Toxic Fear and Things That Go Bump In The Night (and on Social Media)

fight or flight

Found at cbt4panic.org website – no image credit given

What started all this was a post by conservative speculative fiction writer Jon Del Arroz at the SuperversiveSF blog called My Post Mocking Feminism Goes Viral – Twitter Locks My Account. Apparently, his twitter account was temporarily locked again, this time for mocking something called National No Bra Day which is supposed to raise awareness about breast cancer by having women go braless (sort of like No-Shave November). This year, the event is on Saturday, October 13th, which makes it odd that anyone would bring up the topic now. Anyway, here’s Del Arroz’s tweet for your consideration.

If you go to Mr. Del Arroz’s blog, you’ll see that he is frequently critical of leftist and progressive causes, and leftist speculative fiction author Jim C. Hines went so far as to post a lengthy missive on his blog chronicling, in great detail, a list of Del Arroz’s supposed “trolling and harassing.”

On the other hand, I’ve been assured by numerous people who I respect that Del Arroz is being treated unfairly by a number of authors (such as Mr. Hines), and particularly by several Cons (conventions) for his religious and political views.

Why?

Okay, let’s assume, first of all, that Del Arroz is being treated unfairly. I looked at his “offending” tweet, and it really didn’t seem to be anything twitter would ban, and in fact, I’ve seen more provocative material relative to breasts and sex on twitter, which no one seemed to mind. I’ve also seen tweets poking fun at progressives, feminists, Hillary Clinton, and such, and they weren’t banned either. I myself have tweeted on religious topics, quoted the Bible, quoted Rabbis, expressed conservative political views, and I’ve never heard a peep out of the powers that be at twitter (or Facebook for that matter).

In fact, one of the few times I came up on anyone’s radar was when I criticized someone I consider a troll in the comments section of the conservative comic strip Mallard Fillmore (it’s worth a read for the comments alone, many of which are hysterical) created by Bruce Tinsley. After I used the “T” word, I got a nastygram from the admins at The Comics Kingdom website telling me not to insult one of their readers (keeping in mind “Mr. T” – not his real name – insults a lot of readers).

I stopped and they haven’t banned me, but I have to be careful to mind my manners.

The other two occasions were in the comments section of the comic strip Non Sequitur (this link will lead you to one of the strips where I was mildly criticized by the artist) created by Wiley Miller.

Miller occasionally takes pokes at Christianity, and when he drew something about Noah’s Ark, and many of his readers responded out of atheist angst, I spouted off about how people have the right to their religious beliefs, and even if you don’t agree, you don’t have to behave in a bigoted manner about it. Miller responded to me saying that he intended the strip to merely be a sight gag and not a pejorative comment about Christians.

Miller also commented to me after I suggested that the strip he had published yesterday (see the link above) could be interpreted as political. He told me that it was yet another gag with no political implications whatsoever (although he regularly does criticize President Trump in his strip, but then again, doesn’t everyone?).

That’s it. That’s the limit of my being censured or otherwise taken to task by liberals, leftists, and progressives (I’m not sure all of those terms are identical) or anyone else.

Look, it’s arrogant to believe that everyone will agree with you all the time, so I can see why I’d occasionally get some blowback. I do sometimes have a big mouth (not sure what the right metaphor is when using a keyboard) and given a good enough reason, I can go of half-cocked (it’s a firearms metaphor).

So what’s the difference between Del Arroz and me? Probably a lot, but since I’ve never met him or even interacted with him online, I can’t say exactly how.

There are a few things I think might factor into the differences in how people respond to us online.

The first is I probably don’t generate the sheer volume of “conservative-speak” online, and I do pepper my social media commentaries with “kinder, gentler” messages.

The second, and I suspect this is the biggie, is that Del Arroz is a much higher profile author and human being.

He’s published numerous fiction novels and short stories, and attended a lot of Cons, enough for him to come on the radar. You don’t need any more evidence than the aforementioned Mr. Hines’ blog post targeting Del Arroz.

I, on the other hand, although a published author, have not. But then again, thus far, all of my books have been either textbooks or self-study guides in the areas of computer desktop support, networking, and Microsoft’s SharePoint product. Those aren’t the sort of topics you invest a lot in emotionally, unlike how people feel about their entertainment, including speculative fiction. In other words, no one cares who I am and what my religious and political views are.

