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12:28 pm: Superversive Blog: When Should We Abandon Our Friends?

This subject has been quite topical recently. I thought a longer treatment than fit in a Facebook comments box was due.

Imagine that you had a friend. He was clever and funny, loyal, brave and generous. He had done some wonderful things for your family.

BUT he posted some very odious ideas online.

Let’s say he was, oh, a racist.

Maybe he hates Blacks. Maybe he's anti-semite. Maybe he is racist against whites.

Point is: it's ugly.

Now, there are worse things than racism in the grand scheme of things: supporting fathers honor killing their own daughters or those folks in England who wanted to make it legal for parents to kill their babies.

Those are worse.

But racism is pretty bad.

It is judging someone based on the assumption that they were made in some other image and likeness than the Almighty, the One Altogether Lovely.

So, there you are. You have this friend. You have good reason to like and be loyal to this person, but what he prints online is totally odious. Under ordinary circumstances, you would remain friends with him.

But the Internets gone wild and people you like and respect are calling for his head.

What do you do?

Cut Him Loose?

Pros: There are many good arguments for turning your back on someone with odious views, arguments far beyond the shallower ones, such as fear for reputation.

How else do we indicate to people what is good and bad, but by showing our support and approval. If we remain friends with someone who behaves in a manner or expresses ideas that we strongly disapprove of, do not we encourage them if we remain friends with them?

Don’t we become enablers?

If you continue to be friends with someone who is behaving vilely, aren’t you encouraging them?

Won’t it seem as if you, yourself, support these odious ideas? It is bad enough to be attacked for things you believe in.

Being attacked for things you consider vile is really hard to take!

 

Cons: The bad side of cutting him loose is: what kind of a friend are you, if you turn your back on those who have treated you well? Even if you are doing it for reasons of principle, won’t the person think that you are merely caving to popular opinion?

Other folks, currently your friends, might note this and not trust you as much in the future.

Because next time, it could be then.

Also, what about other ideas you also strongly disagree with but which happen to currently be popular?

Say, you are against the slaying of any human being—whether or not the wee thing has as of yet “popped out”, as my son would say. To you, this act is as vile as that of judging a man by anything beside the content of his character.

Are you actually going to turn on everyone you disagree with? Even the folks with ideas that no one around you objects to? 

And if not, when your ex-friend says: “This isn’t because you disapprove of my ideas, it is because my ideas are not popular”, what do you say?

 

Face The Fire?

Pros: If you turn on a friend when the Internet goes wild against him, you are a fair-weather friend indeed. Not a phrase most of us want to have associated with us.

Loyalty is a very valuable virtue.

But it is more than that. Over and above the good of loyalty to a friend, what about the friends themselves?

What if you legitimately disagree with their ideas? Will you have any ability to convince them of the error of their ways if you turn your back?

If you want any hope of persuading people to see your view of things, you had must remain friendly with them—otherwise, they will write off any advice you give them before considering it.

If you love your friend, then you can  find a way to bear the slings and arrows of outrageous reputation.

 

Cons: Let’s go back to that “shallow” bugaboo of reputation.

Reputation is much derided by the modern world. We laugh at the idea of protecting our reputations. We bravely announce that we would never let anything like that control our actions.

But it is quite a different thing when the world turns on you. When suddenly people you like and respect are shouting your down. In public. On Facebook. On Twitter.

In this day of New Victorians and Neo Puritans, shaming and public disapproval have again become the weapon of choice for society at large. And it is a very effective weapon.

Because it hurts.

It hurts emotionally. It can hurt professionally. It can hurt financially.

Speak to any of the folks who have been attacked online. It really hurts—especially when it is your friends doing the attacking.

It is one thing if you are standing up for something you love and belive in.

But is this really something you want to endure—for an idea you hate?

That is a difficult thing to ask of anyone.

 

The prosecution and the defense rest. The jury is now in session.

I know where I stand.

What would you do? 

Comments

Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

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Comments

From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 15th, 2015 04:44 pm (UTC)
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I'd still be his friend. That would be hilarious, actually, depending on how his racism plays out; does he dislike blacks, or does he dislike a certain ethnicity or what?

BTW, you should look up Jerry Falwell and Mel White. It's an interesting story of the most unlikely of friendships, or maybe kinship is a better word.

As much as I disagree with certain ideas and beliefs espoused by my more progressive friends, I wouldn't attack or turn on them. I just shrug it off and get on with life. The beauty of the Internet is that you CAN be divorced from your friends in terms of distance, so sometimes the caricatures of them are just that. I haven't figured out where the killpoint is yet in a friendship; sometimes the friendship naturally ends depending on how long it's been since I last talked to him or her.


