This post is essentially a postscript for Shunning Done Wrong, but I hope y’all will bear with me. Brad Torgersen’s post Shunning and Radioactivity spawned a pretty interesting comment conversation, by the way, I recommend reading it if you haven’t. I might actually pull part of it for another post later.
Well, there’s some shenanigans that went down around some elderly rich dude in the sports world, and it seems that everyone in the field already knew he was a few fries short of a Happy Meal, and there might be some behind-the-scenes financial empire wrangling going on in the background of this latest OMG A RACIST! episode. I don’t particularly care about extremely eccentric elderly rich dudes who own sports teams, on the grounds that they can hire lawyers if they need ’em.
But it’s provided another example of radioactive shunning, and since witch hunts have been the topic over at VP, I’m gonna pull the same quote:
“I’m talking, no one takes his money, sells him anything – nothing. Let’s see how racist he is when he can’t buy food.”
I would just like to say that Vox Day is a reprehensible human being, and deserved to be forcefully ejected, not only from the SFWA, but from society in general.
And now I want to also tie in the brilliant science fiction work by John Wright, who imagined a perfect libertarian society in the trilogy The Golden Age. This perfect libertarian society punishes egregious criminals by…. you guessed it, shunning. (Because a perfect libertarian society of immortals doesn’t believe in capital punishment, just in letting people die. That particular theme also crops up in one of the stories in Awake in the Night Land.) And since it’s the main character, whose galaxy-spanning dreams the reader is rooting for, being shunned on trumped-up charges… well, it leaves one with a bit of antipathy towards the council of ruling elite whose job it is to decide who to shun out of society.
Another work of fiction exploring similar themes is Vathara’s epic tale Embers – in which a pacifistic culture’s habit of exiling its psychopaths to other cultures’ lands (among other cultural conflicts) leads to their neighbors whistling and looking the other way when a madman commits genocide against them. (That’s “epic tale” as in about seven novels’ worth of really, really good story. Have I raved properly about that fic yet?)
So, yes, I’ve been thinking about all this. Now, I think I may need to adjust the language I use a bit, because modern Americans don’t have formal rules for shunning the way tribes do; the “shunning” I’m in favor of using amounts to little more than peer pressure combined with social snubbing. Not firing someone from their jobs, or taking away their property, or refusing to sell them food or housing or electricity and fuel.
Because if you’re going to incite all of society to take away their property and refuse to sell them food or shelter, that’s basically a death sentence.
And it’s the coward’s way out. I hate the coward’s way out. So whenever these upstanding paragons sit in judgment over their fellow humans and declare that so-and-so deserves a slow death because of some terrible opinion, rather than something like a heinous crime…. I find myself tempted to relativistic utilitarian ethics. Something along the lines of “By your own scales shall you be weighed, and by your own ruler shall you be measured.” Only I don’t believe in the coward’s way out. (Good thing for all concerned that I happen to believe in objective morality, as well!)
And I think that’s something that these trolls don’t understand. Shunning-to-death is a very tribal behavior. And some tribes prefer, shall we say, a more confrontational approach to dealing with social problems. Shun enough people outside your own little group, and you might find in the wider world that instead of going and committing suicide quietly out of sight, the shunned have created a tribe of people with few restraints on their behavior and a huge grudge against you. Considering that’s basically the foundation of the liberal theory for the existence of criminality and Islamic terrorists, I’m disappointed (but not surprised) that they don’t connect the dots on that one.
Seriously. Think about it. Should opinions really become killing offenses? That’s what these radioactive shunners are advocating. As Sarah writes,
Little boy, how old are you, and who had the raising of you?
Did you ever read the horrors of the 20th century? The first step is ALWAYS to expel the victim from “society” – which of course makes it a non-human, who can then be expropriated, killed or have all manner of evil perpetrated against it.