When a lack of anger reveals a lack of love

“Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are Anger and Courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.” — attributed to St. Augustine

Josh Barkey recently highlighted an intriguing quote from Bertrand Russell, warning readers to be suspicious of anger:

If an opinion contrary to your own makes you angry, that is a sign that you are subconsciously aware of having no good reason for thinking as you do. If some one maintains that two and two are five, or that Iceland is on the equator, you feel pity rather than anger, unless you know so little of arithmetic or geography that his opinion shakes your own contrary conviction. … So whenever you find yourself getting angry about a difference of opinion, be on your guard; you will probably find, on examination, that your belief is going beyond what the evidence warrants.

I think Russell is correct here about anger “about a difference of opinion.” Such anger may, indeed, be a sign of some subconscious irrationality.

But most anger is not caused by or directed at “an opinion contrary to your own.” Most anger is a response to and a response against something less abstract and more tangible, actual and factual: Injustice, oppression, harm, cruelty, pain, deprivation, suffering, want, intimidation, bullying, tyranny, evil.

In response to and response against such harms, anger is not irrational, it is obligatory. It is precisely “what the evidence warrants.”

When confronted with injustice, cruelty and harm, a lack of anger “is a sign that you are subconsciously” failing to love those who are suffering from that injustice, cruelty and harm. If you love them, then you ought to be angry — and that anger ought to compel you to act on their behalf.

Let me be clear, I’m not talking about anger as an emotion. This isn’t about how we feel, but about whether or not we respond.

And again, we’re not talking about responding to “opinions contrary to our own,” but about responding to actions that do real harm. Or responding to words that empower and enable and provoke actions that do real harm. Such words and actions should make us angry. And that anger should cause us to act in response to those harmful actions, or to speak up against those hurtful words.

That doesn’t mean we must act or speak angrily, or that we must act or speak in anger. “In your anger, sin not.” But if we fail to act or to speak, then we are failing to love. That failure may be due to apathy, or to fear, or to a host of other reasons, but sometimes it is due to our corresponding failure to get angry.

You got kids? If not, how about a kid sister or a kid brother? No? Then how about a dog, you got a dog? Or a cat? A spouse? Everybody loves someone or something. I’m going to go with kids here, but if you don’t have kids, just think of your little sister or your cat or whoever it is you love.

Say you see somebody hurting your kids — deliberately, cruelly inflicting harm on them. That will make you angry. Such anger is right and proper and just. You will be angry because you love your kids, and that anger and that love will compel you to act on their behalf — to stop this cruel somebody from harming them.

Now, if you saw this happening and you did not get angry or try to put a stop to this cruelty, what do you suppose the rest of us would think? We wouldn’t be congratulating you on your saintly calm demeanor. Nor would we be admiring you as an exemplar of Christian civility.

No, we would be angry with you over your lack of anger. Then, after we acted in your stead to stop the harm being done to your kids, that anger would compel us to confront you with your evident lack of love for your own children.

None of this changes when the victims of this cruel, deliberate harm are someone other than your blood relations.

I bring all this up, of course, because yesterday’s posts here were a bit on the angry side. If my comments on Bryan Fischer or Douglas Wilson came across as angry, that’s because I am angry. Furious, actually. Livid.

These men are saying hateful, harmful things. Yes, in a sense, they are expressing “opinions contrary to my own,” but that is not all they are doing, and those differences of opinion are not the problem here.

The problem is not that Bryan Fischer and I have a difference of opinion over whether or not gay men deserve to die. The problem is that Bryan Fischer says that gay men deserve to die, that his saying this is hurtful and harmful, that his full time job consists of convincing others to believe and to say such hurtful and harmful things, and, most importantly, that he’s a blaspheming lobbyist for an influential political faction shaping policy such that it will tangibly, actually and physically harm, injure, oppress, deprive, disenfranchise, discriminate against and terrorize LGBT people.

Bryan Fischer is doing harm. He’s hurting people. He has victims — real, actual victims.

That ought to make us angry. And that anger ought to compel us to act and to speak up on behalf of those he is harming. If it doesn’t — if we do not get angry and therefore act — we dare not make any claim to love those victims. If Bryan Fischer’s words and political actions do not make us angry, then the best we can say for ourselves is that we hate his victims marginally less than he does.

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  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    You’re dead on as usual Fred, but this is also a painfully challenging post because it makes it quite easy to see where I’m… well not nearly as loving a person as I ought to be. 

    There are people across the world suffering deliberate and cruel harm… and yet I rarely can do more than pity.  Anger compels one to act,  and yet in so many situations what exactly can one do? 

    I mean there’s small things – you can not-buy from companies that exploit people, you can sign petitions, donate to good causes – you can march and protest and wear a sandwich board on the streetcorner…

    But none of that actually really stops the problem.  It ameliorates it a bit, but without a fundamental change across a great many more people… and thus anger turns to sadness, and then acceptance of the unhappy realities of our world.

    It’s frustrating because I at once know you’re absolutely right… but what does that say about me?  I don’t know that I like the answer to that.

  • Pat B

    Mainly it says you’re a human being. People have a limited ability to empathize, and the less impact a tragedy has on you the harder it is to get emotionally invested in it.

    Obviously, helping people is good. We should help whenever we can, in whatever ways we can. But don’t feel ashamed that you can’t love everyone as deeply as your friends and (literal) neighbors; that is a well-documented aspect of human nature.

    For a completely non-scholarly explanation of this;

    http://www.cracked.com/article_14990_what-monkeysphere.html

  • http://profiles.google.com/fader2011 Alex Harman

    I think the answer to your problem lies in subsidiarity, another subject Fred discusses from time to time.  In short, you are not responsible for solving a problem unless it is possible for you to solve it, and responsibility is thus highly correlated with proximity.  If you see someone assaulting a child right in front of you, you have a responsibility to act to stop them; if you see the same thing being reported on the news from Sudan, you have no such responsibility.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

     The logical part of my brain understands this… it’s the not-so-logical part that’s the problem.  It’s just, I guess frustrating is the best word.  Bleh, it’s been a bad day anyway though, so I’m just rambling.

  • http://newpillowbook.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/friday-fictioneers-lunacy/ esmerelda_ogg

    Ah, but how useful the Russell explanation is to the likes of Fischer and (both) Wilsons! There’s a certain resemblance to the Wilson followup post in which those who objected were told, as if from a great height, that either they hadn’t bothered to study his full body of work, or else they couldn’t understand English.

    (I don’t know enough about Russell to judge whether he was guilty of similar bad faith here, or whether he was just so immersed in abstractions that real-world human events didn’t easily grab his attention.)

  • Eamon Knight

    so immersed in abstractions that real-world human events didn’t easily grab his attention

    Given Bertie spent about 30 years obsessed with the vital quest of making number theory consistent, I think that suggestion has some merit ;-). I’m sure he was a bit put out when Godel came along and proved that he and Whitehead were wasting their time….

    There are middle cases between reacting to some random twit saying silly things and reacting to anti-LGBT bigots. I get angry at young-earth creationists because it isn’t*just* a “difference of opinion”: they’re lying in the most outrageous, arrogant manner, all the while claiming that their systematized ignorance is a superior form of wisdom and morality. One rightly recoils from the hypocrisy.

    I’m also currently feeling a bit irritated with a local perpetual motion crackpot of my slight acquaintance, but that’s another story…..

  • arcseconds

    so immersed in abstractions that real-world human events didn’t easily grab his attention

    Given Bertie spent about 30 years obsessed with the vital quest of
    making number theory consistent, I think that suggestion has some merit
    ;-). I’m sure he was a bit put out when Godel came along and proved that
    he and Whitehead were wasting their time….

