‘Self-identification’ crisis.



Once upon a time I could say, in all honesty, “You wouldn’t believe the loonies you find out there.” Now, thanks to Facebook, you have no problem in believing me because you’ve ‘met’ them as well.

Because I was travelling for a couple of days I wasn’t anywhere near any internet access so had time to think rather than merely reacting, emoting, or simply making snide comments. This got me thinking about the people I come across on Facebook. Because I’m a writer I get asked to be friends by other writers. I suspect that this is because we’re sad and insecure people who feel that other writers are selling far more books than we are. So if we get to be friends with them on Facebook, our posts will appear on their feeds and their millions of friends will see them and we might just possibly sell some books by riding on their coat tails.

Now the writers themselves aren’t so bad to be honest. But their friends? Sheesh.

Over the past year or so I’ve sort of got involved peripherally in Facebook discussions with people who, frankly, I hope I never actually get to meet. Whether it’s American ‘atheists’ (who frankly have no grasp of history, culture or philosophy) ‘liberals’ (who most definitely aren’t liberal) or militant members of the ‘sisterhood’, they manage to make even the most bigoted follower of Ignatius of Loyola seem broadminded and open to argument. Now I mention these groups, mainly because they’re the ones who seem to infest the pages of my writer friends. There are doubtless other groups who I would find equally irritating but fortunately I don’t bump into them.

Anyway unless I’m particularly bored, or one of them says something particularly stupid, I tend to ignore them now; mainly because they don’t understand the concept of debate. When you combine this with a dogmatic fundamentalist attitude which insists that anybody who doesn’t agree with them is some sort of subhuman fit only for one-way transport to a ‘re-education camp’ somewhere, life is too short to waste on them. Indeed I’ve come across one chap who sticks in mind because he could only argue in ‘memes’. The concept of putting his own thoughts into his own, even partially original, words had escaped him.

I finally realised that I was the one at fault. You see, I naively assumed that they intended discussion. But there can be no discussion because they cannot see that there’s anything to discuss. Indeed their purpose isn’t discussion, it’s virtue signalling. They’re not trying to convert you, because if you’re not already a believer, then you’re too stupid to be worth the effort.

The audience they’re performing to is, in effect, those who share the same beliefs. Thanks to the mysteries of Facebook you are in a similar position to the anthropologist who’s inadvertently wandered in to some private tribal willy-waving contest.

The American ‘atheist’, the ‘liberal’ or the member of the ‘sisterhood’ isn’t interested in reaching out to people to change their minds through debate. They’ve already written those people off. They’re merely trying to impress fellow members of their tribe with their moral superiority, greater ideological purity or whatever.


The only thing you can do when you come across this is mutter, ‘Oh Bless’ and tiptoe away again.


The problem for society comes when you have people trapped in this sort of mindset who are faced by a serious and potentially divisive political issue. They don’t respond to people on the other side of the divide with debate. They don’t attempt to understand their fellow citizens. They merely label them as too stupid to be allowed to vote and step up the old ‘virtue signalling’ to impress their fellows and to bolster their own sense of self-identity.

Unfortunately for our virtue signalling friends, until they work out a way of disenfranchising their opponents, all that does is hack off other members of the electorate.


Anyway, you’ve probably got more time for reading, so how about a good book?

As the reviewer said, “Runaway Poet, Flat Boat Sailor, Master Gunner, Flower Arranging Judge, Adventurer and Escort of a beautiful young Lady, are only a few of the skills exhibited by Tallis Steelyard in this extraordinary story.
In my opinion, the world and characters from Jim Webster’s mind would make a wonderful TV series, starting with this one.”

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38 thoughts on “‘Self-identification’ crisis.

  1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 19, 2017 at 4:20 pm Reply

    Where on Earth do you go visiting? I don’t run into any of that. Probably fled any blogs like that at the first sign.

    I happen to believe there might be enough pie for all of us, if we’d stop arguing and go bake some.

    But this isn’t very useful, is it?

    I watched a show yesterday of a group of high school basketball players in a small town somewhere in the American midwest – and all I could think of was how few the opportunities were for those kids – and how their schools seemed to be missing the whole idea of using the internet for educational purposes to make things better. It felt as if they were waiting for someone to rescue them.

    • jwebster2 January 19, 2017 at 5:08 pm Reply

      Yes, I feel that too many people have just been abandoned. I remember hearing the phrase ‘fly over’ states and thinking that something had gone wrong 😦

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 19, 2017 at 7:58 pm

        I hate to say it, but many of those states are ones where the Republican power structure has held sway for years. The Democratic states on the coasts have a lot more opportunities – and diversity. And far fewer Evangelicals (though some of the megachurches – with the ‘Gospel of Prosperity’ thing going – are also in California.

