Awkwardness of Association

Kylie (that’s Freethought Blogs’ Token Skeptic for the uninitiated) precisely and humorously describes an experience of being awkwardly and unwillingly seated near a heckler:

I’m at a show, sitting with one person I know (let’s call them ‘Z’) and a bunch of people I don’t know (they’re friends of Z and I get a hurried introduction to the group). They’ve got drinks with them, which might be a contributing factor to what happens next. As the show starts, the performer happens to laud the name of a well-known figure in scientific history.One of the people (who I don’t know) screams out ‘HE SUCKS!’ in response.

I am mortified. Of course, I’m in the same row as this heckler, and Z promptly tries to shush their friend, leading to a little ‘But he DOES suck! He does, right? Huh?… what? Wha the problem? He sucks!’ confusion.

By then, the damage has been done, because once you heckle the guy with the microphone on the stage, their attention is inevitably directed in the direction where the sound came from and I feel like I’m sitting with the bad-kids-on-the-back-row-of-the-bus.

There’s nothing I can do. Apologetic waving from the audience runs the risk of making it look like I was heckling, and the last thing I want to do is draw more attention and further ruin the start of the show that hasn’t even got underway yet. In addition, I’m upset to think that the performer might think that I endorse this kind of behaviour. There’s nothing I can do. Except feel absolutely dreadful, of course.

But it turns out there are twists, like that the heckler had a legitimate case against the person he criticized. So Kylie raises the question, ‘Do You Give People A Pass Because They’re On “Our Side”?’ (And if you do not, when and how and with what constraints do you criticize appropriately?)

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