    He was involved with issues in the foundations of mathematics from the late 1890s to 1913, the publication of the last volume of Principia Mathematica.  After that, he moved on to other things.  I vaguely recall that there may have been some later musings about mathematics, but he didn’t, AFAIK, do any more formal work, and certainly wasn’t ‘obsessed’ from then on.   So 15 years would be more accurate.

    One of the other things he was involved in was political activism.  He was imprisoned as a conscientious objector in the First World War, and spent a lot of energy campaigning for nuclear disarmament.

    So I don’t think it’s really fair to suggest he cared nothing for ‘real-world human events’ either.

    He tends towards preachiness and has a tendency to overgeneralize in his writings, especially his popular writings.  I think that’s what’s going on here.  I take Geds’s point that it’s trying to detect bias in your thinking, and looking out for anger is not bad advice.  But he does say that if you’re angry ‘you’ll probably find’ that your belief is stronger than the evidence supports, so he’s definitely suggesting a strong link there between anger and unsupported belief, not just anger as a potential sign of an unsupported belief.

    There he goes too far, and he is certainly being a little hypocritical.   He often seems very angry with his opponents.  Righteous enough with the pacifist cause, maybe, but I strongly recall him stooping to sneering sarcasm (and a snobby and vile faux-cockney impersonation) when responding to the ‘ordinary language’ philosophers’ criticism of ‘On Denoting’.

  • http://newpillowbook.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/friday-fictioneers-lunacy/ esmerelda_ogg

     I will (seriously, without sarcasm) defer to your knowledge about Russell. Clearly he did take an interest in real-world events. I may have been picking up on the preachy tone and the generalizations – as I said, I’m not familiar with his writing in general – and as a result thought he might be closer to the Fischers and Wilsons than he was. I’m glad to learn that there is (was) one less total jerk in the universe of writers.

  • arcseconds

     Well, he’s a complicated man  :]

    Certainly something of a jerk a lot of the time.  I certainly would not promote him as an exemplar in interpersonal relationships — his treatment of the women in his life often left a lot to be desired, for example.  And his writing is of variable quality to say the least.  I have it on good authority that A History of Philosophy is terrible (backed up by the small portions I have read — I can’t read it, it makes me too angry).

    But he was a versatile thinker, in some ways admirably intellectually honest (he changed his own views several times over the course of his life) a brilliant logician, and one has to take off one’s hat to him for his dedication to social causes.

  • Ian needs a nickname

    “whether he was just so immersed in abstractions that real-world human events didn’t easily grab his attention”Quite the contrary — his political activism is part of the reason why you and I are currently alive.  The Russell-Einstein manifesto he wrote and the Pugwash conferences he helped found were some of the earliest, loudest warnings about the danger posed by nuclear war to every human life.  He lived a life of passionate opposition to evil.

  • Jim Roberts

    I don’t that Russell is guilty of anything here other than speaking to a specific case. If you’re angry in response to an opinion that’s different from your own because it’s a difference of opinion, that probably is a problem. As Fred says, that’s not the reason for anger here. If Bryan Fischer preached only love and peace and all good things about homosexuals, and yet his actions were still harmful, I think anger would still be an appropriate response.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    Huh. This one got screwed up. I’ll try again…

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    Here’s the problem I see:  Barkey takes the Russell quote completely and totally out of context.  Then Fred responds to the quote as if Barkey got everything right.  This is how the quoted paragraph from Russell’s book begins:

    Many matters, however, are less easily brought to the test of experience.  If, like most of mankind, you have passionate convictions on many such matters, there are ways in which you can make yourself aware of your own bias.

    The paragraphs above that are about people who believe things which are demonstrably false because other people told them the falsities, including this bit:

    To avoid the foolish opinions to which mankind are prone, no superhuman genius is required.  A few simple rules will keep you, not from all error, but from silly error.

    The immediate following advice is to figure out if you can observe the phenomenon itself and then, y’know, go do it.  So if someone says, “The sky is blue,” even though you know the sky is a lovely shade of chartreuse because you read it in a book, go and look up at the sky.  If someone is showing you pictures of the sky and explaining that the color spectrum divides and what we see is blue and your only response is to get mad and loudly insist that, no, the sky is chartreuse, then, Russell would argue, you’re getting angry for no damn good reason and your biases are showing.

    This is not an argument that if you’re always angry, you’re always wrong.  It’s an argument that an excess of anger at a person who doesn’t share your opinion could be a sign that you’re covering for your own biases.  Fischer and the Wilsons are demonstrably, factually wrong and they’re also assholes out to dominate those they can and provoke those they can’t into angry responses.  That way, they get to win no matter the outcome. In this case it’s entirely rational to be angry at people who are being monsters. I see nothing in Russell’s work that argues otherwise.

  • SisterCoyote

    Thank you for being angry, Fred. When people like Doug Wilson and Brian Fischer speak, this is the place I go first. This blog, and Rachel Held Evans’ blog, and a few others, are where I know that anger is going to be the response. Not “Well, but, they’re just misguided,” not “Well, but, the LGBTQ community/women is/are bringing this on themselves by their intolerance of Christians,” not “Well, I disagree with their extremism of course, but let’s not overreact here,” but righteous anger, fairly so.

    It’s frightening how many people don’t see a problem with a lukewarm reaction to this stuff.

  • JonathanPelikan

    Being inundated to an unhealthy and abnormal degree in politics relative to most Americans (I vote when possible and occasionally breeze by a few sources of news and can tell you the Speaker of the House of Representatives) I immediately thought of something while reading your (excellent, as usual) post, Fred.


    When confronted with injustice, cruelty and harm, a lack of anger “is a sign that you are subconsciously” failing to love those who are suffering from that injustice, cruelty and harm. If you love them, then you ought to be angry — and that anger ought to compel you to act on their behalf.”

    Oh, hey, it’s one of the things liberals have been desperately yelling at the President since the day he was nominated for that office. Along with ‘why do you keep assuming good faith on the part of those who would gleefully subvert, sabotage, and destroy the United States and its government? And then, when Republicans stab you in the face and laugh about it, and then turn around and earnestly demand that you try even harder to  work with them, why doesn’t your behavior change?’ 

    It seems slowly, slowly, slooooooowly his administration has learned a lesson that should have been known since, at least, mid-Clinton and for decades sooner in many cases. I just hope I’m not wrong in perceiving that our side is getting a little better at retaining the harsh lesson of what it really means to understand American Conservatism over time.

    It also means that I’m not nearly-disgusted about the idea of voting for him as I was, say, two years ago, when the outrage, betrayal, etc, was fresh. I would have done it anyway, and I won’t forget how he kept selling our values out to monsters, but if he really has learned something from it all… I don’t know. It’s an overall feeling based on how Obama and his administration is acting now, at the tail-end of his first administration, as opposed to years past.

  • Müntzer

    I disagree.
    A gay is not my kid sister, nor my cat. I actually find the comparison slightly insulting.
    A gay or lgbt person is an adult able to take care of him or herself without me standing behind them with my fist in my pockets.
    They can defend themselves.
    Does not mean that it should be an instant of ‘yeah, do not care’, but i think this bit of moral outrage is a bit over the top.

  • Mark Z.

    A gay is not my kid sister, nor my cat.

    Is that because you don’t have a sister, or because you’re absolutely sure she’s straight?

  • Müntzer

     It is because my sister is absolutly able to handle her problems without, actually makes a point of it. And me hating or getting angry at anybody she has a problem with would not only be stressful for me but would me get a lot of anger from her.
    Matter of fact, i am the kid brother though roles got a bit muddled..

