People are being morally lynched all the time on the Internet. Lynchings are very unattractive. People surrender their selves to the mob and give themselves up to darkness and malice. The man they called Christ was lynched, but we now play with the lives of people in a Godless way that might take us back to the dark age seen in King Lear: ‘As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods, They kill us for their sport.’ Casting people as villains and then punishing them – vilification – does not evidence a happy and healthy people. It does in truth suggest a people in decline.
The head of a school is observed – spied on – watching porn on his computer. He is photographed, and informed on – dobbed – by being publicly exposed. His life is ruined – and his family suffers pain that cannot be measured. A radio personality makes a bad joke at the footy. He gets dobbed, so he gets to spend his time in the stocks. (I make a disclaimer. He is a mate of sixty years standing and he and I have both said – indeed, shouted – a lot worse than that at the footy over that time. That was one of the reasons that we went.) A champion footy coach brushes aside a drunk – who dobs him – and then the person accosted – the innocent one – has to explain himself. A footy commentator on a public broadcaster makes some odd comments about Anzac Day that offend people, and he gets sacked after being publicly vilified by the minister on Twitter. Mr Turnbull had practised as a lawyer but his idea of due process or natural justice looks to have gone clean out of the window.
Each of these incidents may have been more or less unsavoury or unfortunate depending on your postcode. But it is not easy to see any good coming from any of it. The level of publicity looks ridiculous, and this very publicity has a big effect on the results. Too many people have too much time for chatter, or they make a living from it, and this leads to what is little more than gossip and the evils that we associate with idle hands. We have a new understanding of the phrase ‘chattering classes.’
Since two incidents involved footy, they were subject to the massive over-servicing of the entertainment industry called footy in what passes for sports journalism – there must be more people employed by the footy media than are employed to play football, and the consequent mindlessness is very bloody unhealthy.
In the other two cases, the employer moved to protect its ‘brand’. The publicity may have left it with no choice. The sackings are seen to be generally acceptable. But protecting their brand is precisely what got the churches into trouble over child abuse, and it was heavily involved in the lynching of Jesus of Nazareth. It ultimately rests on the notion that ‘I am bigger and more important than you.’ You will not find that sentiment in the Sermon on the Mount, but the strident egoism of our commercial world leaves little or no room for what is called Christian charity. If anyone could be sacked for this kind of lapse, none of us would be safe.
In our world now, the school may have had no real option once the issue had been made public, but the man who was said to be offensive about our dead does seem to have been motivated by moral outrage about war rather than any wish to hurt people. Was no thought given to asking him to withdraw and apologise, or had the bullying gate-crashing of the minister put compassion out of court? Given the wholesale commercial profanation and political exploitation of Anzac Day, the whole reaction looks like a human landslide of moral hypocrisy.
Two cases involved dobbing. No one likes a dobber. No people in history that I am aware of has favoured informants. Those who follow two of our major faiths have firm views about dobbers.
There is no pattern here, but the events are unsettling. They suggest that we have no moral bedrock and that such standards as we do profess are shallow and negotiable. Perhaps those smug, rowdy God deniers are responsible. They are good at knocking down but not too good at giving back. We see a lot of that now. The times are bitter and twisted. As a mate of mine memorably remarked, we were not born a moment too soon.