        I believe in God – but He sure lets us have a lot of rope to hang ourselves with.

      • jwebster2 January 19, 2017 at 9:02 pm

        I remember being told that the wise electorate always votes for the opposition. It stops any party getting too entrenched in a seat, at which point they get ‘entitled’ and forget who’s really supposed to be in charge.
        They always say, if you want to hear God chuckle, tell him your plans. The whole prosperity gospel doesn’t seem to have taken off in the UK. Never worked out why

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 19, 2017 at 10:01 pm

        You already have royalty and an entrenched system of heriditary peers. And all the money, or the perceived money.

        American’s don’t. We have Hollywood celebrities (and pretenders) and rich people.

      • jwebster2 January 19, 2017 at 10:14 pm

        There’s 800 members of the house of Lords but only 92 are hereditary. The rest are there mainly because they’re party faithful, ex politicians and suchlike. I suspect our real money is pretty much the same class of people as in the USA to be honest

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 19, 2017 at 10:45 pm

        We have no king/queen. It really makes a difference. Even the ceremonial position of your lovely Queen (and I hope she’s over the miserable cold) is not something you can aspire to, whereas any American child born here could, technically, become President.

      • jwebster2 January 20, 2017 at 7:36 am

        It’s interesting in that in theory any UK citizen (you don’t have to be born in the UK) can aspire to be Prime Minister. To be Prime Minister you have to command a majority within the House of Commons. So in some ways the PM has more authority than the President. For example, it is virtually unheard of for a PM to not get his budget through Parliament unchanged.
        It’s interesting that one insult that was thrown at Tony Blair as PM was that he was ‘Presidential’.
        Interestingly whilst we’ve never had a ‘coloured’ PM, our first Jewish PM came into office in 1837 Obviously we had our first Woman PM in 1979, but with our hereditary system we do get women heads of state and are likely to get more.
        But yes, she seems to be over her cold and was seen at church last Sunday 🙂

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 20, 2017 at 8:37 am

        Wonderful. I’m glad to hear Her Majesty is in better shape – I’ve been pretty miserable; and she’s a lot older.

        As for which system is better, it’s a moot point: neither is going to change soon.

        Was that Disraeli?

        As for royalty, aren’t there a lot of men and boys in line before the first girl or woman?

      • jwebster2 January 20, 2017 at 10:14 am

        yes it was Disraeli. Our law on succession changed in 2015

        26 March 2015: Legislation changing the succession from male-preference primogeniture to absolute primogeniture came into effect for all persons born after 28 October 2011.

        6 March 2015: The legislation removed the disqualification of an eligible person on marriage to a Roman Catholic.

        Much to everybody’s glee Kate Middleton produced a boy first anyway so which renders everything distinctly moot for the next sixty or so generations 😉

        If you look back to the past the only difference it would have made was with Queen Victoria. She had four children older than Edward VIII who succeeded her, but three died before she did. So in 1901 we could have had a Queen Helena. But she was already married to a German Prince

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 20, 2017 at 3:34 pm

        Well, I can’t see that you’ve done that badly with the queens who ruled, so forgive me if I’m not thrilled about a sixty-generation gap!

        But it is your system of government, and the only people who should have a say in it are you guys. (As if no one had interfered with another country, ever.)

      • jwebster2 January 20, 2017 at 3:45 pm

        ah well the secret of our success was that all our Queens had been trained by wise fathers, and all our Kings owed everything to the teaching of their mothers 🙂

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 20, 2017 at 4:58 pm

        I’m sure it is a very difficult life. And it used to be more dangerous.

      • jwebster2 January 20, 2017 at 5:08 pm

        Given that during the Falklands war we used the third in line to the throne to pilot helicopters which were used to decoy missiles away from ships, and in Afghanistan we had the third in line to the throne flying an attack helicopter it’s probably not without its risks 🙂
        But I think it’s only right. Politicians who put our children at risk should be willing to see their own children bearing arms as well

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 20, 2017 at 5:27 pm

        I remember. And admired. Not an easy thing to do for anyone, much less someone who didn’t have to.

        But maybe he did – for himself. I’m glad they didn’t stop him – and glad he survived.

  2. I am with you Jim.. I have included in my blogger daily this evening. I found myself in a middle of a spat the other day.. aimed at the originator of the post..poor girl.. thanks Sally

    • jwebster2 January 19, 2017 at 5:24 pm Reply

      To quote Lovecraft, “things have learnt to walk that ought to crawl”

      • Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life. January 19, 2017 at 5:25 pm

        That about sums it up..thanks Jim

      • jwebster2 January 19, 2017 at 5:30 pm

        Lovecraft did have a way with words at times. Every writer should attempt to occasionally use squamous and rugose 🙂

  3. angelarunnals January 19, 2017 at 6:05 pm Reply

    Oh dear. I would describe myself as an atheist and a liberal and a feminist (although not a particularly militant one). And the online comments I read that are especially ugly seem to come from aggressively “Christian,” non-liberal, and/or women-hating trolls. Maybe it’s the people (of all groups) who are aggressive or militant who are unable to engage in debate without spittle?