  • SisterCoyote

     I think I understand what you’re saying. Back in middle school, my younger brother went to beat up a guy who he felt was a danger to me, and I had some feelings of being a bit insulted at the assumption I was incapable of taking care of it myself.

    About two years ago, I met the guy again, and he asked if I was interested in going out. Now, my brother was nowhere nearby, and I was easily capable of going “Uh, no, not interested, sorry.” If he’d pressed the issue, I would’ve walked away. If he’d assaulted me, I would’ve fought back, and shouted for help, and if my brother (or, y’ know, a decent human being in general) was around, I would have kind of expected them to show anger at the guy. Or at least “Yo, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” In fact, I would have expected him to not bother, because there were other human beings, capable of empathy, around at the time.

    Getting angry at people who are hurting, attacking, or persecuting others doesn’t make the persecuted helpless or mean that they can’t stand up for themselves. It is an expression of empathy – someone is hurting, attacking, persecuting someone else. They stand up for themselves, but they shouldn’t have to do so alone.

    When people like Brian Fischer and Doug Wilson make horrible, hateful, abusive statements like these, and only QUILTBAG people get angry or fight back, what does that say about the straight people shrugging and passing by on the far side of the road?

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     When people like Brian Fischer and Doug Wilson make horrible, hateful, abusive statements like these, and only
    QUILTBAG people get angry or fight back, what does that say about the
    straight people shrugging and passing by on the far side of the road?

    Well, y’know, it’s kind of like the way all the slaves got angry and rose up and overthrew the slave-holding order in the South.  Or the way the suffragettes got pissed and went to the polling places and voted themselves the right to vote.  They picked themselves up by their bootstraps and got it done without any help, by gum.

    Certainly if they do it that way the Bryan Fischers of the world will never, ever turn around and say, “Look at the way the gays are getting angry!  All I was doing was speaking the truth.  They must hate the truth!”  And he’d never use that to argue that the gays are demonstrably horrible.  Nor would he use the silence of the majority as an implicit statement that he is, in fact, correct and the gays should continue to be marginalized.

    Nope.  Wouldn’t happen.  Bryan Fischer is a paragon of virtue and to be trusted in all things.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Well, y’know, it’s kind of like the way all the slaves got angry and rose up and overthrew the slave-holding order in the South.

    Actually… they did. Just not in a way that history has recognized, because it’s not completely obvious and blatant on the surface. Former slaves were central in the abolitionist movement. Without the abolitionist movement being as strong as it was, that first shot would likely not have been fired. 

    Once the war officially started for white people as well as black people, slaves escaped in droves to join the Union army. They fought for their freedom directly, both at and behind the lines. The role/s of black people in the Civil War has been disappeared in history for a long time, but they’re being re-discovered, and they were absolutely central. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/fader2011 Alex Harman

    Empathy is one good reason to stand with people who are being hurt against those hurting them, regardless of whether you believe they could successfully stand up for themselves without your help.  Another reason for such solidarity is self-interest: the next time, that bully (or another) might be attacking you, and it would be nice to have his present target on your side if and when that happens.

    Rather than deciding whether to help the targets of bullying based on their ability to defend themselves, I think one should use that assessment to determine how to help — do you stand (literally or metaphorically) in front of, beside, or behind them?  Getting in front, making the fight your fight, should only be done when the victim of bullying is badly overmatched and/or already taking a beating (i.e. when that word victim is truly applicable); it’s not the appropriate response for straight allies of the QUILTBAG community against bullies like Brian Fischer in the present American context.  When the person being bullied is outnumbered or outclassed but still fighting, the way to help is to join in.  Bullies are generally cowards, quick to run from an even fight or one that’s starting to tilt against them.  Finally, even if a bully’s target is winning the fight alone, it doesn’t hurt to let both that person and bully (and any other like-minded bullies who might think of piling on) know that you’ve got his or her back.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    Bullies are generally cowards, quick to run from an even fight or one that’s starting to tilt against them.

    Only fight I’ve ever been in was when I was 10 and a boy at least a year older and much bigger was picking on my 5- and 6-year old brothers. Scream, leap, and I don’t remember much beyond that, but I ran him off. The sort of 11 year old bullies who pick on kindergartners aren’t very keen on fights with people who come anywhere near their own size.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    It is because my sister is absolutly able to handle her problems
     
    You’re changing the scenario. Fred wrote, “Say you see somebody hurting your kids — deliberately, cruelly inflicting harm on them.” However well your sister may handle her problems in general (and there’s no reason you can’t be proud of her for handling them while angry these problems need to be handled), in this hypothetical she needs help.

  • Müntzer

     I do not change the scenario.
    I see it differently.
    I do not see an adult chasing my kid sister around the block with a stick.
    I see a schoolyard bully. That does not anger me, i am confident my kid sister will be able to handle it.

  • SisterCoyote

    So, if I can de-metaphorize this for a moment, I think what you’re saying is this:

    Bryan Fischer and Doug Wilson and their ilk are unimportant, and relatively harmless threats to the LGTBQ community and women, and therefore only people from those communities should respond to them? And therefore no one but LGBTQ people and women should be angry about what they are saying?

    Also, if a schoolyard bully started hitting my little brother with a stick, I wouldn’t stand there and go “Eh, he’ll probably be fine,” I would get the hell over there and take the stick away, make sure my brother was okay, and then march the kid over to his parents. And hell yes I would be angry. Even if my brother managed to ‘handle it’ himself, I’d still be angry.

    When I see someone hurting someone else deliberately, I get angry. Even if that person is an adult, capable of defending themselves. It doesn’t make the unjustice or the cruelty any less horrible.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    I see a schoolyard bully. That does not anger me, i am confident my kid sister will be able to handle it.

    And when she comes home with cuts and bruises, how does that make you feel? What about broken bones?

    You can sit there and talk about personal responsibility, and not patronising people, but HERE, NOW, people are being harmed while you insist that they’re doing fine and don’t need your help.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    So if someone were trying to physically hurt your sister, you wouldn’t step in to help her?

    Wow.

  • JayemGriffin

    My younger brother is six inches taller than I am, and a good 30 pounds heavier. He’s a high-school-soon-to-be-college athlete, and far, far better at dealing with physical threats than my scrawny self. Why the hell wouldn’t I still get angry at someone who thought it was okay to threaten or, gods forbid, hurt him?

  • The_L1985

    There’s a difference between being angry at the kid and actually doing something, though. I’d be mad at the kid, regardless of whether my bro could handle himself or not.

  • The_L1985

    Ack! Responded to the wrong comment, sorry!

  • http://profiles.google.com/fader2011 Alex Harman

    While I don’t have a kid sister, I do have a seventeen-year-old niece who is a lesbian, and has been aware of that fact since she was about twelve.  Very few things would be more likely to incite me to violence than someone harming her, for that or any other (or no) reason.

  • MadGastronomer

    Wow. Way to be completely factually wrong as well as bigoted. Every LGBT person (“a gay” is fucking insulting, by the way, which I’m reasonably sure you’re pleased about given the rest of what you said) is someone’s child, someone’s brother or sister or cousin. Not all LGBT people are adults; there are lots of children and teens who already know they’re queer. Some are, in fact, children. And all of us are very vulnerable simply because we are outnumbered. People are trying to prevent us from having our basic civil rights, people are trying to kill us, and they can succeed simply because there aren’t very many of us. How, then, do we not need protection? How do adults not need protection from entire gangs of other adults out to harm them? We’re not talking about a schoolyard bully, we’re talking about fucking mobs, with torches and pitchforks, after individuals.

