The WorldCon 76 Incident: The Consequences of Twitter

toxic twitter

Toxic Twitter

After I wrote The WorldCon 76 Incident: This Never Happened to Me on Twitter Before (and yes, I posted links on twitter and Facebook), I thought it was over. True, I did get one response from a very nice person saying (basically) that I was overreacting and people on twitter were just trying to be helpful.

I responded to him by saying that it was difficult for me to tell if their intent was to be helpful or critical, since at least some of the statements were ambiguous. I also compared twitter to a “wild west show.” I didn’t hear back from him and so that was that, or so I believed.

Then this morning, I got another response from someone who hadn’t addressed me before, stating (again basically) that I was uninformed about WorldCon, the Hugos, and one of the people who had been most critical (to the point of hostility) of me. As I looked at the tweets of the person who is supposed to be an important voice, I saw said-individual was pretty critical of a lot of other folks, specifically conservatives who have questioned the objectivity of the aforementioned Hugos (AKA, the “Sad Puppies”).

None of the people who addressed me have their tweets hidden, so I thought I’d take a look at what else they had to talk about. I wanted a wider understanding of the individuals involved. To that end, I’m posting screen captures of a few tweets of two of these people while doing my best to hide their identities (except for David Hogg’s since he seems to thrive on publicity).

Here’s the first person:

tweet

Screenshot of some tweets

And here’s the second:

tweet

Screenshot of some tweets

Like I said, I did my best to conceal identities because it’s the content of these tweets that’s important, not the names of the folks involved.

This is nowhere near a representative or scientific sample, so there’s certainly a limit to what I can derive from this information, but let’s throw caution to the winds for the moment and dive in.

Surprise, surprise, one of the common denominators is a passionate dislike (dare I say hate?) for Donald Trump.

Okay, lots and lots of people hate Trump with a blazing passion and blame him for everything from the Lindbergh Kidnapping to killing puppies.

But what does that have to do with me? Probably nothing. I’m not a Trump fan and am critical of many of his policies, including and especially his administration (in my opinion, illegally) giving detained illegal immigrant children psychotropic drugs. Yes, these kids are depressed. Of course, they’re depressed. They’re separated from their parents and kept in the moral equivalent of jail cells with no hope in sight. However, you are giving them drugs without the knowledge and consent of their parents, and (again in my opinion), kids in the U.S. are way over medicated in the first place, even with their parents’ consent.

Which brings me to the “guilt by labeling” and “guilt by association” part of my essay.

While many people believe gender isn’t binary, they may well believe that political affiliation and social ideology is. After all, aren’t there just two kinds of Americans, good liberals and bad conservatives?

I know. I’m being snarky, but to make a point.

This is the part I have no way of proving, but let’s connect a few dots. One of the commonalities of the folks who took exception to my being critical of WorldCon and the Hugos is that they are all (apparently) political and social liberals who are highly critical of Donald Trump. Many of them are also critical of the Sad Puppies and of conservative SF/F writers and editors.

Do you suppose at least some of them might, just might believe that Donald Trump = all social and political conservatives = evil Nazis? Now I’m being downright ridiculous, but it’s hard not to feel that I and others like me are being painted with an exceptionally broad brush, at least on twitter.

Now in real life, I know a wide variety of people who exist all along the scale between extreme leftists and extreme rightists (those are words, right?) I tried to find a meme I’d seen before which illustrates this but was unsuccessful, so I made my own (click on the image to enlarge it).

perspective

Let’s have a little perspective, shall we?

I think the vast majority of us, regardless of social and political affiliation, are in the middle group who just wants the nutbars on the extreme left and extreme right to put a cork in the collective pieholes. However, on twitter, it’s not easy to detect the folks in the middle because, most of the time, they aren’t the ones rabidly attacking everyone else.

Perspective, right? No, I was not rabidly attacked, I doubt that I was even mildly attacked, but plenty of people are based on either their being conservatives or liberals who say nice things about conservatives.

Not long ago, I wrote about how actor Mark Dupless said something nice about conservative speaker and Orthodox Jew Ben Shapiro, and then the twitteratti sliced him (virtually) apart, so much so, that twenty-four hours later, Dupless got online and apologized for saying that a conservative could also be a nice person.

Just yesterday, University of Georgia Professor Charles Davis went on twitter to congratulate Brian Kemp, someone he’d gone to high school with, for becoming the GOP candidate for Governor, and exactly the same thing happened.

Is this why liberals can’t have conservative friends?

Or maybe, the instant audience and instant communication aspects of twitter (and the rest of social media) turns otherwise intelligent and reasonable people into screaming rage monsters.

Actually, I’ve written before about how Toxic Fear is the real culprit. Somehow, more than any other President I can remember (and my memory goes all the way back to the Kennedy administration), Donald Trump has become an object of fear bordering on clinical paranoia.

I can’t find the story online, but I remember reading a news article many years ago stating that after George W. Bush was re-elected, scores of liberal voters went into psychotherapy due to their anxieties and fears over what Bush might do with a second term.

What’s going on now is way, way worse.

And I resent having this albatross hung around my neck, if that’s what you’re doing. It’s one thing to disagree with me (and I expect it since, after all, it would be arrogant to believe everyone has to agree with you all of the time), but twitter seems to have dumbed a lot of people down on both sides of the aisle to believe the simple equation I suggested above.

If I’m critical of something and you disagree, fine and dandy. If I ask an innocent question and you mistake it for a criticism, fine and dandy. Mistakes happen and we are all only human.

But please do not believe that if I made a statement such as “I’m conservative” that you know everything there is to know about me just because Trump = all conservatives = supreme evil Nazis.

Now that I’ve got all that off my chest, let me step down from my soapbox. It is totally unfair of me to judge any individual, let alone any group based on a small sample of tweets from two people (plus retweets). I’m sure that the people I’ve been picking on have many fine qualities, and are decent human beings who want to make the world a better place.

That also describes me as well, believe it or not. Yes, I’m flawed, and given a good enough reason, I can go off half-cocked, but that doesn’t make me evil, even if my opinions conflict with yours.

The sudden collection of responses to a few of my tweets has gone down from a minor, minor storm to a mild trickle. Perhaps this blog post and my subsequent tweeting about it will stir the pot again, and if so, then I acknowledge that this time I’m asking for it.

But I’m trying to make a point, one I can’t make on twitter which is why I’m blogging about it.

The day we stop obsessing about that guy in the White House and start relating to each other as people again, that’s the day when folks with differing points of view can have a conversation. We could actually do that right now. All we have to do is choose to be reasonable rather than panic because we are afraid of some guy with really big orange hair.

The next part.

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