“I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
File this one under I should have known the gun was loaded. Facebook can be an interesting place where we find ourselves in the cause of making a point defending things we disagree with. Recently an acquaintance on FB (a FB acquaintance is a friend whom you don’t have much conversation with other than occasionally liking a posting by them) got himself in trouble with many people by admitting publicly in several places that he felt an attraction for young women. He did not say he ever acted on it. He just admitted to having a fetish for it. He chose among other places to post this in a bunch of groups that are associated with the Anonymous movement. One of Anonymous’s big targets is pedophiles so it was rather like wearing a gestapo uniform to a synagogue. He rather enjoyed the blowup on his profile page with assorted death threats and harangues.
I believe in protecting kids from pedophiles. It is not a crime I find condonable. Yet to me the idea of attacking someone for what they think, particularly something that they cannot help is rather a waste of time. Would I ever let him babysit for me or anyone else? I definitely would not. Do I think that he should be lauded for making such a statement? No and yet I would rather have someone identify themselves as a possible predator than to keep it secret. It would be so much easier to keep my family safe if everyone labeled themselves like household products. “Danger: May mug you.”
“Do not combine this person with alcohol”
“Texts while driving”
“Psychopathic Serial Killer”
“May be attracted towards children”
Anybody with enough self-knowledge to label themselves has saved me the trouble of trying to discern possible danger. Are they a hero? Hell no, but at least they are warning you. So many people don’t.
Kids these days in the west are raised to be incredibly savvy about this stuff. Between media and school, they are well aware of stranger danger. This is so much the case that at times I get concerned that they are raised with too much fear and paranoia. I grew up in a friendly neighbourhood and miss the fact that they are somewhat a thing of the past. Now a friendly hello to anyone may be looked upon with suspicion. Yes western civilization children are probably safer than they have been in any time in history and yet there is a price in fear and freedom that is paid for the security. It is a good balance to keep in mind.
Anyway in the conversation, I attempted to point out that this guy had committed no crime merely identified an impulse that could be considered unhealthy and that it was not worth the time and emotional energy to attack him. Of course this led to suspicion towards me (and another guy saying much the same thing) for ‘defending’ him. The next three hours of my time was spent defending a point of view I only half believed in against people who were listening to their emotions more than they were understanding any points I made.
I wasn’t defending the man. I was defending the idea that someone can’t be persecuted when a crime has not been committed. Who, reading this has not had thoughts that if acted on, would land us in prison or make us pariahs of society? We all have our shadow and our time is better spent working on ourselves than attacking others. It is all to easy to point fingers at the shit heads of the world as a way to avoid looking at our own stuff.
If we feel that a crime is beyond the pale then do things to either help the victims or prevent the crimes. Persecuting someone who is looking for the attention is feeding these impulses and not preventing them. A better form of prevention is to help these people work through their issues so they don’t end up acting out. That is not something that will happen on Facebook.
So lessons learned. If you stand in between a witch hunt and its target, you will become a target yourself. You can’t force people to see a bigger picture or to think critically. Mores the pity.
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