  • nirrti

     “I disagree. A gay is not my kid sister, nor my cat. I actually find the comparison slightly insulting.”

    My kid sister is gay, actually…and that makes me doubly obligated to care about the rights of lbgt people. I don’t have the luxury of seeing gay rights as some abstract concept that doesn’t affect me. I have to worry whether my sister will be attacked, fired, or ostracised for being a lesbian.

    I’m so thankful she doesn’t live down South where I am. It’s a place where people look at me with disgust just for wearing rainbow-colored leg warmers. I can only imagine how these folks would treat her.

  • The_L1985

    Er, gay is an adjective, not a noun. I believe you mean “a gay person,” but in the absence of a noun, I can’t really be sure.

  • http://twitter.com/AmethystMarieTM Amethyst Marie

    Do you know that lgbt people start out as children like everyone else? And that many of those children commit suicide due to bullying and social oppression before they reach adulthood? If that’s not worthy of moral outrage, I don’t know what is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

    I can see how anger can be repressed. Angry people tend not to do well in media or stories, and if you’re interested in being a nice person (or seeming like a nice person), anger can be something that you avoid, either consciously or unconsciously. For whatever reason, I was pretty disconnected from my anger and my ability to confront in years past (it’s coming back, though!).

    I think it’s a good idea to distinguish between destructive anger and constructive anger, the way this post does. Let’s do more of that, and teach our kids (and other people who we can teach) to.

  • MaryKaye

    I hate that Russell quote.

    I think there are *plenty* of reasons to be angry at someone else’s expression of their opinions, besides uncertainty about the truth of one’s own.  I’m not sure that reason is even in the top 5, though it may be in the top 10.  (And yes, as esmerelda_ogg pointed out, how useful it is to those who don’t want to be the targets of your anger!)

    You can be angry because you’re a controlling person who needs to be agreed with.  Or because you fear that the other person’s opinions will lead them to hurt you, or hurt people and things you value.  Or because you think the other person’s disagreement reflects hypocrisy or willful stupidity or lying.  Or because wrong opinions are just grit in the wheels of your mind–I think of the xkcd strip that says “I can’t go to sleep now.  Someone is wrong on the Internet.”  Or because you fear the opinions will persuade others, leaving you in a minority and subject to all the disadvantages that brings.  Or because the opinions are a marker of tribal membership and you dislike non-members of your tribe.  Or because you’ve been hurt by those opinions and hearing them re-opens the wounds.  Or….lots of reasons.

    It somewhat reminds me of the dictum, often trotted out in discussions of artwork, that if you have a strongly negative reaction to a piece of art that means it’s a good piece of art.  Well, sometimes; but sometimes not.  Similarly, if an opinion makes you mad, does that mean it has a point?  Well, sometimes….but sometimes not.  Sometimes stupidity is itself infuriating.

  • GDwarf

    Russell was, indeed, not claiming to have a definitive litmus test. As Geds notes, that’s just one piece of several methods he offers to let people see their own biases. If nothing else, it’s always good to stop and think why you’re angry.

  • Isabel C.

    My friends are adults and can solve their own problems. But I still get angry at people who treat them badly.  And vice versa.

    If a friend tried to solve a problem *for* me, while not asking for or disregarding my input, I would be offended. But “…he said *that*? Jesus, what a dickhead!” is not patronizing me. 

  • arcseconds

    Typically victims of bullying can’t effectively stand up for themselves.  They’re usually being picked on by people who are bigger than them, more numerous than them, and have more power in society than they do.  If they could stand up for themselves in an effective manner, they probably wouldn’t be bullied.

    One of the worst things about bullying (both in the playground and in
    wider society, because you’re a in a minority and people can get away
    with it) is the feeling of being alone and helpless.

    this can be worse than physical harm in many respects.

    On the other side, the position of strength that bullies operate from is largely or completely undermined if everyone stands against them.

    So this idea of leaving them alone to fend for themselves doesn’t add up for me.  Maybe they can look out for themselves, and maybe it’ll improve them as a person if you let them do this, but it seems to me that even if they can look out for themselves they’ll appreciate an ally.  It’ll also make it clear to the bully that they can expect the numbers to not work out in their favour any more. 

    On the other hand, there’s a good chance that actually they can’t look out for themselves, and they’ll suffer emotional harm if you don’t come to their aid, and the bully will be encouraged in their bullying behaviour.

    Anyway, why does it always have to be about the victim? I hate bullies; I’m not going to miss out on an opportunity to show them what for.

  • MadGastronomer

    Thank you, Fred. I love the Augustine quote.

  • AnonymousSam

    Huh. How about that. An anger response.

    I guess that’s working then.

  • MadGastronomer

    Was that in response to something specific, Sam?

  • AnonymousSam

    Yup. The smell of privilege is thick in the air. Someone didn’t have the shit kicked out of them often enough as a child… and as a teenager… and as an adult… to develop the instinctual fear of human beings that tends to make one rather receptive to the idea that hardship isn’t the best character builder.

  • Müntzer

    Ah, and we got the blog-mob going.
    If ‘gay’ gives offence, i am sorry, i did not know.
    As for the rest:
    I do not see the problem.
    People say extremly offensive things all the while. It is the way of the world.
    I personally share membership in three groups about which people like to say offensive things. Lots of my friends, too.
    But words break no bones and the best way to make sure to get hurt is to listen closely what people you know hate you for whatever reason will say about or to you.
    And no, i do not get angry about such things anymore. I feel pity. I do not feel threatened.
    And to bring it around to my kid sister:
    Yes, if somebody waits for her on the way home to beat her up (for whatever reason) there is gonna be blood.
    If someone is just saying he will, i will make sure she understands that one does not listen or care for such windbags. I would not dignify his threats with a reaction but i would, as i can, give my sister the feeling that she needs not fear and that the world does not hate her.

    On an off-note:
    A bit ‘loving thy enemy’ did a lot of good for my mental and spiritual health. I can only recommend it.

  • MadGastronomer

     “A gay” is offensive, not “gay”. It’s not a noun, and using it as a noun is reductive, objectifying and dehumanizing.

    And we are not talking only about people saying things, by the way — although there’s a mountain of evidence that the words alone are hugely damaging — we are talking about people actively doing things to hurt us. Trying to prevent us from having basic human rights, for one. Some of these people are actively involved in making sure that LGBT people in Africa are executed for it. They’re actively encouraging people to physically attack us individually. And Fred talks about this in the fucking piece, and you are ignoring it and waving away the problems that face us as unimportant, while using a whole stack of homophobic dog whistles (“a gay,” insisting that we’re all adults, insisting that we don’t need defending and we aren’t really being attacked, minimizing and ignoring what’s actually being done to us).

    You are, yourself, actively, in this conversation, saying things that prop up and allow homophobia to continue. You are engaged in hurting us. Fuck you.

  • MadGastronomer

    A bit ‘loving thy enemy’ did a lot of good for my mental and spiritual health. I can only recommend it.

    You know, I missed this before.

    Again, fuck you. Another dog whistle. Oppressed people keep being fed exactly this fucking line. It’s an attempt to shut us up, to stop us fighting against those who hurt us. If you choose it and it works for you, good for you, but telling us we should adhere to it is doing the work of the oppressors.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    One of the things that really ticks me off about that line: they don’t actually want the oppressed to love their enemies. They want the oppressed to stfu. Those are completely and entirely different things. You can love someone and still get absolutely furious with them. Jesus didn’t say, “let’s all smile and play nice and pretend we’re okay all the time.” He tore shit up.

  • MadGastronomer

     This is true.

