Monday, 31 October 2016

Facebook - A Sanctuary For Zealots?

The vagaries of a Facebook presence makes a fertile playground for many, an ideal venue for the more extreme and somewhat chilling views held. Malevolent life forms seem to lurk on the periphery of every discussion, ever watchful, eager to take offence at some passing comment, determined to be insulted by even the most minor conversational transgression from others. I was never keen on having a FB manifestation in the first place and was only persuaded to because several fellow writers finally convinced me it was a great way to sell books. Well to be honest things did not quite work out as planned (either for me or them as I understand it) but once signed up it was easy enough to stay, particularly since I had not only found long lost members of my mother’s family, The Constants but also fellow students from Wombwell Hall Girls’School one of whom had, like me, been head over heels in love with Miss K. Smith the English Teacher With Attitude! I even found one of Boring Barrie’s (my first boyfriend) daily commuting companions. Not only had he been friendly with BB but he had also read all of my recent books and was kind enough to say nice things about them! As he still lived in the old home town, earlier this year The Husband and I were able to meet up with him together with his wife, and discuss the nineteen sixties as we drank New Zealand wine. As I said to The Daughter later when she rang for an update, referring to him as `your internet friend’, making him sound a bit like a Tinder date, itching to know how the meeting went, he actually turned out to be a lot less boring than BB. So as I say, FB has its place and undoubtedly serves a social purpose but although it is also supposed to function as a platform for freedom of speech, the only freedoms that are easily tolerated by others seem to be those that co-incide with the Left Leaning Politically Correct. My first brush with on line denunciation, a year or so ago, left me feeling more than a little emotionally bruised and I was sharply reminded of my youth when I had abandoned both bra and make up in order to join a feminist group, only to discover that I could only be a `real’ or `proper’ Feminist if I was preferably black and also a ditch digging lesbian. It was early days of course but even then at the time it had been quite a shock and I knew I would never be able to reach the dizzy heights of required general philosophy. The FB incident concerned a new acquaintance who had severely remonstrated with me when I unwisely leapt to the defence of Prime Minister John Key, well-liked by the majority and undoubtedly about to enter his fourth term in office. What I like about him is that he is invariably pleasant to those who castigate him and does not become involved in name calling and mud-slinging like most of his predecessors; I am na├»ve enough to admire that in a PM. Not being particularly political I thought it would be fair enough to express this harmless enough opinion on FB only to be almost torn to shreds by a group of my new contact’s marauding supporters, called a bitch and a troll and finally advised that my comments were not welcome in their discussion. I had not quite understood that it was only acceptable to express a point of view if they agreed with it. Since then I have tried not to offend people whilst at the same time offering different opinions, always couched in non-threatening language, always assuring the reader that my views are certainly not shared by all and sundry. The effect is intriguing and I am regularly the recipient of extraordinarily foul responses. A day or two ago a person told me he was f---k---g p-----d off with c---ts and bitches like me who were into this `live and let live and let every f---ker have an opinion’ stuff. He then advised me what to do with my opinions and added that he regarded me as a moron. I thanked him for taking the time to explain how he felt. Within hours I witnessed another woman being subjected to the same kind of abuse. She finally commented that those who only wanted to debate with others who agree with them eventually make their own world smaller and smaller and of course she was entirely correct. She was then unfriended by several people for commenting on matters of Maori history and culture and thereby mightily offending them. Here in New Zealand we are repeatedly reminded by the indigenous people – or those who consider themselves to be indigenous, that we newer citizens should face up to the crimes of our colonial ancestors and own our own history. There are distasteful periods in the history and background of all races of course and there’s no getting away from the fact that the early settlers did an inordinate amount of land grabbing and did not always treat the Maori people well. It’s definitely not a good look, difficult to defend and lengthy scrutiny can be awkward. Conversely if it is ever suggested that the Tangata Whenua – or People of the Land, might look critically at their ancestors’ unseemly habit of cannibalism for example, which appears to be quite precisely documented by any number of colonists and a number of tribal leaders themselves, there are howls of outrage from some corners of the FB community. NO, the ancestors NEVER at any stage took to eating even a sample portion of another human being! This is a lie invented in the first place by missionaries and further promulgated by evil white bitches like myself who despise People of Colour and who deserve to be torn apart by sharks for going near the indecorous topic in the first place! Any attempt to courteously propose a respectful discussion on the ills of the past causes a further onslaught of even more furious condemnation. The Facebook Fighting Forces may well speak glibly of Ethics, Principles and Common Decency but these basic codes of human interaction are only applied by them as long as they are certain they are preaching to the already converted. Just as the more timid and insecure amongst us in the Non-Virtual World become confident enough to hurl an occasional insult from behind the safety of sunglasses, so the inhabitants of the Virtual World menace those they perceive as opponents from the even greater security of pseudonyms and anonymity. Ultimately it appears that rather than fulfilling a position as a venue for Freedom of Speech, Facebook becomes ever-more the preserve of those whose greatest fear is the expression of ideas they are reluctant to examine. There is nothing new about this phenomenon - wasn’t it Josef Stalin who warned the world that ideas were far more dangerous things than guns?

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