I wrote the below update on Facebook on the 2nd of October:
(Jamie Buchanan) is constantly amazed at how the ignorant, ill-informed, intolerant, racist, sexist and bigoted minority of people can find a voice on social media and then condemn the rational, tolerant, educated, and intelligent who denounce their ramblings for the trash it is. Social media (e.g. facebook, twitter et al) provides some fantastic things - virtual friendship, solidarity, unity etc… - but it also allows these right-wing neo-fascist views to be aired to a mass audience as well. I guess that is the double edged sword called democracy (and, indeed, freedom of expression). Oh, and yes, I fully appreciate the hypocrisy of this update…never said I wasn’t a hypocrite. Perhaps it is naïve to think that this technology could be used for good and not evil. I just hope that society learns from the past (even a past without social media) and continues to evolve - rather than a devolution into past mistakes.
For the sake of elucidation, here are some examples…
I see so many comments denouncing Muslims (“they’re all terrorists”, “go back to where you came from”, “They don’t integrate”, “they don’t follow our way of life” etc…). These are all the things I heard in the 70’s/80’s about Asian immigrants - namely Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian etc… Now, we eat their food, holiday in their countries, our kids go to school together and, on the phone, you couldn’t tell Michael Nguyen’s accent from Jamie Buchanan’s. Before them it was the Italians/Greeks/Croatians etc… It’s a cycle perpetuated by bigots and racists born from fear - encapsulated by the term “xenophobia”.
Unfortunately, racists and bigots are eternal and social media gives them a voice they never had before…it’s up to the rest of society to end it wherever and whenever they can.
Comments about gay marriage, about how being gay is “un-Godly”, or “unnatural” etc… I know some people that write this crap haven’t stepped into a church since they were married - if at all! I am a heterosexual man who is lucky not to be gay. I say that because I am lucky enough to be allowed to marry the person I love. But, some people aren’t that lucky I suppose.
This argument (using religion to justify the agenda of bigotry) is the same as using religion to announce a “Jihad”, or set up a “West Bank”, or wage a crusade. All “sides” are guilty of using scare tactics, mis-information, religion and manipulation of the ignorant to further their own agendas (political, powerful or religious). Fortunately we live in age of relatively high-level education - even in the developing world. And, as technology spreads and becomes more accessible, that education will hopefully increase.
I realize I am in danger of entering “John Lennon territory” asking everyone to simply love each other and, well man, just chill out a bit…man… But that’s not what I mean. A wise man once said: “With great power comes great responsibility” (originally Voltaire, but often attributed to Stan Lee of ‘Spiderman’ comics). It’s true though - we have the power to reach thousands or millions of people through electronic communication and that should not be treated flippantly or lightly. In, perhaps, 20 years’ time, people might look back at our fumblings with this technology and laugh - like watching your grandparents try and program a VCR in the 1980’s! Once again, I hope so.
Hopefully future generations will use this form of communication wisely. I’m sure that there will always be bigots, racists, homophobes, jihadists, fascists, communists, hate-mongers and general intolerant scum-bags who will eternally spread hate and pain wherever they go for reasons best known to themselves. But, I hope that over time, those narrow minded views become a part of an increasing minority and are treated with the silence they deserve.