    I have to admit, though, also kind of sick of having it shoved down my throat when I’m not Christian and that sentiment has nothing to do with my religion or morality.

  • Isabel C.

    Yeah, this.

    There are a fair number of unexamined assumptions involved with posting something like that on a blog where you know the audience is not entirely Christian.

    I’ve been trying to work on compassion and forgiveness and so forth lately, in my own life, but…there are three things about that:

    1. “Forgiving” someone, for me, doesn’t mean not calling them out, or even not being angry at them. It means accepting the possibility that they can change and be sorry for what they’ve said or done, and *possibly* giving them the benefit of the doubt.  It *certainly* doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take steps to prevent people from actively harming you or others. 

    2. Forgiveness should never come at the expense of the victim.* You don’t tell an abuse victim to forgive his or her abuser. I mean, many people do, but those people are privilege-blinded jerks. 

    3. Forgiveness is your personal decision, not anyone else’s. 

    And honestly? If I told a loved one about being threatened or insulted or harassed and their reaction wasn’t at least a *little* angry on my behalf**, that would throw me. If I’m talking about how this guy was hassling me on the subway and it pissed me off and my best friend’s response is “Well, you know, you really shouldn’t pay attention to those guys,” then…what the hell, best friend?

    I mean, I can look after myself. I’m not in any physical danger. But part of being someone’s loved one is having their back, and “Oh my God, what an asshole! I’m sorry–I hope that dude finds a brown recluse in his shorts,” or whatever is a having-your-back expression. Whereas I’d find “Oh, you don’t need to pay attention to those guys,” to be *way* more patronizing, because…I know that, thank you, and sometimes I *do* need to pay attention to those guys, because they (as MG said) can turn physically threatening, and I am looking for some goddamn solidarity here, not a Yoda lecture.

    *Refraining from vengeance, maybe, because that’s a larger societal thing and etc. Depends on the conversation. 
    **Which, there’s a whole thing about being too angry and making the other person’s experience all about you, also, but let’s assume said loved one is reading my signals fine and not doing that.

  • Jackalope

    ” Forgiveness should never come at the expense of the victim.* You don’t
    tell an abuse victim to forgive his or her abuser. I mean, many people
    do, but those people are privilege-blinded jerks. ”

    I disagree with this, and here’s why. I think many people have a wrong understanding of what forgiveness means; for example, they think that it means reconciliation, or allowing the relationship to go back to what it was before the offending event happened, or something like that.

    When reading the book “Forgiving the Dead Man Walking”, I appreciated the definition of forgiveness that the author gave at the end (for those who aren’t familiar with the book, it is written by one of the rape victims of one of the men who provided the composite for the criminal in “Dead Man Walking”). I don’t remember exactly how she put it, but her basic idea is that those who have been hurt (whether something small or something huge) can’t get around having been hurt, but they can choose not to hold on to their anger. They can say that they will not let that event continue to break and destroy them, and that they will let go of their anger and their right to revenge/retribution. In most cases, if you hang on to your anger and bitterness you don’t hurt the person that victimized you at all; you only hurt yourself. Forgiveness is a way to change that. You can admit  that what the person did was wrong and hurtful and then let go of your hurt while still not excusing what the other person did. I am wrestling with how I write this because I feel like this will sound facile, and that’s not what I mean. I know that this process can be long and painful; I’m currently trying to work through hurts caused by a family member decades ago and am only managing to do it bit by bit. But as I let go, it helps me not to be as hurt by their actions.

    Reconciliation, on the other hand, means rebuilding the relationship. In some cases that may be good and necessary, but in others it is not. I might, when talking with an abuse victim that I knew well and who seemed to be in the right place to hear it, encourage them to forgive and let go so that the past wouldn’t keep traumatizing them. I would not try to get them to reconcile unless that was where they were and it seemed like it was the desire of the other person’s heart as well. And when I say that I mean, for example, someone who was victimized and then a few years later talked to the family member who did it and that family member says, “I’m sorry; I hurt you and I can’t take that back, but I will not do it again.” Who then goes on to not do it again. (This is about the only situation where reconciliation would work; I don’t tend to expect this, but I have seen times when this did happen.) Otherwise, I would tell the victim to break off the relationship with that family member… to avoid the manipulative phone calls… or do whatever else is necessary for self-protection.

    This was all very long and I apologize, but I wanted to make sure I shared. I also thought some of you might appreciate the following post (if you haven’t seen it already): http://www.danoah.com/2011/11/im-christian-unless-youre-gay.html

  • Baby_Raptor

    And now you’re going to pretend that you’re better than we are, and try and lecture us? Get the Fuck out of town. 

  • The_L1985

    Words break no bones–directly. But words are how thoughts become actions.

    Look at the children who were abused and killed by parents who were just following the advice in Michael Pearl’s books on child-rearing, and then tell me words don’t cause harm.

    Look at how Hitler’s rhetoric led to the atrocities of the Third Reich, and then tell me words don’t cause harm.*

    Look at every single teenager who has committed suicide because people wouldn’t stop harassing them for being too “butch” or “girly” (even if they weren’t actually gay), and then fucking tell me that words don’t cause harm.

    Words never happen alone.  They inspire other people to act.  And hateful words lead to hateful deeds.

    * This is not a Godwin; Hitler wouldn’t even have been elected in the first place if he hadn’t been damned good at public speaking.  And guess what he thought of the Jews?

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Words break no bones–directly. But words are how thoughts become actions.

    Yes, but also, words break hearts and psyches. Obviously they also cause physical violence, but that is not the only or even the main harm they cause. Psychological harm is real harm. 

  • AnonymousSam

    And sadly, the people whom an individual should most be able to trust to provide them with support are the ones most capable of inflicting it. Parents, teachers, significant others…

    Arrgh, which just makes me think about the school that recently refused to allow a branch of the Secular Student Alliance to be set up in a high school. The letter they sent the SSA underscores this entire concept of isolation and willful abuse of trust and bullying.

    A few choice quotes of the letter one of the school officials sent the SSA:

    When beliefs are far from what is considered the norm you should have the expectation that you will be judged.  Also, in any society the few are sometimes required to participate in the activities of the masses if they do not want to be ostracized.

    Educational staff has the responsibility of preparing students to be responsible adults.  We expect all students to be treated with respect.  We are not, however, obligated to protect those who choose to be deviants in society.

    A welcoming environment is what we should not create.  Satan should not be comfortable in God’s world.  You say they should develop their own world view when you really want them to  adopt your world view.  The book they need to read for information is the Bible.  Nontheism should not be spoken of in a tone of acceptance.

    Obviously, I would not want to help students down the wrong path.  A group tried to form at our school.  It was from one of those students that I received this brochure.  Not surprisingly, they could not get a teacher to sponsor the club.  As educators we are dedicated to conveying the truth to students.  If the students are proud of believing there is no God they should not feel like they have to hide it.  They should not feel the need for a safe haven.

    The group that tried to get started here could not find a sponsor because as educators we want to lead students in a positive direction; not lead them to hell.

    This is why solidarity is important. This is why we need people ready to show support for the underdog. Because in the absence of that solidarity, there is isolation, followed by abuse.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    The group that tried to get started here could not find a sponsor because as educators we want to lead students in a positive direction; not lead them to hell.

    I am completely unsurprised that they punctuated incorrectly here. 

    Dear Invisible Pink Unicorn, what willfully ignorant, evil assholes. I wonder how they can breathe with their heads so far up their asses.

  • hapax

    AnonymousSam — was this a public school in the USA?  Because any official who was fool enough to commit such bigoted and blatantly unconstitutional sentiments to print (oh, please tell me it was done on school letterhead) just handed an open-and-shut case to anyone who cares to file suit.