Signed,
RG
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From:arhyalon
Date:April 15th, 2015 04:54 pm (UTC)
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Nicely put. Thank you. ;-)

And I'm with you.
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From:juliet_winters
Date:April 15th, 2015 05:11 pm (UTC)
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This has to be one of the hardest trials you both have been through.

For a lot of years, people on opposite sides of the political spectrum politely "agreed to disagree" but now the knives are out. They can make their reputations by standing on their soapboxes. It isn't just about the righteous indignation.

And it's so not your doing. You've always tried to be the peacemaker.
I'm sorry for friends lost. You may consider them your friends, but they have walked away so they are lost for now.

I have several friends I essentially lost during the Bush years. They would publish the most outrageous things about the president. You know, the whole "Bush Derangement Syndrome" thing. I tried to defend the president, pointing out the flat-out lies and really unfair and definitely unChristian behavior from self-professed Christians.

Their reaction: I'll put what I want to on my blog.

My reaction. I agree that they have the right to say it. But I don't have to listen to it. Their posts angered me so much I don't follow them any more.

Human behavior hasn't changed a whit since Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, Ray Bradbury's The Crowd or the tar-and-feathering that went on in the American Revolution. It's ugly, and I'm sorry.
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From:arhyalon
Date:April 15th, 2015 05:15 pm (UTC)
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To me the only issue is whether or not I walk away...no one can control other people.

And I am not going to be the one who walked away.

(I wouldn't walk away from Omelas either. I'd break the door down and rescue the child in the closet. The society can sort itself out later.)
From:Daniel Koolbeck
Date:April 15th, 2015 07:49 pm (UTC)
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Another negative to abandoning friends, at least in this day and age, is that you never know who will need to be disowned next to stay in the good graces of the Majority, even if you have always been firmly on their side. The other day I was trawling through Twitter and came across SJWs working themselves into a state of anger against Joss Whedon - JOSS WHEDON! - because he had been offered the chance to publicly denounce Adam Baldwin and had publicly refused to do so.

Another negative which occurs to me is that the more willing both sides are to forcing their own people to shun the other tribe (or really, only one side shunning is necessary, now that I think about it), the closer we come to civil war. I read Thucydides, I see that as a pretty damned big negative.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 15th, 2015 08:32 pm (UTC)

Idea or friend

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An interesting question.

"But is this really something you want to endure—for an idea you hate?"

Certainly not for an idea you think wrong, because such an idea does not deserve it. But for a friend you love, that's a wholly different cup of tea:

"Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove".

At least in Catholic moral theology, I'd say the answer would be to do what is right by you friend, but at the same time avoid any scandal (in the sense of appearing to promote a wrong or immoral position) by declaring publicly that you consider such idea to be wrong and, if possible, clearly defending the apposite truth.

Since Our Lord dined with publicans and tax-collectors, there is no such thing as guilt by association.

Bruno M.
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From:Benjamin Baxter
Date:April 15th, 2015 09:14 pm (UTC)
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Endure for my friend, if he is my friend.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 15th, 2015 09:42 pm (UTC)
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The priest who baptised, who put both my parents to rest, a good and scholarly man who taught me to read the Bible, is a raving socialist who has no concept that he is giving power to Caesar that rightly belongs to him, the Church, and God, my choir master, who has more than anyone how to live as a Christian, whom I love as a Father, reposts vile broadsheets attacking people just like me. I can talk with both men for hours about the faith we share...but politics is off limits, because neither can check their politics against their faith. It's agony but I will not, cannot abandon either. Love your enemies, watery the Lord, how much more must I love my dear friends who so bitterly disagree with me?
From:bellomy
Date:April 15th, 2015 10:22 pm (UTC)

A good idea

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...an idea you hate?

Presumably the reason you're sticking with them is for a very noble idea indeed, namely, honor and loyalty.

(Malcolm the Cynic here. Incidentally, Mrs. Wright, expect an e-mail about the robot anthology soon.)
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From:arhyalon
Date:April 15th, 2015 10:36 pm (UTC)

Re: A good idea

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;-)
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From:yamamanama
Date:April 15th, 2015 10:52 pm (UTC)
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I know exactly who you're talking about, so, yes, I'd dissociate myself immediately.
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From:arhyalon
Date:April 16th, 2015 12:04 am (UTC)
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Yep. You and I have discussed this before.

In fact, you were the first person to ask me this particular question. I've been thinking about it ever since.

