Second Life, much like the wider internet itself, can often be one of the last bastions of truly free speech. Political correctness doesn’t appear to be the moral policeman online that it is so often, increasingly more intrusively, elsewhere. SL residents seem to have thicker skins than, say for example, the sort of people who feel the need to comment on MSN articles; or – and this is my sincere hope – they take a more commonsense, pragmatic, tolerant and reasonable attitude to other people’s views and opinions, even when these may clearly be out of order or even objectionable according to our own sensibilities.
Which, of course, doesn’t mean we can’t challenge them.
There is a danger that an environment like SL, where diversity is celebrated and encouraged, and where we tend to be less judgmental than we might be in the real world, can promote stereotyping and both overt and unconscious bias. People do tend to be a little bit more vocal and less restrained too when in SL. Most of it doesn’t bother me in the slightest – most of the time, I really couldn’t care less about somebody else’s iffy views, I just ignore and move on. However, whilst I will usually take the stance of ‘live and let live’, or ‘everyone is entitled to their opinion’, very occasionally I’ll find myself feeling in a more combative frame of mind and when I am, you’d better look out, because I tend not to pull my punches, and – if I’m absolutely honest – I like to have a bit of playful fun while I’m at it!
Outmoded stereotypes, overt or implied ‘isms’ of any sort, insulting, derogatory or inflammatory behaviour… If you feel the need to tout your views out in the open, for whatever reason, (and I’m well aware that some do it just to get a reaction), then watch out, because if I’m in the mood for a fight, or a good laugh at your expense, I’ll happily take you on… And I will beat you soundly at your own silly game.
Getting into that sort of confrontation with me is a minefield and what makes it so much fun as far a I’m concerned, is that whilst the protagonist of such views will almost certainly be deadly serious about what they believe, I myself couldn’t care less and will take the greatest delight in mocking them and bringing them down a peg or two. I would stress that I’d only do so when the situation merits it – I’d never make fun of somebody’s sincerely held beliefs, although I would shy away from arguing against them if it was necessary – it’s only the truly misguided and ill-advised, loudly voiced and clearly inappropriate opinions that I’ll take to task, not because I find them personality offensive, but because if some berk is going to start spouting such stuff in public, then as far as I’m concerned, they’re fair game.
There’s always a danger that when you’re in an environment that tolerates a degree of anarchic behaviour, with little moderation or constraint, such as SL or the wider Internet, people will take the opportunity to air views that they’d probably keep to themselves in the real world. There’s nothing wrong with free speech, neither am I a fan of political correctness, but I do think that when others choose this course of action, they should do so in the full expectation of being rebuffed and challenged in whatever manner may be appropriate at the time… And I see nothing wrong with using scorn, ridicule and mockery as a means to an end when it’s merited.
Self-moderation is a quality that can often be in very short supply on the Internet – just take a look at some of the extreme and offensive comments that even a simple music video on YouTube can attract, for example, for some prize examples; and I don’t personally think that it freedom of expression and freedom of speech equates to freedom to say whatever the hell you want and get away with it. There are limits, which will change according to the listener or recipient, and whilst tolerance is a good thing, it’s not a universal whitewash that should be enjoyed to make excuses for bad behaviour.
When I was a youngster, if I ever tried to get away with saying something offensive, whether knowingly or not, my mum would threaten to wash my mouth out with soap. In today’s PC world, she’d probably be hauled off by the authorities for abuse of my human rights, but I certainly took notice, and she never actually had to resort to that cruel and inhuman punishment, and I think we could probably do with a little more of that kind of discipline online.
So, by all means, feel free to air your dodgy and offensive views around me: It won’t bother me in the slightest, but be warned, I have a large and unpleasant bar of carbolic soap lurking in my inventory, and I’m not afraid to use it!
Was my saviour
Used to make my day
Super Furry Animals – Bad Behaviour