CW: hate speech, zionism, prominent twitter/YouTube racists, gamergate
Okay, this is going to ramble for a bit, but here’s my story of trying to fix a shitty friend.
I had a small group of online friends that I met through blogging on gamespot that began to corrode following gamergate. One guy went full “ethics in games journalism” and the rest of us routinely shouted him down because at the time it seemed like he had been suckered by “we’re against harassment, we’re just asking questions” line. As the year went on he got into prominent nu-atheist racists like harris and shapiro, started calling himself a libertarian and then an anarcho-capitalist, posted anti-abortion propaganda on Facebook, got way way more zionist (he’s Israeli) etc etc. Needless to say, we let so so much slide that we shouldn’t have because we had grown up on the Internet together.
Other members of the group just stopped engaging after a while but my friend and I kept at it, debating him on his points, only to be met with “strawman” and “appeal to emotion” or whatever bullshit these logic guys think discounts actual empathy. Eventually I cut him off, telling him that even his least (haha) offensive political stance: his libertarianism, was emblematic of a callous disregard for human suffering, and incredible selfishness. He did his logic thing and I told him that everyone in the group thought he was nasty, odious person but thought that ignoring him would fix things, and that it had just resulted in him becoming the worst person we all knew. The group collapsed and I think he still lives with his parents in Tel Aviv trying to get the baseball crank to RT him.
We should have burned that bridge long before we actually did. Even the slightest hint that someone is willing to entertain the right wing pseudo-intellectuals of youtube speaks volumes. The same goes for bigotry. I wish I had known that then because one of our friends hadn’t come out yet, and here this self-satisfied little shit was posting in the chat about how he opposed gay marriage and the queer rights movement in general. I can’t imagine how much pain that caused them.
We tried to catch those views and behaviours early and it didn’t help. If you’re incapable of human empathy, all that shit is a way of convincing yourself that being awful is Good Actually. All I know is that I’m ashamed of having ever considered him a friend, and that if I met him for the first time today he wouldn’t pass the sniff test. Sometimes the right thing is cut people off, because it protects the people around you and makes you a better person for taking a stand on principle. Sometimes you have to come to terms with the idea that they were this person all along, and that you turned the other way because it wasn’t hurting you or directed at you.
In the end, trying to stick around and change that dude would have hurt a lot of people around me and made me hate myself for associating with him at all. I genuinely feel guilty for the amount of time it took from him becoming gater-adjacent to full-on reactionary for me to say/do something that wasn’t in some way validating his arguments i.e. trying to debate and reason with him.