The Guild Guide To Social Signalling

The BGA has always taken an interest in social behaviour. If that interest sometimes led to sirens in the night and lifelong enmities it must be remembered that you cannot make an omlette without cracking eggs. The trick to a really good omelette is not to crack the pan either…

Social signalling is a popular topic right now – the forms of communication that we see on the internet in forums, social pages, websites, and columns such as this one. Each has its own special format and in some cases the purpose of the signal can be quite different. Here are some examples:

a. The virtue signal – this is a posting on a social site or a column written to draw attention to the goodness of the writer – to their virtue. The world abounds in evil and misery, and the virtue signaller has a wide choice of topics they can discuss – to make themselves look good.

No-one can pretend that murder is a good thing. So the virtue signaller comes out with a passionate cry that murder is not good – confident that everyone will have to agree with them. They appear a good person for decrying a bad thing.

It becomes a little fraught when they mix politics, religion, sex, and commerce into this cry of virtue. They tend to give off hints of their own prejudices, bigotry, malevolence, and cupidity even as they wave the banner of goodness.

Some people have asked what the best response should be to a virtue signal. The Guild feels that you must either preserve a dignified silence or respond with wholehearted enthusiastic agreement. Whichever course you adopt, attune it to the level of virtue that the original signaller has tried; if they are modest, be modest in your silence – if they are flamboyant, be the same with your stonewall. Likewise, if you pretend to agree with them let it be either a modest social tail wagging or a complete public leg-hump.

b. The vague signal – this is the social post that starts with air and ends with clouds. No part of it is either intelligent or intelligible. You are lucky to see it on Facebook or Twitter -if it came to your email account your ISP would spam-can it staunchly.

Well, a signal is a signal, and this one indicates that the signaller wants you to make earnest and sympathetic enquiries about them. This is so that they can tell you their troubles and, if possible, blame you. This may not be convenient.

The Hearty English Major approach is best here:

” For God’s sake buck yourself up and stop whining! ” is a comfort for many in this situation. Not for the signaller, of course, but for you. Try to snort as you type – it comes through in the punctuation.

c. The outrage signal – this is sometimes linked to the virtue signal but may be a separate thing. In the purest cases it is a reaction to some horrid world event. The signaller foams and imprecates, threatens and howls, finally throwing themselves into a corner in tears. Most of the targets of their anger are far away and untouchable, and nothing ever comes of it.

If the targets are not far away – if they are local persons, firms, and events – it becomes a little more interesting. Publishing a rant doesn’t constitute defamation in many cases but borders on it for others. Responding to a rant as a disinterested third party is a temptation but you really don’t want to include yourself in the ring. If you feel the need to press something, press the emoji button and claim later that it was just your knuckle brushing the keyboard.

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Does Not Laugh – Can Not Laugh…

These individuals are related to Should Not Laugh and Will Not laugh. They are a close-knit family and support each other in silence.

a. Does Not Laugh. Never been seen to do so, and no-one has really seen DNL smiling either. In fact the thought of a smile is somewhat un-nerving. What would cause it? If jokes, cartoons, movies, songs and YouTube videos of mobile cranes falling into holes does not raise a titter, what would? The mind turns to darker things…

b. Can Not Laugh. This is actually sad, and may draw some sympathy from all of us. CNL has so many worries and woes that nothing seems funny . Nothing may never have, though we hope CNL might have had some fun at some stage of the game. People hope that this is only temporary, and try out new routines to see if they can get a smile.

c. Should Not laugh. Well, if you’re sitting on the magistrate’s bench – or for that matter sitting on the magistrate – the dignity of the court demands that you keep a sober mein. LIkewise police officers, air traffic controllers, and high church dignitaries. The Queen is allowed to crack up occasionally as no-one can say her nay. So are various presidents of various other nations, though some do it better than others. Angela Merkel on a laughing jag is not a pretty sight.

d. Will Not laugh. WNL is the pompous pain in the potatoes who denies any recognition of humour – probably because that would reward the joker. WNL is mean and tight and arrogant…which is why he or she seems to become the butt of satirical humour. Oddly enough, even some satirical writers – especially if they exist on the fringes of real journalism or real writing – exhibit this characteristic too. In their case it is fear of being bettered by someone with a new joke.

Beat The Parcel Bandits This Year

The crime of theft from the front doorsteps of Australia is on the rise – the holiday month plus the increase in on-line shopping means than more and more deliveries are being made…and more and more delivery personnel are discovering that no-one is home.

Some of them make this judgement after ringing the doorbell and knocking for 5 minutes. Some make it from the street as they drive by at 50 kph. The second types are generally Australia Post contractors who just take the parcel back to the local depot and leave it for you to seek. The ones who invest a bit of time at the front mat may to leave the goods under it or behind the potted palm and then buzz off.

Here is where the parcel thieves succeed. They trail delivery trucks until they get one of these unattended drops and then swoop on it after the courier has driven out of the street. The goods are gone and the intended recipient may have a miserable trial trying to get anyone who handled them to admit to it.

The Guild Solution to this is BGA Couriers. In our distinctive cars and vans – we have a magnetic sign that can be whacked onto the doors of any car…and as easily removed again – we drive through the suburbs until we pick up a ” trailer “. There is a list of likely suspects circulated daily and any old Commodores or Hyundai sedans with oxidized paint panels are instantly recognised.

A house is selected – preferably with an open driveway, closed garage doors, and a porch easily seen from the street.. The BGA Courier goes to the door with a temptingly large parcel. The courier seems to ring the bell, but no-one answers…so they prop the parcel in full view of the street and drive away. With a bit of luck the thief swoops, collects the bait, and is off and away.

