Mar 14, 2011

Am I the baddie?

This is one of my favourite Mitchell & Webb sketches:

I've been reminded of it again by a particularly spectacular piece of internet trolling.

There's been a bit of buzz about Twitter and Facebook users responding to the incomprehensibly catastrophic earthquake/tsunami/nuclear emergency in Japan with alleged quips like "Karma is a bitch" and "This is payback for Pearl Harbour".

Now, to anyone with just a light dusting of sense, these are mind-numbingly atrocious comments, rooted in the black heart of racism and pig-headed stupidity.

Nobody responded to the Queensland's natural disasters by saying "That's payback for the state's historical record of appalling treatment of indigenous Australians." 

Nobody responded to the tragedy in New Zealand by saying "That's for Xena: Warrior Princess".

And with good reason - the issues are wholly and utterly unrelated (and because Xena, sadly unlike Queensland's treatment of its indigenous peoples, is awesome).

So I wonder - when people are writing these types of comments, does there come a point in their minds when they think: "Am I the baddie?"

Leaving aside the fact that the internet can turn even the nicest of humans into a rabid trough-feeding cretin - the answer is, depressingly, "probably not".

The fact that you could spew such hateful comments when about half a second of rational thought would indicate to you that they were patently ridiculous, seems to suggest that some people are just "the baddies."

I know I sometimes apply this question of "Am I the baddie?" to myself.

I like to think that I'm a basically decent person, who tries to be kind, and supportive and inclusive and gracious.

But I'm vulnerable to jealousy, pettiness, grumpiness, anger and hurt. I often say things I regret; I yearn for a "do-over", as our American friends would say, at least a few times every month. I've wished for people to fail; I've hated the fact I've failed; I've blamed others for problems of my own doing; I've said non-PC things; I've put on a false face; I've been guilty of schadenfreude. If my conscious were a judge, it would have the black hanging cap on.

And so, like David Mitchell's hapless Nazi, I see the skull branded on my own forehead and wonder if maybe I am the baddie.

Of course, what stops one going mad is knowing that there must be rankings of "badness".

I mean, I've never tried to apportion blame for a natural disaster onto a historical event, through a warped sense of cosmic revenge.  So that's a start.

And I'm NOT Andrew Bolt, so I must be at least a few rungs higher than Andrew Bolt.


  1. I don't think you are the baddie.

    I do recall some pastor saying that the earthquake in New Zealand was a result of "lesbians running loose on the South Island as if they own the place". Personally I thought if that were true that was NZ tourisms next campaign 'come to NZ where the lesbians run wild'.

    I am constantly amazed at how rude and thoughtless people feel they can be on the net.

    But I don't think you are in the Evil league of Evil level of baddie yet GC.

  2. I was guilty of schadenfreude last night. But I don't feel particularly guilty about enjoying seeing my rival failing. It's far from blaming the deaths of thousands of mostly innocent people on a political decision made sixty years ago. We are none of us perfect, there's always a little bit of bitch mixed in with the nice girl.

    I guess the answer lies in trying to do good as often as possible. After all, we are answerable to no one but ourselves and whichever higher power we believe in (assuming there is one).

    I think you're doing ok, GC. I think I am too. Although feel free to disagree! :P

  3. I've just been pondering this myself. I thought those comments about the Tsunami being 'Payback' were a bit rich, considering the payback for Pearl Harbour was wiping, Hiroshima and Nagasaki off the face of the planet with the only two atomic weapons ever levelled at other humans.

    But, I thought, what if someone had switched that around on the US? Would that be a clever way of pointing out that no one would ever do that? So I put together some un-related tragedies and thought...

    'Maybe 9-11 was Karmic payback for all the "peace-keeping" that those arrogant Americans do across the world..'

    OMG! I actually said that at the time. I'm the bad guy. And many other people did too.

    When people are faced with tragedy that they can't absorb all at once, often they'll turn to humour to help them deal with their feelings. Broken analogies like the karmic ones above, work well because they help alleviate the survivors guilt and dehumanise the tragedy.

    This doesn't justify their behaviour but it does explain it.

  4. While few of you may have reached my dizzy heights of Ghandi-like saintliness & modesty you, dear GC, are quite a decent sort of chap. I suspect that critical self-reflection & a healthy conscience make a lot of difference. Most of us have our "Oh God I wish I hadn't . . ." moments and maybe those just come too rarely & too late for the tasteless commenters described above. Then again I find it hard to imagine either Alan Jones or Andrew Bolt wakeful at 2 am, wrestling with his conscience over the putrid & vicious utterances of the day. On a sliding scale of baddiness, I think they've slid off the lower end.

  5. Dan: while I never called 9-11 'karmic payback', the connection between the event and American foreign policy, particularly as enacted in the Middle East and Afghanistan, is kind of a no-brainer. Asserting that they 'deserve it' would be stupid and wrong headed. Suggesting that their own actions helped create the circumstances which brought 9-11 about is nothing more than simple observation.

    I ain't no Gandhi either, though. And when the Gulf of Mexico got turned into a giant fish-fryer, I'm afraid I rather thought: "Yeah, it was always gonna happen sooner or later. Glad the one we had up north wasn't as bad."

  6. I don't think baddies would ask theirselves that question to begin with so you're probably not the baddie. at least not this time! but it's always good to give yourself a reality check ya know?

  7. The people I know on FB who have quipped such posts are "meatheads". Some just didn't think it through, others really went for the comic irony and the real bottom-feeders did it for the attention. Either way, all I hear is my hundred year old Great Grandmother, "If you haven't anything nice to say..." ; )

    PS: We're human, good OR bad is a matter of perception.

  8. Most of the bad things you read online are from trolls looking for a reaction. They feel invulnerable behind the anonymous nature of the internet. The gutless trolls would never dare say the horrible things they spew out onlineto your face because then there would be reprisals. And that's why they should be ignored. There is no need to heed the comments of those too spineless to stand behind their pathetic words.

  9. Nat as has been said folks who ask that question aren't likely to be baddies. You may have made mistakes, who hasn't? You at least own up to them and deal with them, unlike to many others.
    PS Yes I do consider you well behaved and a good person.

  10. I thought you may like this Nat.

  11. Nah, not a baddie. Unless you mull about your Spring Hill mansion in a bad-ass cape whilst stroking your pet cat cradled in the crook of your arm and pondering how to take over the world.

    It wouldn't surprise me. You theatre-types are all evil.

  12. Oh yes they did!