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?