So thanks...even though we disagree.
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From:bojojoti
Date:April 16th, 2015 12:29 am (UTC)
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I know what I'd do because I've been in a situation where an entire community worked itself up into a lather and went witch hunting. So many good people were tarred and feathered. I saw the groups of whisperers gathering to plot and ostracise. There was no way to reason with them once they whipped themselves into a frenzy. I tried to remain open and logical with both sides; I wanted to be a peacemaker who could help the mob see what they were doing. One on one, people would listen, but as soon as they gathered again, the hive mentality took over. I was not allowed to be neutral, as the troublemakers forced people to declare allegiances and took reasonableness or friendship of the wrong people as guilt by association.

I knew my friends (they were not close friends, but that is immaterial, because they were not guilty of all the charges laid at their feet) did not deserve the rancor directed at them. I stood with them because it was the right thing to do. The wrath of the instigators turned on me and my family. It was a bleak and dreadful time in our lives as we were treated to the same unrelenting hatred.

There was a terrible price to pay. Our children were ostracised at school--a place that had been their home for 11 years and where they had close friendships. Most people were afraid to associate with me. There were a few brave souls who would surreptitiously pat me on the shoulder at a ballgame in a quiet show of support, and others would catch my eye with a sympathetic look. Thank goodness for the true friends who stood with us throughout it all! Still, in the end, we were forced, for our children's well-being, to remove them from that toxic school environment and leave the community.

It was hard, and our children floundered for a few years before they came back stronger than ever--but puberty and adolescence are a difficult time for most. We lost friends, but we certainly discovered who our true friends were!

If I had it all to do over again, I'd still choose to stand with friends against a hateful mob. There was a price to pay socially, but my heart and my mind are at ease.

Oh, and after I left, the mob turned on themselves. They had gotten rid of everyone they hated, but they still had this enormous reservoir of hatred bubbling over. They tore one another to shreds. They completely destroyed the school. I'd felt terrible about our children losing touch with their friends of a lifetime, but those children were scattered a dozen different directions after the school closed anyway.

I'll invoke Godwin's Law at this point: Until this situation, I seriously could not understand how communities allowed themselves to be destroyed by Nazi rule. How could people turn on their neighbors? How could they turn away when people they'd known all their lives were accused wrongly? How could otherwise good people keep quiet? I saw it all play out in our little drama. That ugly joy of destroying another surged through our group as one target after another was acquired and destroyed. Those people who were afraid to be drawn into the character assassinations kept their heads down and tried to stay out of the fray. Even those sympathetic to the harried members were too afraid for themselves and their families to speak out.

Understand this, if people force you to disown someone, that is not the end of it. They will never be satisfied.

They say that free speech exists for the purpose of protecting unpopular speech. Take that and apply it to friendship. Love covers a multitude of sins. I don't love perfect people--I love them warts and all. Even when I don't agree with my friends or acquaintances, I won't let the torches and pitchfork crowds determine my associations.

By the way, that includes you. I don't know you well, and we've never met. But through your posts on LJ, I've come to see you as a very sweet person who looks for the good in everyone. I willingly align myself with you and accept that the mob would find that odious.
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From:arhyalon
Date:April 16th, 2015 01:26 am (UTC)
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Wow! That is amazing! How sad, how painful, and how beautiful!

I read it to John. He said that you are a giant!

He also asked if you would mind if he republished it on his blog.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 16th, 2015 01:14 am (UTC)

First, they came for Vox Day,

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There is an old saying that applies here:

First, they came for Vox Day, but I didn't say anything, because he is kind of an asshole. Then later, I still didn't say anything, because he was b***h-slapping them so hard and they were crying and I couldn't stop laughing, so I couldn't have said anything if I wanted, but that's all right, it was pretty funny and all worked out just fine.

The End.

David
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 16th, 2015 03:38 am (UTC)
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NEVER. A friend is the person for whom you hide the bodies. You lay down your life for him. Besides, racism is as much a bogeyman as homophobia anymore. Times have changed.
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From:Alex Huemer
Date:April 16th, 2015 09:00 am (UTC)
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Interesting question Jagi.

I was reading a blog a few months ago in the wake of the Eich-Mozilla controversy that touched on some of those questions. From a blue tribalist, no less.

If it comes down to a question of tolerance and forgiveness, isn't the question really what sort of person YOU want to be?

http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/30/i-can-tolerate-anything-except-the-outgroup/

Alex
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From:arhyalon
Date:April 16th, 2015 11:53 am (UTC)
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Thanks, Alex!

