refund much less change a human resources decision made by the corporation; however, because I still worked there, it must mean that I endorsed the company’s practice in this area. I was the equivalent of the postal worker who delivered deportation orders to Jews that ended up in the gas chambers.

At least, she didn’t throw chicken nuggets in my face like the poor Chick-Fil-A workers got a few years ago when their CEO expressed his personal opinion about marriage.

For that reason, my overall position is that I will not do financial harm to a company just because I disagree with its leaders’ stance on certain issues. Doing so takes away my freedom to eat what I want, as well as not to eat what I don’t want to eat.

I find Ben & Jerry’s contribution to certain charities to be obnoxious. But, refusing to buy Ben & Jerry’s ice cream means that I don’t get to eat Chunky Monkey. And I really like Chunky Monkey. By the same token, I don’t want to feel compelled to spend money when I find the product less to my liking. I am not a fan of Chick-Fil-A’s chicken sandwiches. I find them to be dry. Ideological shopping means I would have to support a company that makes dry chicken sandwiches.

(On the other hand, as a rebuke to the mayors of Chicago and Boston and other First Amendment haters, I did sit in line at Chick-Fil-A’s drive-thru for over an hour on Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day all those years ago. Sometimes, you do have to take a stand. Consider this an example of picking one’s battles)

People should buy the food they like and not buy the food they don’t like. Visit the theme parks they like and avoid the ones they don’t. Hire the wedding caterer they like and don’t hire the one they don’t. It mean not launching the Twitter lynch mob with its figurative torches and pitchforks on Memories Pizza because of a reporter’s gotcha question and it means not going 100 miles out of one’s way so you can accuse Masterpiece Bakery of ruining your wedding.

And we should stop assuming the worst about people we barely know. I’ve had magazines sent to me out of nowhere. I got on some list somehow or some well-meaning relative signed me up without telling me. Deciding that you know everything you need to know about your landlord based on a piece of mail and deciding consequently that such a person is the Worst Person in the World who doesn’t deserve an income is so blatantly unAmerican that, many years ago, both Republicans and Democrats would have told the letter writer to settle down.

What changed? When did it change? Why didn’t we notice?

4 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “From ‘The Ethicist’: Revealing The Real Bigots Among Us”

  1. Marie, they are indeed “questions worth of wide consideration and reflection” and I have been giving them close thought for nearly thirty years now. I believe there is a strong impulse to deny the negative result of humanity’s newest mode of communication, information and expression. The Internet has much … I almost said “evil” but my atheist self censored it, tch-tch … it has much to answer for. It tends to render its users invisible. We can still see one another, so we think we are normal but when we enter that realm of the aether we become both masked and armed, unidentifiable and potentially dangerous.

    For the first time in the history of the human race, anyone could vent his lifetime’s worth of anger, spite, fear, jealousy or bitterness, irritation or just plain take the chance to shout “bad” words or speak thoughts he wasn’t supposed to think. The vents were not necessarily aimed at anyone or anything in particular, just wherever he (“and/or she” should be understood) happened to ramble. Or Google. The desire to spoil things, to “troll,” was for some, the wildest freedom that could be imagined. And it was found to be irresistible, even addictive to interrupt, to start or get into petty arguments, to spray-paint over others’ opinions, to check off all the negative boxes. If he got bored — no offended challengers or newcomers’ quips too clever for him — he simply moved on, leaving frustration in his wake. The problem was … and is, growing exponentially … that the “owners” of Internet properties, like Facebook or, less obviously, YouTube, (and so on, those with truly invisible power) took it upon themselves to begin scissoring and censoring, ruling and editing, deleting and banning indiscriminately and deliberately. Anything could and did disappear overnight: in order to maintain more than a semblance of freedom and accuracy, Wikipedia made it way complicated to post or change an entry, without being able to police more than what was openly under complaint. (Wikipedia was a Grand Experiment). The Net began to look like the Langoliers had got at it.

    Not everyone went invisible in the same way. Some took what I will call (probably incorrectly) the sane road, and became gamers, hiding behind legitimate avatars with colorfully imagined identities, acting out both cooperation and competition to pre-agreed-on rules which permitted them to behave as cruelly, sneakily, nastily or murderously as they felt or just in general to play the villain. (Only very small children believe always in superheroes; for grownups, the Joker is the strongest foil to Batman in spite of that sad-sack disguise in his latest movie, and ugly unkillable Freddy has no redeeming qualities — unlike the poignancy of the Frankenstein “monster,” the lugubrious organ-playing Phantom, or the bathetic Hunchback, a living gargoyle haunting the cathedral.) In the persona of the avatar, the players are for a while quite visible, but simply actors (without a director and often lacking talent) — it is their self-created world that is invisible, so they can pretend not to be themselves. People who desire to physically alter their gender, for instance, in order to become invisible (like everybody else) are victims of growing up in and on the Internet, the only place where anything appears to be truly possible.

    Knowing we are invisible makes us smug, conceited, mentally lazy … and reckless. But that’s okay. We don’t even notice what we do, because we are all what I said: invisible. Sometimes we can’t even talk to one another clearly, we have forgotten how to write letters, how to discuss issues, what is worth debating. Or voting for.

    [] Present company excepted. With reservations, which have already been returned in kind.]

    The Internet mask that’s worn by anyone who wishes to don it, or whose invisibility creeps up on him like the quick-mud of Grimpen Mire, can cover more than the body and its “real” name: it shades the personality, tweaks the past, alters the psyche and the soul (in its many forms), and dampens the shame the masked person may occasionally feel … but can never outweigh the pleasure of getting blowback from a victim. Not only can the response not touch him, but it swells the ego and urges him to strive even harder to “stir things up”. I doubt there are many children raised on the technology who haven’t tried the walk on the wild side; it has clearly invaded the childhood culture, encouraged by the publicity of many tragic results. If one is invisible, he’s invincible. It isn’t necessary to think for yourself, there are no essay questions or thesis research to complete; one is unable to analyze what is being said or identify the motivation behind it. Why go there? Someone else will do it, or not: in the end it makes no difference. He is unwilling to learn (or perhaps never been taught) how to construct a cogent argument. He is prey to be caught in the net of demagogues and do-somethings and (I’m tempted to write “Democrats” since it scans so well, but that’s too specific) and those who can believe that they are, at once, both real and invisible at once and thus become famous viruses, for a time.

    It seems to me that people who get involved with Ethics Alarms, especially those who can keep up with Jack-of-many-facets — and even hold the line in his rare absences — have a better grasp of reality than most others who post on blogs. I learn from them. I am strengthened, sometimes hugely entertained, and often surprised, both pleasantly and not, by them. So I maintain a tenuous hold on the Internet, keyboarding with fingers I can’t see, fearing to turn entirely invisible and lose myself in it and its many links.

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