Okay, so Del Arroz (and a number of other conservative authors and entertainers) have shown up on the radar of leftist and progressive critics in both the publishing (I use that word in its widest possible meaning, including authors, the Cons, and so forth) and social media realms.

So lets say that a lot of people disagree with his views. So what?

Like I said before, it’s arrogant to expect the whole world to agree with every single thing you say, or all of your closely held values. The planet is filled with many different sorts of people who don’t agree with each other and who have widely differing values. That’s diversity. Deal with it.

Why does any one person attack any other person in social media (or any other venue)? Why would twitter temporarily lock Del Arroz’s account for a tweet that makes fun of women not wearing bras, and shows a photo of a woman obviously not wearing a bra but who is otherwise clothed?

Many decades ago, a psychologist told me that anger is a secondary emotion. No one becomes angry without first experiencing either fear or pain.

It’s like the classic trope of a man trying to hammer a nail into a board. He misses and hits his thumb instead. First he feels pain, then he gets mad and throws the hammer into a wall (which just makes him more angry).

Whether you believe that response is due to evolution or built into us by God, the reaction is the same.

There’s more, though. There’s this thing called fight or flight that seems to be equally applied to human beings and the animal kingdom. When threatened, an animal (or person) has two options. They will either run like a bunny, or strike out against the threat. I suppose the difference in choices is a matter of which response is most likely to save your life or otherwise eliminate the threat. Can I runaway fast enough to escape, or do I believe I’m powerful enough to eliminate the treat?

What if Mr. Del Arroz is considered a threat by [fill in the blank] ———?

There are two possible responses. The first is to flee from him, and I don’t mean literally running. You could ignore him, or avoid places where you know he’ll be, avoid any exposure to his comments, block him on twitter, and so forth.

twitter lock

Screen capture found at “The Next Web” – No image credit available

The second is to actively attack him. This probably makes sense if you think he’s attacked you, but what if he hasn’t, at least not personally? What if you perceive that he’s attacked your values?

The previous time Del Arroz was temporarily blocked on twitter, was when he said that transgenderism was a mental illness. His account wasn’t restored until he deleted the tweet.

Now the opinions and perceptions of transgenderism or the broader LGTBQ+ community can become highly charged emotionally, by not only that community, but by leftists/progressives in general. Any group that has been or are currently marginalized will tend to perceive any criticism as a threat. So they’ll either retreat or attack.

As an aside, twitter does require users to comply with its right of use agreement, so an argument can be made for his first banning, but the second one came out of left field.

So people become angry when they are hurt of afraid, and as a natural, biological response, they will either flee or attack.

Consider the whole Red Hen Restaurant controversy. On June 22nd, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her party entered the restaurant and did nothing more provocative than order dinner. However, many of the establishment’s staff, a number of them being gay, took offense and experienced fear over Ms. Sanders’ presence and what said-presence represented to them. They called the owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, who came in, discussed the situation with her workers, and in order to protect them from Sanders’ presence and the wider implications of having a Trump staffer in their midst, asked Ms. Sanders to leave the restaurant, which she did with absolutely no drama.

Some of the Red Hen employees feared the mere presence of Ms. Sanders because she works for President Donald Trump, and President Trump has elicited a very real fear in many, many people and groups for quite a number of different reasons.

What was the worst that would have happened if Sanders hadn’t been evicted from the Red Hen? Nothing. She and her party would have ordered, eaten, paid their bill, and left. No muss, no fuss. The only issue at hand was the perceived threat she represented, and out of fear, she was asked to leave.

I’m not sure if you’d consider that flight or fight, but in any event, the power of fear is very real, even if that fear is over ideological views or who you happen to work for.

Now, animals react out of instinct and, depending on the species, don’t put a whole lot of thought into situations of threat and how they’ll react.

In my opinion, people are different (although many see us as just a more highly evolved form of animal). We have a third choice (which based on what I see in social media, we don’t select very often, and I’m as guilty of this as anyone). We can reason. We can contain our emotions and choose a rational course of action.

In the case of the Red Hen Restaurant, the staff could have chosen to contain their emotions, do the jobs for which they were being paid, serve Sanders and her party, and otherwise act normally. At the end of it all, the Sanders group would have left, and they would have seen there was nothing to be afraid of. Sanders’ mere presence was only perceived to be a “threat.” In reality, she would have done nothing to physically or emotionally hurt anyone.

What about Del Arroz? Granted, on social media, he does say things that some people might perceive as threatening to their emotions and their emotionally held values systems. What to do?