All this time...didn't know you had a Livejournal.

AH...never mind. I see that was Facebook. Lol.

Either way, thanks for coming by and I will look at the article!


Edited at 2015-04-16 11:54 am (UTC)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 16th, 2015 12:13 pm (UTC)
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You have enemies? Good That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life
Winston Churchill
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From:theidolhands
Date:April 16th, 2015 05:14 pm (UTC)
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I'm going to go publish this at daily_gems right this minute.
Charles MaKay - (Anonymous) Expand
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 16th, 2015 04:37 pm (UTC)
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This is a lovely treatment of a very difficult question. It is hard to remember the intimacies of relationships when viewing everything through blog posts. I would only ask - is there no room for some middle ground? Publicly (as reputation is involved) discussing problems with a friend's moral stance while reiterating this person's redeeming qualities? Because what may seem only 'odious' to you may feel truly threatening to another who has faced real-life consequences from real-life racists with similar views. Words can do real harm, and the larger the platform the farther reaching that harm is.

Anyway, thank you for your polite discourse.
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From:arhyalon
Date:April 16th, 2015 05:13 pm (UTC)
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I do think so, yes!

In fact, I thing it is a very good idea to say clearly to the friend, I am not going to support your ideas or your public image. And to tell others, especially those who are sincerely alarmed.

But I think that is different from actually cutting off the friendship.

From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 16th, 2015 04:43 pm (UTC)
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You have enemies? Good That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life
Winston Churchill
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From:arhyalon
Date:April 16th, 2015 05:14 pm (UTC)
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;-)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 16th, 2015 06:45 pm (UTC)
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While I do think it's generally good to stay friends, I also think it's important not to be so caught up in defending that choice that you never get around to expressing your objections to your friend, encouraging him to remove the offensive internet post(s), and using whatever influence you might have with him to generally change his mind or behavior.
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From:arhyalon
Date:April 16th, 2015 06:55 pm (UTC)
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We are very much in agreement there! Yes.
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From:wenchpower
Date:April 16th, 2015 07:46 pm (UTC)
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This whole thing has been rough, in part because this is my first time experiencing a geek feeding frenzy that actually affects people I know--I couldn't pick Anita Sarkeesian out of a lineup, but I've seen anti-Puppies invoking John by name when they're getting into high dudgeon, and I have a friend whose work was on the Puppy slate and is personally hurt that she's now always going to wonder if she's only working on a Hugo-nominated zine because of its quality or because of its politics. It's hard to know people on both sides who are directly affected.

For what it's worth, I have a friend whose opinions I find utterly appalling (she's the only person I've ever met who I would actually qualify as "pro-abortion" rather than "pro-choice"). I challenged her on some of her more odious statements for years, both privately and publicly, before deciding I was beating my head against a wall and committing her to prayer instead. She knows how I feel, and I tried extremely hard to reach her, which means that I'm neither enabling her nor encouraging her. Because I've disagreed with her publicly, I don't need to worry that anyone thinks I support her views. I don't know if that would work for you, because it can be extremely hard to publicly challenge someone you care about (and it was just in our Facebook pages, so I didn't need to worry about random lurkers watching the fight with popcorn), but I have total peace of mind about that relationship.
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From:arhyalon
Date:April 16th, 2015 08:41 pm (UTC)
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That makes sense to me.

Please tell your friend, by the way, that if she was on Sad Puppies, it wasn't for her politics. I watched Brad go through the process of picking the folks he put on the slate. He had many fans make suggestions and tried to pick the works/magazines etc. that numbers of folks agreed were the best. Brad is not a Right-leaning guy. He is squarely middle of the road, and he was very serious about being fair about who he picked.

So no one was on the SP slate to begin with because of their politics.

I also keep reminding people. More people voted in this Hugo nomination than ever before. Each of those people paid $40 to vote. Even the Dread Ilk (Vox's fans) are real people. I know some of them. They are SF fans who care about the field. Can't say that was true for everyone who voted...but it was certainly true for many.

Also, some SP/RP choices didn't make it onto the slate. So it wasn't in any way a definite done deal.

I think that has been the most painful part of all this for me...watching Brad try so hard to be fair and then watching good folks doubt the outcome.

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From:mount_oregano
Date:April 16th, 2015 09:24 pm (UTC)
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I think he sounds like someone deeply troubled and messed up, and he probably needs a friend more than anything else right now.
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From:arhyalon
Date:April 17th, 2015 03:58 am (UTC)
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Thanks. I think everyone needs a friend...but those who are not happy more than most.
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From:reziac
Date:April 22nd, 2015 03:26 am (UTC)

Loyalty

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That's complex, and not easy in any way.

