Tuesday 25 October 2016

Anton Savage: Disagree with the consensus? I hope you lose your job, you moronic idiot

The July issue of Vanity Fair features Bruce Jenner debuting as a transgender woman named Caitlyn Jenner, in a photo by Annie Leibovitz (Annie Leibovitz/Vanity Fair/AP)
The July issue of Vanity Fair features Bruce Jenner debuting as a transgender woman named Caitlyn Jenner, in a photo by Annie Leibovitz (Annie Leibovitz/Vanity Fair/AP)
Drake Bell
Ryan Magee
Woman with bottle of shampoo

Persuasion should be a subject taught in school; right now, there should be Leaving Cert students preparing to sit an exam on "How to change people's opinions".

Because persuasion is clearly a skill being lost to mankind. The reaction to Bruce Jenner's coming out as Caitlyn Jenner proves this.

Social media did it's usual two-step process in response to the announcement. First, everyone split into the two cliched camps - moral majority and apparently bigoted minority.

Second, the moral majority waited until someone in the minority said something stupid then pummelled them half to death (metaphorically).


In this instance, the person silly enough to become the scapegoat for all "wrong-thinking" people was minor actor Drake Bell. He tweeted: "Sorry - still calling you Bruce."

As offensive statements go, it's bad, but it ain't exactly hate speech. Nonetheless, he was set upon with the inappropriate ferocity that's now common on social media - people calling him an idiot, ignorant, bigoted and wishing failure upon him.

This is what now passes for discourse - looking behind you to make sure there's a mob, then roaring abuse at someone dumb enough to think 'wrong' thoughts. It gets no one anywhere. In Drake Bell's case, he first deleted the tweet, then tried to explain it, then hid.

This is not how minds are changed. This is how people are intimidated into silence.

In the old days, we mainly communicated with people we knew, or had met, or were members of our wider community, or who were people we might bump into again. Those loose connections put a brake on our desire to lean in a stranger's window and shout something derogatory at them.

Now, much of what happens on social media is the outpourings of people who pay limited attention to the facts (why read up on something when you can jump to an ill-informed prejudice?), roaring their preconceived views at someone in the expectation of mass support or, even better, the frightened capitulation of the victim.

Journalist Jon Ronson's book, So You've Been Publicly Shamed, looks at this process in detail, citing example after example of people on whom the mob turned for almost nothing.

Two guys who lost their jobs for making juvenile jokes at a tech conference.

A woman who was fired and humiliated for attempting satire on racism.

A writer character-assassinated for making up a quote.

This pattern keeps occurring, benefiting neither victim nor attacker.

So let's make the syllabus teach kids a new way - persuasion, empathy, analysis and argument.

Then maybe people will learn that if they think someone is wrong to call Caitlyn "Bruce" after her transition, explaining the experience of living a lie and feeling lost is bound to be more effective than screaming: "Oi, moron!"


Congratulations, you've just won the lottery - and by the way, you're doomed

Ryan Magee

Ryan Magee is an example of an old theory that may still hold true. The theory is that winning the lottery doesn't make you happy.

Magee won £6.4m (€8.4m) on the Euromillions in 2008 and promptly did the kind of things lottery winners should do - he bought a Ferrari 458 and a house with a champagne bar. And he looked very happy.

This was despite a study of winners of the Illinois State Lottery in the 1970s that showed that (after a brief spike) their long-term happiness was the same as someone paralysed with a spinal injury.

It's not a new study, and more recent ones demonstrated that lottery winners show improved psychological well-being, so it seemed there might have been some hope for Magee.


But this week he showed up in court. To be banned for driving offences. In a Ford Focus, not a Ferrari. Next, we discovered that he was on legal aid - having sold his house and car, he still hadn't enough money left in his accounts to pay a lawyer.

Still, maybe it was possible he was still happy? Not according to his wife and solicitor. The former has left him and the latter told the court: "He has found himself not back at square one but several steps behind square one. He has appreciated somewhat late in the day his responsibilities to others, particularly in terms of his driving."

The solicitor went on to say that in the case of his client "every silver lining has a dark cloud".

Maybe there's still a lesson for us all. If Magee can win all that money, buy the dream house and dream car and still end up in misery, we should be careful what we wish for. Magee was one of 16 people who shared the £96m (€131m) jackpot. Wonder how they're getting on?

It's not theft, I paid for this hotel room

A survey by hotels.com shows the Irish are third on a list of nationalities most likely to steal from hotel rooms. Not big stuff (like the telly or the kettle), but also not terribly little stuff (removing unused shampoo was considered fair game, for instance).

If you're curious, we're apparently not as bad as the Germans and the Argentinians.

For some reason, we don't think it's stealing. Which it obviously is. I suppose it's just another of those examples of how reality gets twisted in hotel rooms.


Why, for instance, do we expect free shampoo but no shaving foam? Or free conditioner but no toothpaste? We should start a campaign for loads more stuff to be provided by hoteliers. Which we can then nick.


Charity stunts are getting to be stupid

Yet another stupid viral  campaign has hit the internet. It's called "holdacokewithyourboobs". And in case you fear you're missing some subtlety, you're not.

It's just women pinning cans of Coke between their breasts. This "raises awareness" of breast cancer, we are told.

"Raising awareness" is the grown-up version of a kid pointing at a friend and saying they did something stupid "coz Billy did it". It means nothing, justifies nothing and explains nothing.

This campaign is so daft that it actually started as a promotion for pornography that unexpectedly caught on, so someone grafted on a more socially acceptable cause. The best course of action is to it. And go film yourself eating a chilli pepper. Yup, that's a thing now too. Oh, lord.

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