The Baying Mob

Apart from passing references, I’ve never made this the focal issue of any post or tweet, but it is a pet hate of mine in the way Twitter works.

The baying mob is easy to see in the trolls that inhabit comment threads of pretty much all on-line content these days, so much so that it’s a meme to simply refer to them as trolls, and practically discount or disable all such un-moderated threads. Twitter is of course almost all thread and little content.

My particular pet-hate is the immediate “like” of a put-down response. Disagreeing is always easier than constructive dialogue and shared disagreement is made instant by the like facility. Almost invariably an immediate put-down is at minimum a straw-man that misrepresents the point, a thinly disguised ad-hominem or more often a blatant insult like “silly” or something even less polite. Before any dialogue is possible disagree’ers pile-in on the put-down. Some people’s timelines in blogs and social media have their “numbers” swollen by hoards of people who share a common basis for disagreement, whatever the specific point at issue and its worthiness of dialogue.

It’s mob rule. Populism. Tyranny of a (numerical) majority.

[Worse still, many such trolls are of course key-word-triggered bots
– but few people keep their Twitter following clear of such dross
.]

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[Post Note: As I say, I’ve mentioned this “baying-mob” effect many times before, and it is very much part of the right to offend with satirical humour story – The Court Jester.

This morning, following the Parson’s Green incident:

Everyone has their own agenda, and all agendas are ultimately political – even naming the topic and naming any opposing views are political. Great (political) care is taken in the first tweet from the mayor, in how the word “terrorist” is confirmed. However as Bob points out as soon as “the baying mob” pile into the thread, everyone else’s agendas are piled on the original point. A nexus of ideologies.(*)

The problem is not so much “offence” as disrespect – opportunistically diverting the thread to competing agendas, with the help of wise-cracks, as if attempted humour makes it OK to do so. I’ve not even read the thread, but I already know the “part & parcel of Parsons Green” meme. Leave offensive satirical humour to the professionals we can respect (eg Frankie Boyle) in the meantime respect the people and motives in the original thread by not hijacking it.

Competing agendas is a key point in this – with maximum clamour for attention in the streams of media – competitions get binary between the no-brainer extremes, nuance is trampled over. A mob all toeing the line with short-sharp versions of their chosen party line – an echo-chamber of competing echo-chambers. The odd funny crack or meme may result, but the chances they add anything to solving the original problem is miniscule – much more likely to add to one or both competing echo-chambers.

The problem is disrespect of other parties’ positions – not least the person that started the conversation. No one has the right not to be offended, but no-one has the right to disrespect another’s position with attempts to divert the conversation towards your own ideology with (or without) spurious humour. That disrespect is the offense.]

[Post Post Note (*) That nexus of ideologies is the point I am making to SitP (Skeptics in the Pub) – that, whatever the topic, all debates / presentations / Q&A converge on this same clash of conflicting ideologies, UNLESS it is dialogue conducted with respect.]


Also published on Medium.

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