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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? 


Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

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Date:April 15th, 2015 04:44 pm (UTC)
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.

[User Picture]
Date:April 15th, 2015 04:54 pm (UTC)
Nicely put. Thank you. ;-)

And I'm with you.
[User Picture]
Date:April 15th, 2015 05:11 pm (UTC)
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.
[User Picture]
Date:April 15th, 2015 05:15 pm (UTC)
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)
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.
Date:April 15th, 2015 08:32 pm (UTC)

Idea or friend

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.
[User Picture]
From:Benjamin Baxter
Date:April 15th, 2015 09:14 pm (UTC)
Endure for my friend, if he is my friend.
Date:April 15th, 2015 09:42 pm (UTC)
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?
Date:April 15th, 2015 10:22 pm (UTC)

A good idea

...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.)
[User Picture]
Date:April 15th, 2015 10:36 pm (UTC)

Re: A good idea

[User Picture]
Date:April 15th, 2015 10:52 pm (UTC)
I know exactly who you're talking about, so, yes, I'd dissociate myself immediately.
[User Picture]
Date:April 16th, 2015 12:04 am (UTC)
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.
[User Picture]
Date:April 16th, 2015 12:29 am (UTC)
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.
[User Picture]
Date:April 16th, 2015 01:26 am (UTC)
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.
Date:April 16th, 2015 01:14 am (UTC)

First, they came for Vox Day,

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.

Date:April 16th, 2015 03:38 am (UTC)
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.
[User Picture]
From:Alex Huemer
Date:April 16th, 2015 09:00 am (UTC)
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?


[User Picture]
Date:April 16th, 2015 11:53 am (UTC)
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)
Date:April 16th, 2015 12:13 pm (UTC)
You have enemies? Good That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life
Winston Churchill
[User Picture]
Date:April 16th, 2015 05:14 pm (UTC)
I'm going to go publish this at daily_gems right this minute.
Charles MaKay - (Anonymous) Expand
Date:April 16th, 2015 04:37 pm (UTC)
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.
[User Picture]
Date:April 16th, 2015 05:13 pm (UTC)
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.

Date:April 16th, 2015 04:43 pm (UTC)
You have enemies? Good That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life
Winston Churchill
[User Picture]
Date:April 16th, 2015 05:14 pm (UTC)
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