Lessons Learned From Roasting Social Autopsy

Fault Lines has been generous enough to let me take a story and lampoon it or come up with some comic laden angle every Friday.  On the 15th we ran with a story on Social Autopsy where I “roasted” them with insult after insult.  For further giggles, I anchored every paragraph with a hook developed by comedian Carlos Valencia: “It Gets Worse.” What ends up surprising me is over the weekend people started picking up the post and taking it seriously!

One person picked up the post and twitted it as analysis of Social Autopsy’s problems.  Then people started applauding it as a “refreshing take” on the site’s attempt to end cyber bullying by actually cyber bulling people.  Yet another person got in touch with me on Twitter and argued that in our current climate of butthurt it might turn into a viable business model, comparing it to Peeple, another failed attempt at trying to smear character in a thinly-veiled attempt to spread “positivity.”  There’s lessons to be learned from this exercise I think worth sharing.

  1. People don’t care for the online “naming and shaming” or “call out culture” anymore.

We used to take this approach and laud it as a means of “eradicating” certain wrongthink or shun peoples’ ideas we found offensive or hurtful to others.  Now it’s something recognized as a bad idea in a country that values free speech, and people who attempt to use the technique and turn it into a business model are going to see some inevitable blowback if they try to reinvent the “reputation” wheel.

2. There is a blowback against monetizing reputation or attempting to run people out of a job in the name of “inclusivity” and “diversity.”

Justine Sacco lost her job over a tweet.  Pax Dickinson can’t get a job in tech because of a proclivity to be “trolly.” People now don’t accept this as a proper way to handle conflict, and they’re calling out those who justify this sort of idea as a means to promote a narrative of “words hurt and harm.”  It’s the inevitable response to years of using these tactics to cost people their jobs, reputations, and more.

On a recent episode of The Rubin Report, Paul Joseph Watson of Prison Planet and Infowars called the rise of this cultural libertarianism inevitable because “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  I tend to agree with him.  The push against Social Autopsy, and Peeple before it, is now largely reflective of a contrarian approach to the victimhood mentality or the “call out culture” propagated by the regressive movement that tells us “You can’t say that.”

3. The moment towards making free speech cool again is gaining traction.

Companies and conferences that “no platform” speakers or executives are getting outed for their work.  Protesters that try to silence others are getting resistance.  Even the recent trends of “Chalking” areas with messages others find “offensive” or “unsafe” are beginning to see some blowback with people deliberately using “The Chalkening” to promote free speech instead of stifling it.  The reactionary, provocateur approach is slowly building up a wonderful trend of giving others a chance to speak, and real discussion to begin.

4.  Change in thought concerning speech can happen, even if it’s painful.

There are a few people who gave up on the approach that society would ever shift back in the direction of our old “Marketplace of Ideas” mentality towards free speech.  It’s understandable, and the numbing view is a cultural marker in communication.  When the shift to limit speech and shame people into groupthink began the first trend was deliberate self-censorship.  People just bought into the idea and refused to speak on topics of interest, or even just engage in a back and forth to have fun.  They knew this because of the “social consequences” model justifying this manner of behavior.  No one wants to lose a steady source of income over a few words.

As time passed the approach just became numbing to people.  We knew this cultural shift occurred, and became largely indifferent to it.  The naming and shaming life was the New Normal, and we simply analyzed it and called the practice what it was.  We didn’t really do anything about it, because the idea of shifting cultural practices didn’t seem possible.  The movement was just that powerful.

Now we’re seeing a movement begin that’s changing the way we view speech.  It’s the result of people getting sick and tired of being able to discuss real issues and real problems in our country without getting labeled “racist, sexist and homophobic.” Those terms still get thrown around, but they’ve been used so much the new movement of cultural libertarianism’s response is “you’ve used those terms so much to describe people those words lost their meaning. We’re going to continue the discussion.”

It’s a great time to be alive.  The lessons learned from the blowback over Social Autopsy prove that we’re headed in the right direction again.  Eventually we’re going to return to a cultural future where we value open, plain, honest discussion of issues instead of buying into group narratives where people stay silent at the risk of personal and professional loss.

That’s when the real discussions over issues of concern will begin.  That’s when we’ll make real progress.  That’s when we’ll see real racism, sexism, and societal concerns addressed through open and honest discussion.

Get a chance to embrace the “Wrongless Approach.” It’s a great way to live.

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