What’s in the box? Anything we fancy. Old laundry, used, and well past saving. Commercial leaflets that have been accumulating for the last three months. Pistachio shells and glitter in an unsealed bag. Dust from the Hoover. Just anything…

After all, it is the holiday season and in this case we are far better giving than receiving.

 

Max Made The List

I keep two lists – one is entitled ” Moderate Desires ” and one is ” Untouchables “. They correspond to a ” Bucket List ” and a ” F***it List “. I edit them occasionally and this week I added Max.

Max is henceforth an Untouchable, which is quite a humorous thought considering from whence he has come. He would probably not be pleased to hear it, as his caste was possibly somewhat higher back in his Old Country.

My episode with him in the bank where he works has finally convinced me that dealing with his form of rigid and demanding official behaviour is dangerous for my health – if I avoid all contact with him I will feel better. But like any unpleasant experience, there is a seed of self-improvement there. I can benefit from it.

In the future I will strive to make sure that I am less pedantic to others – if they are in need or concerned about something, I will listen to them and not compel them to listen to me. I will not threaten them with bureaucracy to force them to obey me. I will be kind, without  acting like an Indian traffic cop with a badge and a stick.

I’m not sure I can honestly thank Max for pushing my button so thoroughly, but I shall make sure that it is not within his reach in the future.

Never Fire With No Target Sense

A long time ago before I was as discrete and wise as I am now…cough, cough, cough…I owned a brand-new muzzle loading rifled musket. It was a beauty, capable of throwing a one-ounce minie ball some 1200 yards. It was a man-killer of the British Army in the 1850’s and was certainly capable of doing it in 1988. The local police were willing to licence it to me, probably not realising what it could do.

Well, I shot it at the local rifle range for months, getting pretty good at short distances. Then I took it to a friend’s farm…legally, as it was on an open license. My friend and I proposed to fire it at a small tree on the farm to see if we could cut it in half with the heavy bullets. After an hour of firing, we succeeded, and then packed it in and sat around smugly.

It was only on my return journey toward the city that I saw the lay of the land and realised that all the bullets that had not impacted in the unfortunate tree had passed whistling over a main road that skirted the property. A main interstate highway…

It is said that heaven protects fools and drunks and I was cold sober all day. Guess which category I belonged in. I learned instantly never to fire with no purpose.

Works the same here in the writing game – if I slope off and just blast away without watching to see where the bullets will land, I am sure to do massive harm. Thus I keep a cooling-off shelf for new articles that allows me to reconsider them before pushing the ” publish ” button. You’ll have missed out on some corkers in the last few years here in the column, but then the overshoot could have been tragic.

Avoiding The Press

It used to be a good idea to avoid the press – because in the dear old days of King George, The Press was a gang of sailors under a petty officer who would sweep through a town or village and legally kidnap the poor or unprovided into slavery aboard a British warship. They were not above scouring foreign lands and other nation’s merchant shipping for this purpose – thus bringing upon themselves more wars than were strictly necessary.

Then the Fourth Estate – the venal journalists – took over as the press. They left you on shore but savaged your reputation so much that you might just as well have been at sea. And not just the Brits this time – read Dickens’ encounters with US journalists in the 1860’s. And look at what they get up to now.

Most of us will never Meet The Press, as it were. We live lives of such meek tenor that nothing can be squeezed from us. We cannot be made to yield a sound bite, let alone a 5-minute segment. In this we are very lucky – we share that good fortune with the very rich and the very powerful. They can avoid the press but it costs them a great deal of money and effort.

But what do we do if someone pops up in front of us wearing a microphone and a Hammerhead grin an asks us what we think of what they want to pretend we just saw? How can we blend into the bark of the trees if we are standing in a shopping mall? What is ninja secret?

a. Ask the interviewer if they realise that they are racist or sexist in their questioning. These two trigger words will make them sweat at the hair roots and they will beetle off directly.

b. Blame Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton. Even if you have just been asked about a crash at a roundabout in Redcliffe, calling in the old favourites like that will give the interviewer a chance to go off their face. And there is an even chance that either Donald or Hilary will admit guilt…

c. Ask for compensation. Have a figure ready to hand – $ 15,000 is always a good starting point. Refuse to tell what really happened until they cough up.

d. Point over to the edge of the crowd and shout “ Oh, look! It’s the Duchess and a koala! “ No reporter worth their salt will stick to you.

Sex Talk For Social Media

It may appear that the current climate of political and social commentary is adverse to the topic of sex. Every day we see mimes, memes, and moans about it, and we can be sure that anything we write is being minutely monitored to see if it can be used to destroy us in a future political campaign. This paragraph, for instance, is being digested by a robot in a server somewhere and the component words stacked up for re-transmission. If I insert the name of a body part a red light comes on at the front of the server cabinet to alert the operator that there may be something juicy. Here, I’ll show you:

Scapula.

There. See? Red light. If I typed male scapula or female scapula it would ring an alarm horn. Whoops, I wrote horn. That’ll be a paddlin’…

This is funny now, but wait until I’m 93 and campaigning for the Senate and it all comes out. The only saving thing will be that I can claim it was fake news, but that I forgot who really wrote it.

But it is not too late to reform. If I pledge to behave and to agree with whoever wants to scold me, I will be allowed to be guilty. This can open a career in the apology business – a growing industry – and I can start to take on contract work for sports stars and celebrities. I have drafted an all-purpose admission of guilt and shame that can be used as an introduction to civic ceremonies, weddings, and trophy nights, and as it can be read from small hand-held cards, it should prove most popular.

I am even thinking of having the apology cards embroidered for use in Oklahoma.

They’ll be the Sorry with the fringe on top…