Having stupid opinions is okay, and it’s important to let other people know them so that they can confront you, and that is what we call communication.
A recent debate concerning corporal punishment in child rearing flushed through Austria. In their Sunday issue Die Presse had published an article that can easily be read as condoning physical abuse of children. Well, what followed wasn’t really a shitstorm, at least not so far. Rather a wave of disgust swept through the social media. A famous journalist and news anchor, Armin Wolf, wrote a very touching and intimate response that received quite some attention. And a couple of papers, blogs and magazines posted articles that portrayed their view on the topic.
Ultimately, a day after publishing the article in question, Die Presse issued an apology. Their internal quality assurance had failed, they asserted, and for the first time, so they wrote, they had to distance themselves from the content of an article. I’m not sure if that was their plan anyways, like “naah, go ahead, put it in. We’ll read it then and if necessary write an apology afterwards”, or if they just tried to bullshit themselves out of a backlash.
I don’t wont to go into the “don’t beat children” topic. Maybe enough has still not been said about that, but since it is a subject my work is concerned with anyways (as is my still unfinished novel “Hymnos”). But there was something else I was made aware of, which is the emergence of what I reluctantly will call “shitstormery”.
In the connected Internet, when you fuck up, you will have plenty of people, mostly ones you don’t actually know, who will make you aware of your mistake. This is on it’s own a great thing, as it allows for exchange and is a basis for progress. But the apologetic way the Presse dealt with it left me dumbfounded.
That is: the article I mentioned was written by Wolfgang Greber, a name I had, as many of his critics, I suppose, not knowingly come across before. So, maybe Mr. Greber had a bad day and wrote a bad article, or maybe he wrote an article that revealed a little bit too much: Why the fuck would the newspaper that published that article need to apologize for that? Would they have refrained from publishing it because of its journalistic quality? It was, after all, an opinion, not a guide.
Rather it’s the bullshit that bothers me. Why not stand by the article?
Not to imply that there aren’t a lot of weird opinions out there, but why does expressing them demand reprimand? Maybe Mr. Greber learned something by all of this. Something he might not have learned had his article gone unpublished. There can be an element of education in a shitstorm. But it is not what the instrument usually intends. Public outcry on line often takes instead a form of bullying. Which I get. Discussing the same shit over and over and again and again, explaining, say, for the quadrillionth time why women are people too, is cumbersome. I myself don’t usually rejoice in an opportunity to explain the same thing for too many a times, unless I’m really, really drunk.
But what do you expect? There’s a lot of people on this planet, and even though in some regions communication became really fast in the last couple of decades, ideas can’t instantly be transferred to, let alone accepted by everyone. And especially newspapers should take a part in communicating ideas. Maybe not always their own ideas, there’s an important difference between the Politics and the Opinion segment. Still, why not let people speak their mind? After all, shouldn’t a society be able to deal with that, by, e.g., answering?
Why is there shame in having stupid world views?
[title image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jencinar/5737792625/]