    Even here in the Bible Belt.

    (Doesn’t mean that it wasn’t also cruel, hurtful, and abuse.  But holy cats, it was STUPID.)

  • AnonymousSam

     Yes, it was in the US. It wasn’t given a return address, but the SSA was able to figure out who had sent it and what school it originated from and they have acted accordingly.

  • http://profiles.google.com/fader2011 Alex Harman

    You beat me to it: reading that passage made me angry, yes, but there’s also a certain… hungry anticipation that comes with watching a jackwagon like that paint a huge bullseye on his butt and bend over to make it easier to kick.

  • Müntzer

    Oh, i got that plenty.
    And for a time i was on the trip that the world was out to get me and i had to prick my ears up so i would not miss anything that could warn me.
    So i became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
    Since i learned not to assume the worst, my life has gotten significantly better. What i wrote, worked for me.
    Also:
    I would see it as the ultimate victories of the bullies who where not able to break me in school if i were forever unable to shake their influence. I stayed in the mindset of a paranoid ninth grader for to long to still believe in the lie that ‘they were so mean to me, now i know what humans are really like’.
    It was, at least to me, an arrogant lie i told myself so i could put my past behind me and at the same time feel smug about having made it. Now i was better cause i knew.
    Today i believe that was wrong. I knew nothing. I feared. And because i feared and would not trust i made sure that only very few people, those who were willing to put up with my attitude, my smugness, my martyr complex and my arrogance, would get to know me. And if any of those disappointed me i fell even harder.
    I write this not for the ‘i suffered to’-credit points, i write this because i found something that made my live better and i would like to share.
    What made my life better was when i started to forgive.
    I still slip and it is hard, but it feels good not to hate and fear and mistrust anymore (so much).
    Anyway, i wish you and whoever else i might have annoyed, and also those i did not annoy, the best.
    Good night.

  • ConservativeWhitebread

    yeah, but the difference here is the world ISN’T out to get you.  it is out to get gay folks, generally.

    hence MadGastronomer’s entire post.

  • AnonymousSam

    Here’s where your experience goes off the rails from what I’m talking about:

    The people in your scenario stopped when you grew up. Either that or you grew into a position (physically, socially or otherwise) where their ability to bully was limited to methods which were largely insubstantial. Now you can feel safe and secure and look down on people for their silly fears about Islamic terrorists and shadowy government figures and the phantoms of their childhood.

    Me, I continued to get the crap beaten out of me on a regular basis well into my twenties, well after I had graduated from college, well after I was an adult with an adult’s job and adult responsibilities. I got only a reprieve by moving across the country, away from the people (including family members) who’d been making life hell for me. I moved 2000 miles away  from the people who’d been doing this since my childhood and it still remains a concern every time I go out in public that someone might take it in their head that merely yelling and throwing things isn’t enough. There have already been several close calls. It will eventually happen. I’m quite probably older than you, and I still have to deal with the legitimate fear that any day now, I may have to fight for my life for the crime of going out in public.

    Us small people, the ones you belittle by expecting to have the same privileges you enjoy (but who damn well don’t, by design of the system)? You dehumanize us by trivializing the obstacles we have to deal with on a regular basis. It’s literally something you can never experience (your skin color isn’t the wrong shade, your lover isn’t the wrong gender, your accent isn’t different, etc.), and thus can never truly understand. Not until you’re a true minority in a country full of people who hate you, who don’t care that you have a human identity, who derive pleasure from your suffering, and from whom you have no protection at all because police officers, judges and government officials might not only deny that you should be protected, but might even join in.

    And then you wave your hand and say “You can take care of yourself. Just keep a positive attitude and you’ll be fine.”

    Yeah, thanks.

  • The_L1985

     This isn’t about the victims learning to get past what happened to them.

    This is about innocent bystanders not simply accepting bullying as “the way of the world.”

    The people who were mean to you, were mean because THEY were mean people.  To pretend that they weren’t is every bit as bad as pretending that all people are bullies.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    Important note: When everyone around you starts making similar points about why you are wrong, consider the possibility that it is not a gang-mentality, but that you are, in fact, WRONG.

    You might not always be wrong (Did you recently run into the WBC? Are you at a Texas GOP meeting?), but it’s definitely worth looking into.

  • Emcee, cubed

    Do you know who these people are? These are not the guy down the street,
    or the person working in the Wal-Mart, or some kid in the schoolyard. These are people who have large
    organizations with large amounts of money, who wield quite a bit of
    influence with certain politicians who are in a position to enact
    legislation and policy.

    “Words are just words” is a lie. It has always been a lie, it will always be a lie. Words have power. In some cases, words can have a whole lot of power. Just figure out why Republicans keep wanting to talk about “job creators” instead of “wealthy, power hungry CEOs”. Words can change perceptions, make people sympathetic to a cause, or dehumanize a group to make it easier to to take away their rights and justify hurting them. “Words are just words” is a dogwhistle meaning “Just sit there and take it and don’t complain.”

    Words also have purpose. AIDS denial is not just calling someone a name. The point of denying AIDS is the same as denying the Holocaust. The purpose is so that it happens again. People like Fischer would be thrilled if people shifted the focus and funding to things other than preventing the spread of HIV, because it would mean more of “those kind of people” dying. He would be thrilled if people who already have HIV start going for “alternative” medications (or no medications) because they think HIV doesn’t cause AIDS for the same reason. Ignoring these type of comments with either, “Who would believe this?” or “It isn’t my problem” doesn’t do anything to help, and can actively cause harm. Look at John Kerry for the proof.

    As a very wise woman whom I respect very much once said, Fuck You.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    When someone is your enemy, and you love them, it hurts.  It hurts at least as much as whatever pain and abuse they inflict upon you.

    I’m not saying that there isn’t value in loving one’s enemy, I’m sure there is a great deal of it in many situations, but it is also worth understanding that not loving one’s enemy isn’t just something done to make it easier to hurt them, it’s also a defense mechanism to make it hurt less when they hurt you.

    If loving your enemy doesn’t tear you up inside, then you don’t have many enemies worthy of the title.  By all means, go on loving them, but be aware that you don’t know what it’s like.

    Loving your enemy doesn’t always lead to calmer responses.  In my experience it makes you scream louder, fight harder, and hold nothing back when the breaking point finally comes, because you can’t make it easier by pretending the person on the other side is a complete monster, you know better, you love them, and that means what you’ve been going through is, inescapably, horrible beyond description.

  • AnonymousSam

    In the event that the person IS a complete monster, loving them becomes utterly irrelevant anyway. :p

    God can’t even perceive SCP-682.

  • MorganGuyton

    There’s a question of audience. When you’re taking on a bully, are you trying to convert the bully to your perspective or are you trying to galvanize and empower the other kids who are being bullied also? I’m not sure we’re always responsible for speaking in such a way that we
    can convert our enemies instead of galvanizing our allies. But at the same time, part of following the Savior who got His !@#$%^&* lynched is subscribing to the truth that beauty wins over rage in the long run. So it’s not illegitimate to be angry and talk back to power as an act of solidarity with those who are bullied, but can we do so in a way that exudes a more beautiful vision for the world?

    When progressive Christians play gotcha games and lose our integrity and decency, we alienate people who might otherwise be open. Think of your own history. How many of you reading this were at one point a fundamentalist gnashing your teeth in the outer darkness of those who hate God’s mercy? As Paul says, we all start out as “children of wrath.” What did you need to hear to stop being an asshole? Think about that as you consider the tone with which you write even if you’re angry because you love.

