I suppose that when shamings are delivered like remotely administered drone strikes nobody needs to think about how ferocious our collective power might be. The snowflake never needs to feel responsible for the avalanche.
I suppose it’s no surprise that we feel the need to dehumanize the people we hurt – before, during, or after the hurting occurs. But it always comes as a surprise. In psychology it’s known as cognitive dissonance. It’s the idea that it feels stressful and painful for us to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time (like the idea that we’re kind people and the idea that we’ve just destroyed someone). And so to ease the pain we create illusory ways to justify our contradictory behaviour.
-...a smart orator could, if he knew the tricks, hypnotize the crowd into acquiescence or whip it up to do his bidding. Le Bon listed the tricks: ‘A crowd is only impressed by excessive sentiments. Exaggerate, affirm, resort to repetition, and never attempt to prove anything by reasoning.’
‘4chan takes the worst thing it can imagine that person going through, and shouts for that to happen. I don’t think it was a threat that anyone intended to carry through. And I think a lot of its use really did mean “destroy” rather than sexually assault.’ She paused. ‘But 4chan aims to degrade the target, right? And one of the highest degradations for women in our culture is rape.’
Brad’s thinking was that shame grows when we internalize shame.
Almost none of the murderous fantasies were dreamed up in response to actual danger – stalker ex-boyfriends, etc. They were all about the horror of humiliation. Brad Blanton was right. Shame internalized can lead to agony.
The fact was, speeches like Paul Dacre’s didn’t matter any more. The people who mattered didn’t care what Dacre thought. The people who mattered were the people on Twitter. On Twitter we make our own decisions about who deserves obliteration. We form our own consensus, and we aren’t being influenced by the criminal justice system or by the media. This makes us formidable.
‘The way we construct consciousness is to tell the story of ourselves to ourselves, the story of who we believe we are. I feel that a really public shaming or humiliation is a conflict between the person trying to write his own narrative and society trying to write a different narrative for the person. One story tries to overwrite the other. And so to survive you have to own your story. Or . . .’ Mike looked at me, ‘... you write a third story. You react to the narrative that’s been forced upon you.’ He paused. ‘You have to find a way to disrespect the other narrative,’ he said. ‘If you believe it, it will crush you.’
‘I have yet to see a serious act of violence that was not provoked by the experience of feeling shamed or humiliated, disrespected and ridiculed. As children these men were shot, axed, scalded, beaten, strangled, tortured, drugged, starved, suffocated, set on fire, thrown out of the window, raped, or prostituted by mothers who were their pimps. For others words alone shamed and rejected, insulted and humiliated, dishonoured and disgraced, tore down their self-esteem, and murdered their soul.’ For each of them the shaming ‘occurred on a scale so extreme, so bizarre, and so frequent that one cannot fail to see that the men who occupy the extreme end of the continuum of violent behaviour in adulthood occupied an equally extreme end of the continuum of violent child abuse earlier in life.’
Maybe – as my friend the documentary maker Adam Curtis emailed me – they’re turning social media into ‘a giant echo chamber where what we believe is constantly reinforced by people who believe the same thing.’
The phrase ‘misuse of privilege’ was becoming a free pass to tear apart pretty much anybody we chose to. It was becoming a devalued term, and was making us lose our capacity for empathy and for distinguishing between serious and unserious transgressions.
I saw someone tweet: ‘It’s strange to think that something I type in this box could ruin my life.’ Twitter suddenly felt like a doomed company – intimidating, even dangerous.
The great thing about social media was how it gave a voice to voiceless people. Let’s not turn it into a world where the smartest way to survive is to go back to being voiceless.