If it’s a matter of violating the right of use agreement for a particular social media platform, twitter has the right to respond. No question about that. If it’s just mocking feminism in what I consider to be a pretty mild way, you (or whatever algorithm picked out his tweet) can just ignore him.

I mean after all, no one is forced to “friend” him on Facebook or “follow” him on twitter. If you end up in a “tweeting” conversation with him, and he expresses distressing opinions, you can either stop interacting with him, choose not to interact with him in the first place, or if you must, unfollow him or block his account.

If he’s at a Con, you don’t have to talk to him. If he’s on a panel, you don’t have to attend that panel discussion, you don’t have to buy his books. You can ignore him. Okay, if he’s on a panel and says something that others disagree with, it’s up to the administrators of the Con to determine if it was somehow outside the bounds of propriety (I suppose all this could be considered flight, but probably not, since you’d have to be so terrified, you couldn’t make yourself go to a Con in the first place if you knew he’d be there).

But you don’t ban someone just because they are known to be religious and a conservative.

So what about me? I’m not on anyone’s radar yet, but what if someday I am?

You may have heard the term driving while black. It describes the higher likelihood of an African-American driver having their car pulled over by law enforcement.

If I get on anyone’s radar as Del Arroz has, will I be “attending while conservative” or “breathing while Christian?” I hope not. I certainly don’t go out of my way to make people feel afraid, but then again, neither did Sanders on the night of June 22nd. All it takes is the “perception” that someone’s a threat, not the actuality.

Oh, I should mention that the door swings both ways. If a conservative or religious person feels threatened by someone or some group perceived to be atheist, liberal, or otherwise against religious, conservative people, being human, they (we) can behave in exactly the same manner.

What’s the answer? That’s a tough one, because an awful lot of human beings would have to choose the very rarely selected (at least these days) third option of reason, so they could overcome or set aside their fear.

That’s what I’m doing right now. I process my thoughts and feelings by writing. I’m trying to be reasonable. I’m hoping both conservatives and liberals will read this, both people of faith (any faith, not just Christianity), and atheists. I’m hoping we can reason together. That’s a Biblical principle, so please try not to hold it against me.

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12 thoughts on “Toxic Fear and Things That Go Bump In The Night (and on Social Media)

  1. The problem still exists that some folks perceive “reason” or rationality as a threat to their values or belief system. If one’s values and decision making are based entirely on what “feels” good or right, no matter how subjectively, then objective reasoning is truly a threat. If one perceives oneself as “god”, the controller of one’s personal world, then exposure to disagreement from another person, no matter how reasoned or well-based in demonstrable fact, threatens to destroy that illusion and that “world”. It may be rather a marvel that such people can actually manage to function in an objective world that is not of their subjective creation, but it seems they do — and it presents no small challenge to those who do attempt to operate rationally and objectively to conform themselves to a world that actually comprises absolutes and facts and reliable truths.

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    • Most of the time, people tend to socialize or associate with mostly or only those people who hold similar values. That’s hardly a surprise, but if that tendency is pushed, for whatever reason, to a necessity, and the person in question cannot tolerate any form of disagreement, then it becomes pathological.

      A social media experience can be like a shotgun blast, spitting out potentially damaging “pellets” or in this case, opinions, everywhere. Yes, you can tailor your experience by “friending” or “following” only those people who share your values system, but that only goes so far. Sooner or later, someone is going to breach your walls and you’re going to be exposed to a contrary opinion or two (or lots).

      I think that explains just about everything from safe spaces to labeling a differing opinion as “hate speech” (as opposed to actual hate speech as defined by law).

      That said, I don’t doubt there are reasonable people with well-ordered minds on differing sides of contentious issues. It’s just that the unreasonable people seem to be more vocal.

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  2. I could call myself a conservative liberal feminist progressive. For instance, I don’t think women should be required to pick between keeping their jobs/careers and being pregnant (in other words, unabashedly being told they should consider having abortions to continue employment) or being mothers; yes, that used to be imposed on women. Nevertheless, in my own life, I never worked for a paycheck while pregnant or a mom (with the exception of a focus group once, I used the pay for toys for my toddler). At the same time, I sort of still don’t identify with the word “feminist.” Yet, I’ve learned that I really am in a way. Conservatives of my era are, unless they have cult-like tendencies or are actually in cults/a cult… or, alternatively, are a perverse sort (choosing the Darwinian ways of old patriarchy/caveman ethics). I am aware “conservatives” are told not to be feminist and that the definition is all the evil in the world.