  • Lori

     

    When progressive Christians play gotcha games 

    And right there you totally lost me. Quoting what someone actually said, in context, and noting it’s obvious implications is not playing “gotcha games”. That frame is a big help to horrible people, but not much use otherwise.

     

    As Paul says, we all start out as “children of wrath.” What did you need
    to hear to stop being an asshole? Think about that as you consider the
    tone with which you write even if you’re angry because you love.  

    Contrary to what Paul had to say, not everyone starts out as an asshole and has to hear something in order to stop.  No one is perfect. Everyone has faults and prejudices and blind spots. Not everyone is an asshole. In fact, I’m pretty sure Paul was making himself feel better about his own assholishness, more than stating an actual truism. That’s understandable coming from a guy whose massive self-righteousness caused him to support a murderous mob and who  remained sort of a dick even after his big conversion, but that doesn’t make it true.

    Also, way to bring the tone argument. Those are always helpful.

  • MorganGuyton

     A lot of us here are ex-fundamentalists. You’re right that it’s wrong to generalize and assume that everyone shares my experience. My wife grew up blissfully unaware of the world that I was immersed in. I call her a fundamentalism-denier because she always says, “People don’t really believe THAT, do they?”

    For me, I needed to be exposed to something to give me the courage to say, “No, that’s bullshit. God isn’t like that.” I guess it’s not so much that I was an asshole per se, but that I thought I had to prove my loyalty to a mean God. I think that’s where a lot of people are coming from. They’re trying to prove their loyalty because they think that’s what “faith” means.

    I’m not trying to silence anybody or shut anybody down. But there are decisions we can make in terms of how we write that will make a difference in whether our thoughts are instantaneously dismissed or whether they are effective evangelism to people who are trapped in doctrinal works-righteousness.

  • Lori

     

      A lot of us here are ex-fundamentalists. 

    I’m aware. I was raised in a fundamentalist faith and virtually my entire family is still in it.

  • MadGastronomer

     

    But there are decisions we can make in terms of how we write that will
    make a difference in whether our thoughts are instantaneously dismissed
    or whether they are effective evangelism to people who are trapped in
    doctrinal works-righteousness.

    You’re assuming that changing those minds is everyone’s goal. It isn’t mine. There are other people better suited to that, and I have better things to be doing. It isn’t all about the fundamentalists and evangelicals. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all about the people who have been hurt, and protecting them.

    You put your focus where you like, and I’ll put my focus where I like, ok?

  • Emcee, cubed

    There is no way to stop people like Fischer from being an asshole. Or from actually hurting people. Because he knows he is an asshole, and that he is hurting people. He doesn’t care. He does it anyway. He knows what he is saying is a lie. He says it anyway. It is one of numerous lies he tells knowingly, in order to hurt people. And he makes a lot of money doing it. “Considering my tone” isn’t going to change him. “Loving my enemy” isn’t going to change him. And to be fair, my righteous anger isn’t going to change him. However, if a whole lot of people rain down righteous anger on him, it has more of a chance of shutting him up than anything does. But generally, “Oh. please, sir might you stop hurting me?” pretty much never succeeds.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    A few years back, some group of haters protested my niece’s high school because it had a Gay Straight Alliance. A bunch of people on the Internet pledged to donate money to the school’s GSA for every hour the protesters were in front of the school, and someone took to putting up signs thanking the protesters for helping fund their activities… “you’ve raised $N for us so far! Thanks!” and so forth.

    I thought that was friggin brilliant. I cannot imagine any amount of righteous anger rained down on the haters that would have been more effective at demotivating them.

    It also demonstrates a general principle I think is sound: often, it’s more effective to respond to oppression by supporting the oppressed than by chastising the oppressors.

    Not to mention, you know, that the oppressed get supported into the bargain.

    That said, I can absolutely respect someone who believes that, by raining
    righteous anger down on those who behave badly, they can reduce the
    onset of bad behavior, and who therefore rain righteous anger down on
    those who behave badly. I think they’re usually wrong, mind you. But I can
    respect them. They are trying to fix the problem, even if they’ve got
    the wrong solution.

    I have less respect for those who choose to rain righteous anger down on
    those who behave badly whether it fixes the problem or not, simply
    because it’s satisfying to do so.

  • Lori

     

    A few years back, some group of haters protested my niece’s high school
    because it had a Gay Straight Alliance. A bunch of people on the
    Internet pledged to donate money to the school’s GSA for every hour the
    protesters were in front of the school, and someone took to putting up
    signs thanking the protesters for helping fund their activities…
    “you’ve raised $N for us so far! Thanks!” and so forth.

     I thought that was friggin brilliant. I cannot imagine any amount
    of righteous anger rained down on the haters that would have been more
    effective at demotivating them.  

    What do you suppose motivated people to donate that money?

    I’ll hazard a guess that for many of them it was righteous anger. The fact that someone isn’t screaming in a protestor’s face doesn’t mean s/he isn’t acting from anger. Holding up a sign rubbing it in isn’t exactly totally separate from anger either.

    You’re confusing the means of expression with the emotion. And then saying that expressions you consider friggin brilliant are good and other expressions are bad. There are 2 obvious problems with that and probably a couple less obvious ones that I’m too tired to sort out right now.

     

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    You’re confusing the means of expression with the emotion. And then
    saying that expressions you consider friggin brilliant are good and
    other expressions are bad.

    If everyone else is in agreement that “raining righteous anger down on the haters” includes things like making a ten dollar donation to a school’s GSA, and I’m the only one so easily confused that the latter doesn’t readily come to mind when I think about the former, that’s awesome. I would be delighted to discover that, and would be entirely in agreement with people who believed that that raining righteous anger down on the haters can be effective.

    That’s not especially consistent with my experience of people, but my experience of people is hardly definitive.

  • Lori

     

    If everyone else is in agreement that “raining righteous anger down on
    the haters” includes things like making a ten dollar donation to a
    school’s GSA, and I’m the only one so easily confused that the latter
    doesn’t readily come to mind when I think about the former, that’s awesome 

    So I’ll ask again, what do you think motivated people to contribute money to that GSA in a way that was based on what the protesters did, pledging based on protest time, as opposed to sending a flat $X donation? What do you think motivated GSA members to hold up signs announcing how much money the protesters had raised for the group?

  • Beroli

     

    If everyone else is in agreement that “raining righteous anger down on
    the haters” includes things like making a ten dollar donation to a
    school’s GSA, and I’m the only one so easily confused that the latter
    doesn’t readily come to mind when I think about the former, that’s awesome.
    I would be delighted to discover that, and would be entirely in
    agreement with people who believed that that raining righteous anger
    down on the haters can be effective.

    While I have only your description to go on, it strikes me as unlikely that the “you’ve raised $N for us so far! Thanks!” were being put up in a spirit of genuine belief that the protestors would be thrilled that they had caused the school they were protesting to get money. Rather than, you know, taunting. Angrily taunting, even. Chastising the oppressors.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Beroli:

    it strikes me as unlikely that the “you’ve raised $N for us so far!
    Thanks!” signs were being put up in a spirit of genuine belief that the
    protestors would be thrilled

    Sure, this is unlikely in the extreme… so much so that it’s not really a possibility worth considering. 100% agreed.

    Lori:

    So I’ll ask again, what do you think motivated people to contribute
    money to that GSA in a way that was based on what the protesters did

    A combination of the desire to support that GSA and the desire to show the protesters their tactics won’t work. And, sure, often those things were experienced in anger, and in some cases the donators would not have bothered to donate if they weren’t angry. And often neither of those things were true. Either way, I certainly don’t think the motivation was just the desire to express anger, or even primarily that. There are cheaper and easier ways to express anger.