But all the reasons to abandon that friend are things that can change. The trust that is loyalty, once broken, can never quite be regained.

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From:arhyalon
Date:April 22nd, 2015 10:48 am (UTC)

Re: Loyalty

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well said.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 23rd, 2015 01:04 pm (UTC)

guilt by association

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You my sweet have done the opposite for me. Your thoughtful articles/posts have enabled me to look at your husbands work without blanching, I truly despise vox day both politically and aesthetically. However if you can partner with Wright maybe I can find some art in his hard work. Thank you.
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From:arhyalon
Date:April 23rd, 2015 01:36 pm (UTC)

Re: guilt by association

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That is a very kind thing to say.

Thank you very much.
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From:carbonelle
Date:May 4th, 2015 08:41 pm (UTC)

Bad Ideas and Bad People

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I made my peace with being friends with people who believe ugly things a long time ago, when I first encountered grown-ups (not ignorant teenagers) who openly espoused communism. I sat on panel, not too long ago (so the Venona papers, Applebaum's Gulag, the survivor's stories from China and Cambodia, had all been published and were available) with a fairly well-known science fiction author who stated, "I don't know why people get so upset about communism. I'm a communist."

I realized that if you wait to have friends who only believe good and beautiful and true things and only good and beautiful and true things you will spend most of your life alone. And since I'm an anti-social introvert, that's clearly a Temptation to Sin :-).

And what is friendship worth, if you go out and publicly condemn your friend? Worse, what is it worth if you are present when your friend is being called names (even if the things she believes are deserving of every bad name in the book) and you don't speak up? Not much. So if you break bread with me, if you're my friend, and I'm there when someone is speaking ill of you, I'll defend you. Even if I think you're being kind of a poopy head :-)

And what if you're wrong? What if the communism they believe in is actually some kind of fringe liberalism that that no good communist would countenance, but which would maybe, if implemented politically lead to communism? Kind of. What if they've been called "communist" by someone for beliefs that intersect with communism: perhaps they have some extremely odd ideas about economics but are actually a kind of anarchist? What if What then? Wouldn't loyalty behoove you to defend your friend, while taking the time to find out if he really did hold to those terrible beliefs?

And still we're only talking about what people write, or say, not what they do. Perhaps he's donated money to the communist party (damning) or marched with the communists on May Day (ditto). What you do to thwart a friend who is doing something evil, is a whole 'nother can of worms.

In the meantime, I think it's wiser to err on the side of friendship, if there's any doubt. "If all men got their just deserts, who then would escape the lash?"
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From:arhyalon
Date:May 4th, 2015 08:47 pm (UTC)

Re: Bad Ideas and Bad People

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Hear! Hear!
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From:Dave Freer
Date:May 30th, 2015 06:46 am (UTC)

loyalty

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I think it is hard set of lines... which probably depend on how well you chose your friend in the first place. I'd try to take the matter up in private with my friend. Loyalty means a great deal to me. I do not join pile-ons anyway.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 24th, 2017 05:08 pm (UTC)
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Interesting, though I feel like you're missing a con at the end there. Sure, if suddenly everyone thinks your friend is a racist, staying friends with them will make people be wary of you (though I think you exaggerate the effect).

But I think being friends with a racist person can be a con in and of itself. Obviously what this means for a white person and what it means for someone like myself varies, as can the views implied by the word "racism". But if a friend of mine is some sort of bigoted, it's not just a matter of agreement. I have to consider whether that bigotry can cause harm to myself or people I care about.

And if it's mild enough not to, then yeah, cutting ties would be a bit much. But I think it's still the more important con to consider. The reason racism is bad is because it has consequences.

Of course, you meant abandoning friends in general. But there's a sliding scale between a sometimes unpleasant friend and an actively dangerous one. I'm sure many of us will only encounter the former.
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From:arhyalon
Date:May 27th, 2017 04:38 pm (UTC)
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Perhaps, but that could be applied to many, many things. I have friends with really nasty vocabulary. Friends who approve of murdering helpless babies in the womb. Friends who approve of many many things that I think are abhorrent.

Racism is abhorrent. Friendship is about seeing the best in people.

If we don't befriend the people we disagree with, how can we change their minds.

But...there is a price, to this and other friendships. The price is that it might be seen, to the person and to others, as condoning the behavior. That they think I condone it doesn't really matter to me. I can make my position known.

That others might accept the ideas because they think I condone it...that is a danger.
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