Crossposted at MY LEFT WING as Question of the Day
I just spent over half an hour responding to an email from the Green candidate I met last weekend, Byron DeLear.
As I wrote, I found myself coming to an inescapable and nauseating realisation: I am a coward.
You may wonder how I came to see myself a coward. Well, it started as I wrote to Mr. DeLear my reasons for having concluded -- and posted said conclusion in a diary (here and at Daily Kos) -- that I preferred to vote for Howard Berman, the longtime incumbent Democrat in my district, than for Mr. DeLear, whose name on the ballot sits beneath the aegis of the Green Party.
I realised that I was relieved to have come to the conclusion I had, because if I had honestly decided to vote for Mr. DeLear, I might not have had the wherewithal to post that in a diary at Daily Kos. That is to say, I would have been AFRAID to post it at Daily Kos.
Which means I am a coward. I fear the hostility, verbal abuse, loss of respect and, most shameful and embarrassing, the loss of popularity I would sustain if I posted a diary at Daily Kos endorsing anyone but a Democrat in any campaign.
I fear being marginalised, should I come to the conclusion that the Democratic Party is unacceptable to me. I fear the enmity of people I once called allies and compatriots -- for it would surely come, if I abandoned the Party. I've tasted the wrath of the mob that patrols the diaries at Daily Kos -- and despite my bravado and defiance, I will admit to you here and now, it hurt.
They did their work well -- for surely, if the Great and Powerful MSOC is not immune to the viciousness of the "Democrats at DKos: Love Us or Leave Us" (aka SYFPH) mentality that so often dominates discussions of diaries even HINTING at dissent from that stance, then why on earth would a newcomer or lurker want to open himself up to that sort of treatment at the hands of the Mob?
The vast majority of DKos members are NOT like that, fortunately. But unfortunately, as is so often the case when it comes to this sort of community dynamic, there IS a small contingent of people who seem to view it as their primary role on earth to quash the voices of dissent, regardless of the merits of the arguments. Admittedly, oftentimes the "dissent" is merely a badly written argument without merit at all; but inarguably, there HAVE been cases of plausible, arguable dissent -- and many of them can be found in the elephants' graveyard of diaries deleted by their cowed and harangued authors.
(Full disclosure: I've repeated this many times in the past year or so, but it certainly bears saying here... I was once one of the more vocal, vicious and powerful advocates of SYFPH. I am ashamed of it, and have apologised many times. I rationalised it with the fact that I believed it was the most important Presidential election in history, and that the time for negativity toward John Kerry had passed once he won the primary. I am very embarrassed by my past behaviour in this regard, and apologise once again to anyone whom I may have hurt in my zeal to get Kerry elected at all costs.
I also apologise to the Nader voters I vilified and excoriated; I still disagree with the decision to vote third party in this two-party political system that makes any liberal third party vote a de facto vote for the Republican... but I had no business -- as NO ONE has any business -- haranguing people for their political views and decisions, howevere much I disagree with them. Frankly, I've treated Republicans with more kindness than I had for Nader voters -- and again, I am heartily ashamed of that behaviour. I hope to be forgiven.)
We are fragile beings. Some may scoff at the importance many of us place on our participation in online communities, but the fact is that it IS important, and these ARE relationships, albeit tenuous and intangible. Once having established oneself as a member of a community, the influence of its collective opinion is strong and oftentimes irresistible.
The threat of the loss of love is terrifying to most people -- as it is to me. It is a far more effective tool than torture, in fact. It is exactly how cults maintain their hold on their membership.
(I am NOT calling Daily Kos a cult, nor MLW or any other community. Please, if that is the conclusion you've reached, stop right now and read these words again: I am using this comparison very loosely and am NOT calling Daily Kos a cult. So call off the dogs, I've already told you I'm afraid of them.)
See what I mean? I am a coward. I've debated crossposting this to Daily Kos and frankly, I am AFRAID to do it. I watched yesterday as a well-meaning Democrat posted a diary about his misgivings regarding Hillary Clinton and his decision not to vote for her (in the upcoming election, mind you -- NOT in 2008) -- and the swiftness with which the mob descended on this fellow was surreal and terrifying. It took less than 5 minutes for over 35 comments to appear, most of them demanding the guy shut his fucking piehole, delete the diary and say ten hail marys for DARING to state aloud his intent to decline to support a Democrat. Needless to say, he deleted that diary. Dissent silenced.
So, I was utterly dismayed this morning to find myself realising that I was RELIEVED to have come to the conclusion that I preferred to vote for the incumbent Democrat than for the Green candidate I'd met and admired over te past weekend. I was relieved because I felt spared the agony of having to decide whether to post a diary about it. Imagine it -- it isn't hard to do, it's happened so many times, too many times to count -- imagine what would happen if I were to post a diary at Daily Kos, endorsing a GREEN PARTY candidate over an incumbent DEMOCRAT.
Not a pretty picture, eh?
So here's my question:
Have you ever consciously decided not to post your honest opinion about something-- here at Daily Kos or anywhere else --because you didn't want to deal with the negative reaction and possible hostility or abuse you imagined might be the response from the community or some of its most vocal or powerful members?