If the referees who made the bad call at the football game—which I know nothing about, as I don’t follow sports—aren’t getting death threats, I will be flabbergasted, flattened by shock.
What a terrible thing, this lack of surprise. How has it become acceptable to wish death on complete strangers? And for something, as dare I say, as useless and pointless as a sport game.
Some time ago, I read that, with all the movement of modern life, and lack of geographic and family connections, the college is the new hometown. That’s the place to which you swear allegiance. Perhaps sports are the same? We carve niches for ourselves, our identities, out of these fragile things like sports, or books.
On Goodreads today, I read several negative reviews of The Name of the Wind. One commentator wished the reviewer to die in a fire—it’s a common expression on the internet, though not one usually said ‘face-to-face’ in even that most figurative sense. But for that Rothfuss fan, did he truly believe the reviewer deserved that level of rhetoric? for disagreeing over a book?
And what about the commentator who offered cancer as an appropriate punishment, though more sardonically.
I’m sure, were these people actually interviewed, they didn’t mean it. What’s online isn’t real, after all.
Sports seem to bring more sincere anger though, more passion, more savagery. A bad call at my high school football game (an honest injustice) also lead to death threats, to the point where the referee had to be escorted from town by police. My aunt told me a story about substituting for a mail carrier, when something went wrong: “She said, ‘I hope you die,’ right to my face.”
I can’t claim full innocence myself. Driving exposes me to stupid people without any filter (unlike the internet) and when I’m nearly sideswiped (and alone) I’ll shriek aloud and think I hope you get in an accident (though more likely profanity-laced because I can’t seem to stop myself) but am immediately after shattered with guilt. I have to pray for their safety and happiness—which is almost worse, because I would rather they learn their lesson and not do it again.
As I hope is obvious, this is a trend that bothers me tremendously.
What little I know about the football bad call came from Good Morning America. Now I suppose I can’t blame them for giving it priority—the show isn’t designed to actually give anyone important information, just the highlights of what’s popular for ratings (although people could just go online and see all these memes for themselves). Still, when they joked about the referees hiding in the dark in their homes…I was taken aback, to say the least. People can be violent, and when you’re being threatened anonymously, likely by others who can find out far too much about you, it’s just not funny. Given that the GMA hosts have been pushing the problems with online bullying, I’m surprised no one thought to warn them that this is exactly the same problem.
I touched on the idea that all of this is due to misplaced passion. Because our modern lives have so much upheaval and so little stability, and so rarely prioritizes self-knowledge, society pushes worth based on exterior markers. With so many people in the world and the idealization of ‘individuality’, never defined of course, people latch on to anything they can to create smaller communities: things that make them unique, but not too unique. In The Googlization of Everything, Siva Vaidhayanathan calls it the “local cultural movement”, and details its causes and effects.
And I have so much else to say about that: see these bookmarks?
In other words, people get irrational and won’t accept any criticism because they are insecure. No one has taught them how to learn who they are—and while this is a cultural thing, education should be a solution. But since we’ve turned schools into nothing more than a standardized test factories, people don’t even have the chance to learn it anymore (the real learning was always optional, because it can’t be forced).
I keep touching on other posts I want to do, so before I get too off track: please try to take yourself less seriously. If you love something and hear someone else talking about how much it sucks? Take a deep breath. It’s not you, I promise.
In fact, difficult as it is, try reaching out specifically to those who disagree. Don’t attack them, just listen. Try to understand.
Maybe you’ll learn something.
I feel like I’ve said this before…