But I did say it
” But you are not allowed to say that! That is not acceptable! You are not allowed to have those opinions! We forbid it! ”
We? Who is this ” we ” that you write about?
” Me and all the other the moral people! The people who are caring and sensible and good and right and virtuous! The people who demand that you toe the line and conform to our moral standards and only print our opinion! ”
So no other opinion is permitted?
” No! We are a free country and you are free to think as we do or suffer our displeasure! ”
Do you always speak in exclamation marks?
” Yes! We are never wrong! “
Last month I watched people promoting their causes. Well actually, not their causes as such – more a case of causes that they agreed with. Or seem to agree with. Or were paid to agree with.
I am now wondering a lot of things about them. Did they believe what they said? Did they say what they believed? Have they read any of the stuff they clicked over at everyone on the social media site? Or was it all just a sham performance designed to get our attention – not on the causes – but on them?
Well, we’ll find out in two weeks when I start following the news feed again. A lot may have happened in this month, and that may change the way they think or the things they say. At least it will serve as a test to see if they change either their minds or the topic. In case that sounds a strange combination, remember that the definition of a fanatic is one who will do neither.
Note: I do favour goodness over badness and virtue over vice. But I may see these items in a far different light than you. To save time and trouble let’s just proceed from the premise that I am right and you are wrong, and you can apologise and offer compensation for your errors later. It is not an onerous demand – I can be bought off with baked goods.
Are you a child? Do you have friends? Are you aware that one of them will become a famous scientist, one a renowned entertainer, and one a serial killer? That’ll dispose of three, and all the rest will be insurance salesmen, cocktail waitresses, and dry-goods clerks. In your case you’ll be lucky to get out of the neighbourhood ahead of the mob armed with the torches and pitchforks.
Childhood friends are a little like childhood cousins. You get to interact with them and have a sort of a family connection for awhile without being required to save them when they fall down the old well. That’s Lassie’s job. You can watch with interest their future progress and you never have to claim any debit for it – only credit. If they make good, you knew ’em when…if not, you didn’t. And you need not worry about what they think of you because chances are they don’t.
Childhood enemies are similar – but you are not required to be pleased for them when they make good nor grieve for them when they finally end up just like you said they would. Being from the long past, anything they do wrong cannot be sheeted home to you – unlike present work colleagues or acquaintances. There is a bigger circle of blast around people you have interacted with as an adult compared to the ones of childhood.
If you meet an old childhood friend on the road take the Buddha advice. If they claim friendship, run away from them. Remember that when you were young it was no great honour to know you and it hasn’t gotten any better.
If you would like to read about ” boosters “, I can suggest no finer book than ” Babbit ” by Sinclair Lewis. It may seem a little dated to some, but then anti-American propaganda never really gets old if you find the right readership. You may be just the fellow traveller who would appreciate it. Paperback versions are readily available, and Dear Old Sinc does get some good lines in there.
I am reminded of it when I get responses via email to these columns. A fair few of them seem to suggest that I can make a fortune by following their formulae for search engine success and/or marketing. I suspect that few of them really have read what I wrote – that this column is not selling anything – nor buying it either.
It almost seems as though they have turned the old saying back to front and are urging me to stick my business in everyone else’s nose…
Fine, if I was trying to market a feel-good book on how to feel good or a successful program on how to be successful…but I am actually operating a personal pillbox from which I can mow down my enemies. When I run out of enemies I mow down friends. Hey, the machine gun bullets are not fussy…
If you have had the misfortune to be attacked and destroyed by this weblog column consider yourself lucky – when you lie down and bleed you will not attract further fire. It is only the heroic that get another fusillade.
Far worse off is the person who I praise. When you put people on a pedestal they are visible to more batteries and will attract heavier ordnance. The spotlight of fame is a merciless one.
You may never be in this position, Clint, and good luck to you. but if you ever do find yourself listening to that phone call or reading that email…
- Immediately remove yourself from all social media. Cancel your subscription to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other electronic conduit.
- Clean out all traces of the correspondence that have accumulated. This may involve burning old letters tied with blue ribbons, deleting files, throwing everything into the ” secure trash disposal ” icon, or any other means necessary to clear the table.
- Consider reducing your computer and hard drive to atoms by strapping it onto a North Korean nuclear device and poking Kim in the back with a stick. As alternatives you can do much the same with an oxy-acetylene torch or by wrapping the computer with a sock and putting a matching pair into the dryer. With any luck the offending one will disappear into the sock void and never be seen again
- Contact your local network news agency and confess to something. Make it something juicy – it need not be a true confession to an actual crime or sin, as long as it is going to be chortle-worthy on the 6:00 news. Make yourself a neon-lit, steam-powered, toxic social pariah. That usually stops most pests.
- Send a price list for misty-playing. I usually ask $ 30 an hour and in the cases where I suspect the bill wouldn’t be paid, I demand cash in advance. You’d be surprised how often a business-like approach to this sort of thing sorts out the cheapjacks.
- Move away. Away away. Go interstate or overseas.
- Take holy orders. Tuck yourself into whichever superstition seems most likely to provide protection against unbelievers.
- Come out of the closet. Or go back into the closet. Buy an closet at IKEA and spend the weekend putting it together. Buy an secondhand closet from someone who has come out of it and no longer needs it. If you do, inspect it beforehand for moths or worse.
- Just play Misty.
We should all be prepared to realise that the things we write on the internet:
a. Will never go away, unless they are useful and vital to our well-being. Then they’ll vanish without trace.
b. Are overseen by any number of state and private agencies and snoopy individuals.
c. Are carefully noted when they contain trigger words that deal with state security or criminal activities. Even if we innocently write the words ” bomb plot ” or ” My Kitchen Rules ” they will trigger an automatic recording by someone in Langley, Virginia, Beijing, and Moscow. Also probably in Pyongyang and possibly in Canberra. They will certainly be noted in Bombay and used to provide the telephone scammers with a target.
This is a problem for those of us who routinely write about shelling the local council offices with a howitzer because we can never tell whether the federal government snoopers will think it a bad idea…or a good one. I guess we’ll find out if someone leaves a free basket of 250mm shells at the front door tied up with a pink ribbon and bearing a ” Thank You ” card.
My chief fear is that the things that I write will lead to my friends being arrested, tried in secret, and jailed for long periods. And that I won’t be there to see the fun.
Still, there is always hope – you are reading this right now, and your internet address has been sent to a group of hackers in Athens. With any luck you should be getting your ransom demand in a couple of hours. They are not greedy – you can pay in moussaka and retsina.
Every time a US senate enquiry tried to pin mobsters and communists down about their activities in the 1950’s the parties being grilled recited a prepared statement that they respectfully declined to answer the question on grounds that it might tend to incriminate them*. The amendment is worth reading in total, but the small part they were using applies to testifying against yourself. ie don’t admit nuthin’, Salvatore. Make ’em prove it.
I respectfully suggest that whenever Facebook asks you any question at all – however innocent it may seem – that you take the Fifth. Any information you give about yourself – your history, your family, your likes and dislikes – can, may, and probably will be used, sold, traded, abused, and otherwise bandied about. You will do yourself no good whatsoever by responding to any of the questions, quizzes, games, or provocative statements.
This also applies to posts and shared memes put out by the trolls within your Facebook friends list. And we’ve all got ’em. Those of you who insist that all your friends are innocent may have two or three of mine, free…
* A wonderful red flag, if red flag be needed, to alert the authorities that more investigation would be fruitful.