The main struggle I have with this is that the internet wants me to look at things in black and white. Is Stallman a “good guy” or a “bad guy”? If he’s good, we need to pity him because the hoards of the internet have been released…but if he’s the bad guy (or even just in the wrong for a specific comment) its time to send the hoards. In my opinion this is a false dichotomy. As a Christian I believe we’re all bad. In the words of Rochelle Burlock, who I had the opportunity to hear speak last weekend, “The system is broken because we’re broken”. If we’re honest with ourselves we’ve all done something that would disgust the internet hive mind. If we’re super honest we’d say we’ll make mistakes like that again in the future. That’s the first half of Christ’s gospel, we need fixing. Even people of different beliefs would most likely agree with me that lives consist of both good and bad decisions.
So why do we hold people to perfection, then turn on them when they don’t meet it? Obviously the internet is a very big place, and everyone has their own reasons for doing things. But one big reason to me is the dichotomy I explained above. Grace is hard, so it’s easier to just remove it from the options. Another reason is that I think it feels good to watch someone fall from grace. More generaly it can feel good to see someone feel bad. It’s part of whats broken about the human race. It’s hard to write that, but it explains internet trolls, bullies, and probably countless other behaviors.
I need to take a moment to defend myself. I’m not defending Richard Stallman’s comments. At worst his comments were just flat out wrong, but at the very least they were written without a lot of eloquence. I do however think he has a point when he says “it is morally absurd to define ‘rape’ in a way that depends on minor details such as which country it was in or whether the victim was 18 years old or 17”. To be blunt “moral” (if you’re like me a belive in a universal law of morality) rape doesn’t have a lot of “if” statements. It definitely has nothing to do with your age or where you live. We should condemn it, and all forms of sexual crimes.
But is it social media hive mind’s job to do that? How often do we let “mob mentality” get in the way of the benefit of the doubt, especially before we know all the facts? The main thought I want to get across is that mobing against someone is rarely the right thing to do. The worst way to get someone to see your side is to attack them. And how do you expect people to change, get the help they need, and grow better (become more christlike) if we put them on defense? In the wake of the Me too Movement, I’ve seen tons of “social figures” face the full brunt of “the internet hoard”. The last person I saw this happen to was Alec Holowka, and he took his own life because of it. That breaks my heart. Yes I want the truth to come out, for those people to face the law of the land. But I also want grace.