    • jwebster2 January 19, 2017 at 7:09 pm Reply

      I did put a lot of the words in inverted commas because a lot of (for example) ‘Liberals’ are evidently not willing to respect or accept behaviour or opinions different from one’s own; open to new ideas. Effectively ‘Liberal’ has become a label which is often entirely divorced from the original meaning of the word 😦
      I merely mentioned the groups I come across which is a function of the groups that infest the pages of writer friends. I suspect that my writer friends tend to be people who in UK terms would be ‘soft left’ and so their pages tend to draw more people from the left than otherwise. So I tend to see disproportionately more ‘left wing loonies’ than ‘right wing loonies’. 🙂
      Ironically I very very rarely come across people who self-identify as American Christians but am regularly accused of being one!
      But yes, we’re seeing society which is collecting into isolated clumps which don’t talk to each other and cannot relate to each other. To an extent this always happened, I suspect that it’s part of the human condition, but the growth of things like facebook aren’t helping. They more easily allow people to shout into echo chambers

      • angelarunnals January 19, 2017 at 11:56 pm

        Interesting! Yes, I suppose I have been looking at more political content, especially that relating to American politics, and less of the literary stuff lately. No wonder I am sleeping badly …

      • jwebster2 January 20, 2017 at 7:39 am

        Remember that Politics as a word derives from Polis, the city. Politics is anything which involves the running of the community. 🙂
        Anyway I hope you sleep better. My experience of politicians is that they’re never as good as their supporters claim they will be and never as bad as their enemies expect. 🙂

  4. Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC January 20, 2017 at 6:05 pm Reply

    Political commentary is tough enough to take around the blog-o-sphere. I cannot DO it on FaceBook where it can get ugly quickly In fact, I really can’t do FB anymore without an upset stomach – avoided it totally during the US election season (and since today is inauguration day, I doubt I’ll be going back any time soon!) I’d rather go bark at leaves with Tink.

    Enjoyed the “Disraeli” back and forth in your comments, however.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    • jwebster2 January 20, 2017 at 11:59 pm Reply

      I understand entirely what you mean, I avoided blogging during the EU referendum debate. Nobody is actually debating and people are just getting nasty

      • Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC January 21, 2017 at 12:10 am

        Confirmation bias & cognitive dissonance – so the scientists say. Too bad that manners and common sense seem to have gone the way of the dinosaurs.

      • jwebster2 January 21, 2017 at 7:50 am

        One thing I realised I was doing as a writer was giving people ‘old fashioned’ manners. Because in Fantasy and SF it makes the world seem even wierder 😦

      • Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC January 21, 2017 at 4:59 pm

        Interesting point – it brings to my mind that great bar scene in Star Wars, with all the different “races” milling around with cocktails.

      • jwebster2 January 21, 2017 at 5:11 pm

        Yes, it does beg the question, is the ‘person’ who acts courteously more or less alien than the creature who looks different but acts just like everybody else 🙂

      • Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC January 21, 2017 at 6:09 pm

        Excellent question! “Alien” doesn’t necessarily mean ‘not from our earth.’ It can also mean ‘out of the norm’ – a majority experience or belief that sets standard expectations of behavior.

        Doesn’t mean those ‘normal’ expectations are admirable, however – or even effective.

      • jwebster2 January 21, 2017 at 6:25 pm

        Too true, perhaps normality is merely a default state rather than necessarily a desirable one

      • Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC January 21, 2017 at 6:27 pm

        Not that I believe in “normal” – any more than I *believe* other aggregate statistics. 🙂 I delight in the unique.

      • jwebster2 January 21, 2017 at 6:39 pm

        Certainly I realised some years ago that once you start really talking to folk, you discover that there are no ‘ordinary’ people 🙂

      • Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC January 21, 2017 at 6:48 pm

        I don’t believe *I* have ever met one. 🙂
        xx, mgh

      • jwebster2 January 21, 2017 at 6:52 pm


  5. Jean Reinhardt January 21, 2017 at 3:05 pm Reply

    I have tip-toed away from Facebook many a time – safer that way. I need my energy for more important things. 🙂

    • jwebster2 January 21, 2017 at 3:30 pm Reply

      I always felt that the phrase, ‘Not my circus, not my monkeys’ can save you a lot of grief on facebook. 🙂

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