TECH & SCIENCE
SEXIST, racist, fascist, homophobe, xenophobe, misogynist.
These are just a few of the delightful terms being thrown about in a torrential deluge on social media, these days.
As humans, we’ve always had a propensity to complain about things - it’s one of our favourite pasttimes - but with the advent of social media, ‘outrage culture’ has become deeply embedded into many people’s psyche.
For a frightening number of people, the art of being offended by everything and loudly proclaiming their outrage on Facebook, Twitter, or any and all other social media platforms is pursued with alarming determination.
As feminist critic and Twitter ‘Trust and Safety’ council member Anita Sarkeesian put it, ‘Everything is sexist, everything is racist, everything is homophobic, and you have to point it all out to everyone all the time.’
And if you think the comment is hyperbole, or not indicative of many people’s tolerance for their fellow human beings, consider that men have been filmed and publicly shamed for the crime of sitting with their legs too far apart on public transport so often that there’s actually a word for it - ‘manspreading’.
And such an act is not simply a demonstration of thoughtlessness or inconsideration, but a symbolic act of oppression against women.
I wish I was joking, I also wish it was the most egregious example of this nonsense.
Attend a university campus these days and you’ll find them replete with trigger warnings and safe spaces designed with the specific purpose of preventing our dear little treasures from ever witnessing or hearing anything that might possibly cause offence.
Of course, it also prevents them from ever encountering opinions or points of view that might challenge their preconceptions as well, but in this brave new world of echo-chambers, that’s precisely the point of the exercise.
And so, civil discourse has devolved to name calling and branding the ‘others’, then declaring moral victory - all without actually listening to what the other person had to say.
After all, what possible benefit would it be to listen to the arguments of a racist, sexist homophobe?
Far better to deplatform such a person, ban them from social media, riot and attempt to shut down their speaking events, never, ever let them espouse their views to the public, and then, ironically, call them a fascist.
Inevitably, all of this has come at a heavy cost to free speech and freedom of expression.
In Australia, we’re yet to see the worst of it, and we may remain somewhat insulated from it, at least for a time, but in the rest of the western world, people’s civil liberties are being eroded.
One recent example of this is Scottish man Marcus Meechan who was arrested, charged, and found guilty of being ‘ grossly offensive after he posted a joke Youtube video of his pet pug doing a Nazi salute.
Mr Meechan never intended for his video to go viral, went to lengths to explain the video was a joke at the expense of his girlfriend at the beginning of the video, not to mention that the entire premise of the joke was that ‘ Nazis are bad’, yet it didn’t stop the court finding the content anti-Semitic and offensive.
Mr Meechan’s sentence will be handed down later this month and he could face up to six months in jail.
But regardless of the sentence, his life has been turned upside down, having been fired from his job, and being unable to find new employment.
All over a joke that was no more offensive than Mel Brook’s movie ‘The Producers’, or the episode about the Germans in John Cleese’s ‘Fawlty Towers’. Comedians, you are on notice. It’s more than a little ironic that the internet - the greatest tool for global communication ever invented - is being used as a tool for thought policing and the stifling of freedom of expression.
And for the perpetually offended who are quick to demand the silencing of those they are offended by, take stock and consider this point.
Causing offense is precisely what built our democratic nations and the freedoms we now enjoy.
Not so long ago, it was considered offensive by many people to make the suggestion that being gay was acceptable, or that women should be able to work or vote, or that slavery might not be such a great idea after all.
Aren’t we glad we offended those people?
OUTRAGEOUS: For some, being permanently offended on social media has become a way of life.