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.