Skepticism and Online Outrage

Let me relate a scary story that happened about, oh, 26 years ago. My best friend and I had gone out to a gay club with his sister and her girlfriend. We left the bar around two in the morning at last call. We got in my friend's car and drove away. A few blocks later at a stop light, a car pulled up next to us and the four men in the car began yelling at us, "Faggot! Fucking Faggots!" you know the drill.

We did our best to ignore them. After all, this was the south and we had no idea if they were armed. We certainly weren't. We pulled away at the light and they fell in behind us. Being the days before cell phones there was no way to reach out for help and even if we could, would the police even care? We certainly didn't call them names and try to escalate the encounter.

They followed us from downtown Columbia, SC to North Columbia. We didn't dare go back to our apartment and let them know where we lived and we didn't want to get out of the car anywhere they might be able to jump us. We ended up pulling into a hotel parking lot and driving up to the entrance. We sat in the car while they circled the parking lot a few times honking their horn. Finally, someone came out of the hotel, I guess because of the noise and they quickly peeled out of the parking lot. We continued to wait for another half hour and drove home by a back route.

At no time did we find what happened funny or amusing. Upon being called out our pulses quickened and we were simultaneously terrified and enraged.

I've been called "faggot" in a number of situations. Even in ones where I felt very protected at pride parades and marches the words raised my blood pressure. I have never found it funny nor amusing.

That's why a recent video making the rounds concerns me. In this video, a woman outside a bar uses the N-word and screams obscenities at some young African-American men. They film the woman with a cell phone as she continues her tirade. At one point the person filming turns the camera on themselves and they are laughing at her. In the introduction to the video on Twitter, people ask for it to be retweeted and "make her famous."

Now, let's be clear. She's a moron and shouldn't be saying any of that crap. But my thought about it is if you as "victim" are not harmed or concerned about the encounter then what is the point? Are you just trying to hurt someone else? If so, are you any better than she? If you find it humorous, why bother trying to ruin her life which is exactly your intent. Just leave a drunk moron to her own devices. Obviously, if she's drunk outside a bar her life isn't exactly going great, to begin with.

These types of videos which seem to be taken merely for the sake of trying to jump on the infamy bandwagon take away from videos of true social atrocities. The cops beating a 14-year-old girl. The 9-year-old accused of sexually assaulting a white woman by touching her with his backpack in a crowded store. The police being called on children selling lemonade. A black politician being accosted by police for simply canvassing in a white neighborhood. The cop manhandling a young black child in a mall. Every day there are more and more examples of real racism. This manufactured outrage where the "victims" are laughing it up detract from those events.

By blindly forwarding and engaging in mob think we can actually do more harm. We give ammunition to those who claim all of this is "fake news" or that the videos are all manipulated for effect. Of course, are we allowed to be at all skeptical of some of these videos? Should we say anything at all we will surely be attacked. We are not allowed skepticism or critical thinking at this moment in time. That's a scary thought. We have become so divided and tribal that any dissenting view be it right or left is seen as heresy.

Let's hope that we can get past all this. The rejection of critical thought is a dangerous path to go down no matter what side you're on.

Oh, and the woman in the video? She's already lost her job which I guess was the point of the whole exercise.