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When the Mob Came
Do yourself a favor and watch this
They actually want you to be a kind of monster, because if you're evil then it means that in resisting you and opposing you they become good, and they will remain good no matter how maliciously or dishonestly they behave. That's the power of ideology, is it can convince us that we are doing good when we are really doing evil.
- Caylan Ford
By late 2019, my politics had completely flipped upside down. In October of that year, I voted for the PPC in the federal election. Telling people about that was orders of magnitude harder than it was to come out as a lesbian.
But earlier that year, during the provincial election, I wasn’t as politically aware yet. I believe I cast a vote for the NDP, but only half-heartedly. I pretended to be upset when the UCP won that night, but I was oscillating between ambivalence and secret mild satisfaction. I had no idea what had happened just weeks earlier to Caylan Ford.
Ford was, in a word, canceled. Comments she made during a private discussion were taken out of context and given the least charitable interpretation, and that was that.
Recently, Caylan made a documentary about the situation (embedded above). Have a read of the official description:
Is “cancel culture” a real thing? Are public shaming and de-platforming campaigns justified as a way of advancing social justice and holding the powerful to account, or are they evidence of a creeping proto-totalitarianism? What happens when these tools are weaponized for personal or political advantage, and how does a person rebuild after public cancellation?
In this, my third and (I hope) final documentary feature film, I try to answer these questions by turning the lens on my own life and experience of cancellation. This is a story of media credulity, political calculation, betrayal, and obsession. It’s about the failure and the triumph of friendship, the spiritual struggle to believe in things unseen, and the need to make meaning out of suffering. It’s also a re-litigation of Plato’s Gorgias dialogue, and a test of Socrates’ claim that “to do injustice is more to be avoided than to suffer injustice, and that the reality and not the appearance of virtue is to be followed above all things.”
Of course, I had to see it. We have another provincial election coming up this month and I have been vocal of my support for the UCP and premier Danielle Smith.
Ford opens the documentary by referencing a quote from C. S. Lewis:
Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one's first feeling, 'Thank God, even they aren't quite so bad as that,' or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything—God and our friends and ourselves included—as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.
This gripped me instantly, and I was so grateful to finally have an idea I’d been harping on but struggling to articulate anywhere near as well for some time now. Often, this comes up when I feel people miss obvious sarcasm because they want to miss it so that they can believe the worst about someone. I went on a Twitter rant to this effect a few weeks ago.
My gripes about people missing sarcasm due to confirmation bias are, obviously, nothing compared to Ford’s situation. But they are part of a larger problem I’ve been disappointed to discover wherein people seem to want their enemies to be as bad or worse than they fear. They seem to be gleeful when their worst fears are confirmed.
In Ford’s situation, for example, it is astounding and downright heartbreaking to me that people jumped like rabid dogs at the worst possible interpretation of who she was as a person rather than search for any inkling that maybe she wasn’t as bad as they thought. Why—why would you celebrate when someone is revealed to have allegedly hateful beliefs? What you should celebrate is any evidence to the contrary; if what you’re looking for is a better world, anyway.
At any rate, from what I could see of the comments that caused all the controversy, there was nothing wrong with them. In fact, I think they were thoughtful and I agree with them. Even if I didn’t, the fallout they caused and the reaction by people eager to posture as good and moral progressives is unconscionable and deeply shameful.
Well, I won’t give any more away. I encourage you to check out the teaser clip and I strongly encourage you to watch the whole documentary. The price is well worth it.
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