I’m not sure if this is a new attitude, but I’ve been seeing something across the blogs I read and even actions in the world and in the world of politics: people protesting the use of certain tactics against them or their policies and goals, while doing the same thing to others in pursuit of their own policies and goals and justifying the latter on a long set of rationalizations that all eventually boil down to, in the end, “We can do this because we’re right”. So you can discriminate against people because, hey, gender or racial equality is something that it is right to promote. You can riot and cause property damage because, hey, your cause is just. You can hound, insult and harass people, and deliberately try to harm them mentally and emotionally, at least, because your cause is just. You can try to get someone fired from their job because, hey, they said something wrong and that shouldn’t be allowed to stand unopposed. You can impede and inconvenience all sorts of people by taking up public property that everyone should be allowed to use unrestricted because, hey, your cause is just and they’re just whining if they complain that you are stopping them from using what they have a right to use because, hey, your cause is just … even if they don’t agree.
Now, I could go and find examples of all of these, but that’s not really my point. My point is indeed that this attitude seems prevalent, and that people, in general, seem to support certain actions and people who act in certain ways when they agree with them … and then classify the behaviour and actions as wrong when others do it. They seem to think that anything they do in service of the right or the truth is justifiable, and anything that anyone does in the service of what they think is the wrong or the false is unjustifiable. Heck, I even have an example where a criticism is seen as an attack on someone, even though it was polite and reasoned. There seems to be nothing that anyone in the wrong can do that isn’t seen as being an egregious offense and, more worryingly, nothing that anyone in the right can do that is an egregious offence. This attitude is not “the ends justify the means” — which I think is one of the most dangerous principles anyone can hold — because in that case people do still try to only take the most extreme means when they absolutely have to. This attitude really is more like you don’t have to think at all about what means you are using if you are in the right.
This attitude, it seems to me, carries across pretty much all political, social and even opinionated views. Our society seems to not only accept that sometimes you have to do extreme things to do the right thing, but that extreme things are always justified in service of the right. So you always have people decrying rudeness or insults used against them and their ideas while in almost the same breath firing them right back at their opponents. You have people complaining about being forced to think a certain way while in almost the same breath trying to force others to think their way, using the same methods. You have people decrying as terrible the use of public shame against positions they think are reasonable while in almost the same breath advocating publicly shaming the people who disagree with them. And I’ve seen this from even the most reasonable of commentators.
This attitude scares me like no other. “The ends justifies the means” is bad, but at least, again, most people won’t run to the nastiest means unless they think they have to. For “Right makes might”, the only protection we have is the personal values of them … and a lot of people are really, really complete and utter jerks. Be afraid. Be very afraid.