When people like Boris Johnson or Sean Bailey tell us they are flabbergasted by reports of rule breaking during pandemics, when people like Donald Trump use blatant wording to stir up racial discord, when pundits like Julia Hartley-Brewer attack trans women as the bane of womanhood whilst body shaming a cis model, our reaction is, always, shock and outrage. But I posit that perhaps it’s time we reconcile ourselves to something that’s increasingly obvious- some people are just bereft of morals, and are immune to the contrition and shame a decent person would feel when called out.
The first weapon in our arsenal against the eyewatering ignorance that is regularly thrown around by prominent figures should no longer be outrage. Calm and collected calls for action should be coordinated against people who simply can not be asked to think morally, think of consequences to their actions.
This has been a long pandemic- but the longer pandemic is the emergence of people gleefully immune to accountability, vaccinated against societal outrage by a desperate need to foghorn whatever ill informed views they can.
Once upon a time, mass anger would have been enough to pull to account people who spout covid misinformation, like Majid Nawaz or Hartley-Brewer. And in society pre- 2020 racists held in their views. Some allowed this uneasy existence to go on, because it was simply easier to let people hold their bigotry as long as it was in silence. Some argue that bigotry must be stamped out, erased, and of course in an ideal world this is correct. But unfortunately we live in a world of people who are seemingly fundamentally incapable of respecting others and now have shifted from quietly being horribly biased and bigoted, to proudly spouting their views as though NOT being racist or sexist or homophobic or choose whatever bigotry you’d like, was some sort of existential punishment for them.
Many people will of course decry their right to opinions which should be held sacrosanct: this piece here on outrage culture by Daniel Sacerio is weighted in favour of moderation to ensure that we do not infringe on people’s right to “opinions”. And whilst this can be common sensical and of course holding opinions about certain topics is necessary and indeed vital for human discourse, he also goes into the accusations of bigotry levelled at Rowling, stating that “It is good to combat discrimination or discuss political issues that one is passionate about on social media, however, it is equally as dangerous when one joins a mob fueled by reactions that are so extreme they begin to shutter constructive conversations and political debate.” The frustration that I and my fellows have, is that it is not subjective, and yet appears to be, to hold discussions around trans equality or the extent and existence of systemic racism. Holding debate with a side who flatly denies transphobia or systemic racism is pointless because it’s like trying to prove the existence of god- it is impossible, and yet there are those who will state that of course god exists, the world is proof! These are, to some, not a subjective issue- and yet they are. Regardless of your thoughts on people of colour they exist and deserve equal treatment and an equal partaking of society. Any arguments to the contrary are utterly pointless. So why on earth would we protect the right to opinion of people who think that, and why are some forms of utter bigotry like racism, or transphobia, or the rampant and horrendous misogyny that is layered deep into society, seen as either “acceptable”, “deniable” or just figmentary imaginings of people supposedly desperate to claim the title of victimhood when in fact, they want to simply be treated as fellows?
Bigotry can only be fought with enlightenment and unfortunately it seems the bulb has truly blown on a large section of society who, rather than engage with the idea that fundamentalist hatred of other people based on characteristics they often do not share is actually counterproductive to the betterment of humanity and society; and some frankly do not care, desperate only to ensure the sanctity of their own microcosm and to live in peace as the rest of the world turns around them.
I’ve found myself so often gasping in anger and horror at some of the statements splashed across the press, salacious sound bites played to push my buttons. But as I age, I realise that provoking this reaction is precisely the end game. Denigrate, detract, distract: here’s my three word retort to the likes of puffed up popinjays like Johnson who still won’t apologise for his disgusting racial or anti gay parallels.
It’s time for the decent layer of society to drain the echelon of arsery from their source of power- our outrage, and hit them back with true practicality. Reasoned argument is the only way to win against their fiery brand of knee jerk statementism. The uncomfortable truth is that perhaps some of our firm beliefs may come under scrutiny- but do you truly believe in something if you can’t have it challenged? Are you truly an ally if you can’t hear the counter argument and fight against it with the conviction that you’ve done the work? Or are we all desperate to shout at each other and choose culture wars as the easiest way to do that.
Moving the conversations forward
I think as well that it’s probably the job of those of us who are not in certain minorities to assist the dialogue in moving forward, specifically by listening to those from different groups and not leaping to conclusions. As an example the trans community correctly states that they shouldn’t and wont debate their rights or right to existence as a trans person. They should not have to. Cisgendered people should listen and weigh the statements of the trans community against the bigoted rhetoric which so often comes from gender critical theorists. It’s not for the victims of oppression to continually stand at the gate, holding back the baying mob- it’s for their supporters. As a gay man, I know my existence doesn’t threaten or lessen anyone else’s freedoms. I just am, as are they- but why should I have to spend my own life and time debating with people who think I’m mentally ill or sinful or evil by dint of part of who I am? I have done it, will- I’m sure- continue to do so. But where are the allies who’ll stand with me and debunk the falsitudes of bigotry so often levelled at the door of those who just want to live without the shackles of hatred holding them to the ground?
As much as I believe that those who perpetuate disgusting ideas, ideology or disinformation are the generals of the supposed “war on woke” or the fuellers of outrage porn, we, those who constantly react with anger instead of reasoned rebuttals, are allowing this perpetuation. I, for my part am going to work on becoming deeply steeped in factual rebuttals to the most blatant and problematic arguments like the denial of systemic racism, like institutionalised misogyny and more and when, yet again, the ghostly spectre of another fictional moral panic looms over the hill, I’ll hope that a change of tact from the usual enraged retorts I find it so easy to fall back to. Someone has to be the adult in the room and move discourse forward- and it certainly isn’t going to be those entrenched in propagating and gatekeeping bigoted ideologues.
Daviemoo is a 34 year old independent writer, radicalised into blogging about the political state of the world by Brexit and the election of serial failures like Trump and Johnson. Please check out the rest of the blog, check out Politically Enraged, the podcast available on all streaming platforms and share with your like minded friends! Also check him out on ko-fi where you can keep him caffeinated whilst he writes.