This might seem odd coming from a person a person who has labored in the ether for nearly all of this century, but somethings – often – all-too-many of the denizens of the internet scare the shit out of me.
I’m not about to make one of those mindless pleas for civility. We have no universal standards for such, and what offends some is thought to be outspoken and necessary to others. When it comes to freedom of expression, I am such an absolutist that I think banning cigarette commercials from the airwaves is in opposition to the First Amendment. No, I do not smoke cigarettes, nor do I believe corporations have the same rights as do actual human beings. But, you will note, I do capitalize the initial letters in the term “First Amendment.” For some, the First Amendment guarantees our largely unenforced freedom of religion provisions. For me, the First Amendment is my religion.
But I am making a plea for people owning up to the courage of their convictions. Say what you want but take responsibility for your actions. We misquote Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ statement that you can’t shout fire in a theater. What Holmes wrote was “the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic” (emphasis mine).
Besides, that was overturned in 1969. You are free to say what you want, but that freedom doesn’t take you off the hook from taking responsibility for what you say. Call me a child molester and I’ll sue you into the next reboot.
Which brings me to Batwoman. Well, more to the point, to actor Ruby Rose who will be playing Batwoman in the CW’s Arrowverse teevee shows. Immediately after Ms. Rose’s assignment was announced, the internet went batshit.
People attacked the actor for not being a lesbian. Well, for one thing, they’re wrong. Rose came out back when she was 12 years old. For another, hey, it’s called “acting.” People attacked her for not being Jewish – Katy Kane, a.k.a. Batwoman, is Jewish. One can argue that there is a shortage of lesbian actors and, therefore, lesbians should be given the benefit of affirmative action. I agree; however, we don’t know who is lesbian and who is not. Nor is it our business unless the subject makes it our business. I’d like to see more people be who they are – but, given the climate of the time, I won’t fault Katheryn Hepburn for not coming out.
Jewish actors hardly require such endangered species status. That’s no slight on anybody: if there weren’t so many Jewish actors on stage, in movies and on television, many Americans might never have seen a Jew in their lives.
Besides… it’s called “acting.” Ruby Rose isn’t Jewish but she’s playing one on teevee. On my list of social evils, that doesn’t make the cut.
Oh, and get this. Ms. Rose also endured malicious attacks from some people who think she isn’t lesbian enough. This, properly, made her head explode.
Despite recent dramatic gains, the LGBTQ community still has an uphill battle, one that might get even more steep after Trump’s Supreme Court appointments. The community needs to support each other, will need each other for decades to come, and should stick together forevermore nonetheless. “You’re not LGBTQ enough” is childish at its very best.
All this is symptomatic of the internet trolling that has been chasing sane and decent people away. The internet is taking on the ambiance of Kristallnacht.
So… what do we do about this? I’ve already exposed myself as a First Amendment fundamentalist.
What we do is demand people have the courage of their convictions or shut the hell up. Anonymous attacks are the acts of cowards. If you have something to say, say it under your real name. Stand behind your alleged convictions. If it later occurs to you that you were wrong, or you were needlessly being an asshole, recant and apologize – and I urge others to accept those apologies.
This does not infringe on your right to free expression. Not one bit. Own up to your beliefs; nobody is going to take the words of JackAss666 seriously.
“Social media” is a good thing. It can be a great thing. It may change its form from time to time – actually, week to week – but in the broader sense it’s not going away…
… unless the sane and the courageous are intimidated to the point where they get out of CyberDodge. Then the looneys will just be taking to themselves.
A circle jerk of fools.