    I’ve now read more of what you’ve written. It’s interesting you are bringing up people as animals, today. I was just thinking this morning that Trump is like an animal; he “gets” pecking order, sensing who in the room is most ruthless. He’s the beta and responds in kind to Putin (no matter that this is not about ethics or what the United States or “patriots” imagine of themselves). Conservative has come to mean almost nothing. If anything as a thread, it is only reactionary and aggrieved. They’ve been trolling us for decades, then balk when everyone around them isn’t twenty to a thousand to infinite times nicer in response. Hey I still consider myself conservative. It might be like when people try to differentiate between real Christians and Nazis, not realizing that established Christianity has killed and maimed from the start — which, in turn, has nothing to do with Jesus/Yeshua (who’s name has been besmirched to say the least).

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    • I think, especially in news and social media, people tend to get “pigeonholed,” and believe that all people who call themselves liberal or conservative or Christian or atheist are identical, when in fact, human beings are incredibly diverse and nuanced. I’ve known Christians in the same church who vastly disagreed with each other, at least on some issues. I suppose that’s true for anyone in any other pigeonhole.

      My understanding is that there have been different “waves” of feminism. I’m probably stuck in the first wave where I believe men and women should receive the same pay if they’re doing the same job, have equal opportunity to the same resources (which isn’t the same as guaranteeing equal outcomes), and so on.

      If this essay has a central message, it probably parrots Joan Rivers’s famous line, “Can we talk?” (which tends to be a recurring theme in my writing). Even if the answer is “no,” at least I know I’ve done my best to extend an olive branch and be reasonable. I can’t control the outcome of the other person or group (whoever they may be) chooses to not be reasonable. On the other hand, no one is obligated to speak with me, and I’m okay with being ignored as well.

      What I’m not okay with is being judged guilty of being “evil” (however a person might define that) just because I bear a number of “unpopular” characteristics such as being male, white, old, straight, married, a parent, a grandparent, religious, politically and fiscally – and in most cases socially – moderate to conservative (moderate compared to Idaho, conservative compared to places like San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle). It seems some folks make an awful lot of assumptions about what all that means, and in the examples I’ve been providing, those assumptions cast my in a pretty terrible light, even though those characteristics don’t necessarily map to the behaviors they might imagine.

      Usually if you are dealing with an individual or a group as a “type,” it’s easier to believe that type is either all good or all bad. However, once you get to know a person who belongs to that type, they become human and complex, and you discover, perhaps to your dismay, that some/most/all members of that type don’t map to your stereotype about them.

      Think about how women, people of color, people from various nations around the world, and so on, have been stereotyped across history. None of that makes stereotyping religious people or conservatives in exactly the same way. The door swings both ways.

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      • Sure, it swings both ways (depending on who is, in behavior, half-cocked). But reasoning has to include real reasoning. So, for instance, if it is pointed out that baby boy penises shouldn’t be sliced or burnt off and then the boys told to act like girls, and then the boys feel like boys (called rebellious), they aren’t really mentally ill except for what was imposed on them — the parents and/or doctors are sick, and authoritarianism is conservative. Another example: complaining about having to take care of other people’s kids doesn’t “go with” snatching kids and expelling parents. I suppose these little ones will be the next class of those who should pull themselves up by their bootstraps and shut up.

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  3. To give an example in a realm related to one I already mentioned because of this Arroz fella, I learned of a little boy who was born with a very small penis. He wasn’t intergender, so they didn’t just remove it and “assign” girl. But he was subsequently subjected to repeated surgeries to enlarge the member even though there was no actual need. The adults in his life thought it was tremendously important to be able to stand to “pee, like a normal boy.” So, every year, when he would start a new grade level in school, he would make up stories of what he had done over the summer — what he had in fact done was to have been operated on and recover. Over and over.

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  4. http://www.jimchines.com/2018/01/jon-del-arroz/
    I read that to which you linked.

    I don’t know why you want to carry this guy’s water, James, or feel like you have to. You indicate you’re afraid the same thing will happen to you for being Christian or whatever else. It’s more likely that people will think your thought patterns are like Jon’s if you keep acting like he’s a nice, fine gentleman. Maybe the wah to say what I mean is I think of you as someone who would be considerate of others in most cases in real life.

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