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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 16th, 2015 06:45 pm (UTC)
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.
[User Picture]
Date:April 16th, 2015 06:55 pm (UTC)
We are very much in agreement there! Yes.
[User Picture]
Date:April 16th, 2015 07:46 pm (UTC)
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.
[User Picture]
Date:April 16th, 2015 08:41 pm (UTC)
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.

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


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.

[User Picture]
Date:April 22nd, 2015 10:48 am (UTC)

Re: Loyalty

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

guilt by association

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.
[User Picture]
Date:April 23rd, 2015 01:36 pm (UTC)

Re: guilt by association

That is a very kind thing to say.

Thank you very much.
[User Picture]
Date:May 4th, 2015 08:41 pm (UTC)

Bad Ideas and Bad People

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?"
[User Picture]
Date:May 4th, 2015 08:47 pm (UTC)

Re: Bad Ideas and Bad People

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


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.
Date:May 24th, 2017 05:08 pm (UTC)
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.
[User Picture]
Date:May 27th, 2017 04:38 pm (UTC)
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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