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Posted by on Dec 2, 2013 in Ethics | 8 comments

Everyone on the Internet is in the wrong

 

UPDATE: Elan Gale has just effectively confessed to making the whole thing up. Diane doesn’t exist. I suppose this post could comment on a hypothetical situation, but I guess the fact that this was a hoax goes to add further force to my point 5). Everyone on the Internet (again, this includes me) is even more in the wrong than I thought.

 


 

I don’t know why I’m blogging about this – it should be a non-issue, at least for those who aren’t involved. I just sometimes feel compelled to dive head-first into these silly arguments. Perhaps it’s because this one reminds me of my own experiences.

 

Current outrage on Twitter:

http://storify.com/EliLanger/this-man-is-hilariously-live-tweeting-his-flight-n

 

Summary: Diane unreasonably complains to flight attendants. Elan (a famous person that I’d never heard of) defends the flight attendants by writing rude notes to Diane. Diane writes rude notes back, and then slaps Elan. Elan uses his fame to shame her on the Internet. Diane gets a lot of hate. Elan gets a lot of hate. People argue over who is ‘right’.

 

My opinion

 

1) I’ve worked in retail which means I have a natural hatred for unreasonably demanding customers, so perhaps I’m a little biased against Diane. But I’m reminded of a time I was at the train station, when a man on the opposite platform decided to kill himself. It was a surreal experience – lots of different reactions from everyone, and it took me a long time to realise that this had really happened. Suddenly around the whole station there was a strange sense of humanity, as if we’d finally realised that we’re all in this together. Of course, this meant that all trains were suddenly cancelled and I would be late for work. As I was walking out of the station, all shaken up, I heard a woman yelling at a member of staff. Why do they not have something in place to keep trains running? They need to get to where they need to get to! This is disgraceful!

I wanted to go over and say “look, they are doing their best. A guy just got utterly destroyed by a train. I’ve just seen and smelled a fresh splattered corpse for the first time in my life. Their colleagues are hurredly scraping him up as you are yelling at them, mere yards from where you stand, just so we can get our trains as soon as possible. For God’s sake, where’s your humanity?!” I didn’t.

Diane’s alleged antics remind me of the woman at the train station, who thought the time of her train was more important than about the recently deceased person or the efforts to clean the blood off the tracks.

Diane was in the wrong.

 

2) I didn’t myself defend the rail staff, but if I had, I wouldn’t have told the woman to ‘eat my dick’ or anything like that. That’s needlessly insulting and completely cedes the moral high ground. The notes from Elan to Diane were juvenile and rude, and he shouldn’t have written them. Instead, if he wanted to defend the flight attendants (which he was certainly right to want to do) he should have constructively and politely pointed out that the flight attendants are doing their best, and that they and many of the passengers also want to get home for Thanksgiving. But he didn’t do that.

Elan was in the wrong.

 

3) Elan was certainly rude, and I would be angry if I received one of those notes. Does that mean that Diane was right to slap him? Absolutely not. Physical violence is never an appropriate response to mere words, no matter how angry those words might make you. I don’t know what else I can say to that. Violence is not the answer.

Diane was in the wrong.

 

4) If you’re one of the privileged folks on Twitter with thousands of followers, you have the luxury of drawing attention to an argument, while framing it in your own terms. Elan is certainly in this position, and took full advantage by posting what he did about his altercation with Diane. Diane is not in a position to fight back, and so we read the story as told by Elan. Perhaps everything he’s said is perfectly true, but nevertheless we should, when talking about Diane’s actions, remember that they are her actions as alleged by an interested party.

Still, this should be between Elan, Diane and the flight attendants. There’s no need to stick this on Twitter. He was just trying to one-up her, and use his clout to publicly shame her. Now there’s Twitter outrage against both parties, blog posts (I’m hanging my head in shame here) and lots and lots of anger. Online abuse/outrage is a major problem on the Internet, and I am not aware of a solution consistent with the values of liberalism (and so I am not aware of a solution I’d be happy with), and Elan stoked the fire.

Elan was in the wrong.

 

5) I’ve said that they’re both in the wrong. But it has been since revealed the Diane is terminally ill and was about to miss her final Thanksgiving. That certainly makes her anger and frustration more understandable. It doesn’t make it right; understandability is not the same as rightness. But it means that we shouldn’t necessarily hold any grudges against Diane (if holding a grudge against someone you’ve never crossed paths with makes any sense at all…). We all have our ‘off-days’, and it is unfair to assume that the picture Elan paints of Diane is representative of Diane. This is a further reason why public shaming is a bad move.

Elan dealt with the situation very poorly. But he saw the humanity in the flight attendants and wanted to defend them, and I imagine Diane’s (alleged!) treatment of them riled him. I felt the same at the train station. So I’d say that his wanting to retaliate was understandable. He just went about it in completely the wrong way.

Neither Diane nor Elan are bad people (probably).

 

6) Why is this a huge story? Why do things like this always escalate and spark numerous Internet fights? Why are people tweeting about this? Why are people blogging about this? Why am I blogging about this? I suspect it’s the same reason that people read tabloids. Some petty story makes the headline. It doesn’t require a lot of thought so everyone offers their opinion on it, usually backed up with additional claims about how the person they happen to be arguing with at the time is bad and evil and a racist. I remember the good old days when we were all talking constructively about the bigger questions, rather than spending all day bickering about trifles. At least I think  it used to be that way. Didn’t it?

Everyone on the Internet is in the wrong.

 

  • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

    Excellent post.

  • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

    Thanks!

  • Pingback: {Elan vs. Diane} Kindness must matter… | girl meets geek™ | kate-madonna hindes

  • 5ulman

    My immediate reaction to that whole thing was one of distaste. I couldn’t seen any point to it other than self-aggrandisation on Elan’s part. If his account is true (we don’t know that it is) my personal feeling would have been to pass comment on it and nothing more.The whole business reminded me of Melissa Stetten, who (internet) famously live-tweeted an actor hitting on her on a plane, again with questionable judgement and taste. Curiously, she weighed in on this latest episode.

  • Axel Blaster

    quite interesting take and how I feel about it, if the story or any portion of it is real. BTW, The Liar’s Paradox, was it intended?

  • 5ulman

    Hah. And there you go.

  • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

    Just kidding! That last comment was a hoax.

  • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

    As was mine.

  • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

    Yep. Seemed a bit too banal to be a hoax.