    MadGastronomer:

    maybe refrain from all the forms of OMG YOU CAN’T DO ACTIVISM LIKE THAT
    your responses are heavy with. The I KNOW BETTER THAN YOU shit can be
    done without as well.

    Fair enough. Moving forward I will try harder to convey the belief that other people are free to do activism however they find effective, and the belief that my own generalizations from lived experience might be either altogether wrong or just not applicable to the context at hand. Certainly both of those  things are true, and I agree with you that it’s good for me to convey them, and it’s clear from your responses (and those of some others) that I don’t convey them reliably.

  • MadGastronomer

    Regardless of what you think, it continues to work pretty well as a preventative for me. For example, I have a Fat Acceptance blog. I make it really, really plain that I don’t tolerate hate, that hate-filled comments will not be published in the thread, but might be published with any and all identifying information I have (email, IP, facebook) on a separate page, and if so is going to be met with nastiness. And when a troll site (notably a fat-hating subreddit and a particularly vile bit of 4chan) link to me, I get a lot less of the hate than other FA blogs I know for the amount of traffic I get.

    It also serves the purpose of letting other people who are hurt by the bigotry know that there are people who will stand against the bigotry, and I assure you, it is very effective at that.

    Regardless of what you think.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    That’s great — I’m glad it’s effective, and I endorse doing things that are effective. (Not that what I think matters, but since you’re responding to me in the first place, I figured I’d mention the fact.)

  • MadGastronomer

    Seriously, I know this is not the first time someone has told you that the angry approach is, in fact, effective. So maybe telling us that we’re WRONG, and it’s not really effective, is not the best tack to take.

    Indeed, maybe refrain from all the forms of OMG YOU CAN’T DO ACTIVISM LIKE THAT your responses are heavy with. The I KNOW BETTER THAN YOU shit can be done without as well.

    And if you don’t think that donating money in those circumstances is another way of saying Fuck You for a lot of people, then I really don’t think much of your understanding of other people.

  • Boze Herrington

    “Say you see somebody hurting your kids — deliberately, cruelly
    inflicting harm on them. That will make you angry. Such anger is right
    and proper and just. You will be angry because you love your kids, and
    that anger and that love will compel you to act on their behalf — to stop this cruel somebody from harming them.”

    This is the reason I believe in hell.

  • arcseconds

    I don’t think there’s a lot of chance of getting people like Fischer to change their mind about anything.  This belief that he has about AIDS, I don’t really know where that comes from, but it’s certainly not from any concern with evidence and rational argument and suggests he doesn’t have the intellectual humility to learn from us.

    But that’s surely not the only point about arguing with people who are wrong on the internet, nor even the main one.

    Here are some other considerations:

    1) setting community standards for discourse.   If no-one says anything, people get to spout off this harmful crap without any minuses, which means more people will do it, which will result in the ideas being tolerated.  heated opposition might not stop the hardest of hearts, but there’s a lot of people who will keep mum if they think they’ll get an earful.

    The flip side of this is that by responding critically to it, you make it that much easier for the next person to speak out about it.

    With public figures like Wilson and Fischer, there’s even a chance of the outcry forcing their parent organisation to force them to retract, which will make them much less likely to say such things in the future.

    2) the opinions of bystanders.  Fischer may be beyond all help, but not everyone who listens to him is.   If they see the claptrap and don’t see a counter, it’s more likely that they’ll be swayed.  This doesn’t happen always in an entirely rational manner (surprise!): even just having it socially acceptable to say such things brings them into the realm of opinions that it’s possible for a reasonable person to hold, making it much more likely that people will take this sort of idiocy seriously (see (1) above).

    3) solidarity with the people directly affected.  If it’s only vocal LBQT folk that are seen to mind, they’ll get the impression that it’s a cold and lonely world out there.  Much better for them to feel part of a large group of people, including a whole bunch of straight people, who are also outraged.  Best would be if they felt they were a majority, and that it’s a cold and hostile place for people like Fischer!

    Finally, there is still a non-zero chance of this kind of thing helping to change even the original utterer’s mind.  It’s hard to tell what goes into shifting people on these issues, but continual arguments can be part of the story.

    Running through all of this is how much more effective it is if it’s coming from everyone, not just Fischer’s targets.  he’s not likely to shut up, or be shut up, or change his mind if it’s just the vocal LBQT blogs that argue against him.

    I do have a bit of a concern about feeding the troll and giving air-time to loathsome opinions here, though.  In some circumstances it might just be better to ignore them.  But these guys are high profile enough, and opinions not unlike theirs prevalent enough to think that ignoring them probably isn’t the best option.

  • arcseconds

    Oh, forgot what in some ways the most obvious reason for dissing someone like Fischer — just expressing your own anger and irritation at the man!  what’s the point of having a blog if you can’t do that ?

  • Kiba

    Say you see somebody hurting your kids — deliberately, cruelly inflicting harm on them. That will make you angry. Such anger is right and proper and just. You will be angry because you love your kids, and that anger and that love will compel you to acton their behalf — to stop this cruel somebody from harming them.

    This may be a bit off topic, and if it is I apologize, but it make me think about this article I just read today. Which I think is just fucking awesome. http://www.azcentral.com/news/azliving/articles/2012/07/13/20120713bikers-against-child-abuse-make-abuse-victims-feel-safe.html?page=1

  • Jim Roberts

    Muntzer, I’m honestly confused. You believe that gays should allow themselves to be beaten up and that no one should help them because . . . Jesus? Or something?

    Better that a millstone should be tied around my neck than that.

  • Barry_D

    “If an opinion contrary to your own makes you angry, that is a sign that
    you are subconsciously aware of having no good reason for thinking as
    you do. If some one maintains that two and two are five, or that Iceland
    is on the equator, you feel pity rather than anger, unless you know so
    little of arithmetic or geography that his opinion shakes your own
    contrary conviction. … So whenever you find yourself getting angry about
    a difference of opinion, be on your guard; you will probably find, on
    examination, that your belief is going beyond what the evidence
    warrants.”

    I disagree.  One of the reasons to get angry at an opinion is that it’s wrong, dishonest, highly harmful and powerful.   To take the Godwin express, listening to Nazi antisemitism in the mid/late ’30’s in Germany would have been extremely angering, as it became clear that these words would be translated into evil deeds.

    Similarly, the lies told by the right have actual impact on peoples’ lives for the worse.  People are hurt by those lies’ effects, people suffer and people die.

  • Jessica

    Shared on facebook for truthiness.

  • Nequam

    In the wake of the shooting news, I hope our Denver slacktivites are all well.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino
  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

     Oh no :( I likewise hope our Denverites are OK :(

    Can’t speak  for all of us, but me and mine are OK. Boulder is about an hour’s drive northwest of the theater in question; had we gone to a midnight showing it wouldn’t have been there.

    But it could have been anyone, anywhere. It just takes one jerk with guns to turn a public event into a tragedy. Today I’m hugging my loved ones and appreciating every evening that I return home alive and well.

    Thanks to you and Nequam for your thoughts.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    One more reason why it’s good for the more privileged to show solidarity with, and righteous anger on behalf of, marginalized people is because their words will be harder to dismiss.  It’s been noted many times that men who’ll just roll their eyes at a woman calling out misogyny will shut up, and sometimes rethink their habits, when a man does the same thing.  It’s a way of using your privilege for good.

  • genehubbard2

    single parents face tough questions  our free TALK WITH THE LORD  program inspires daily talks  catch they need your help with first question  our blog helps  g hubbard  po box 2232  ponte vedra FL 32004  http://talkwiththelord.blogspot.com/


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