In response to When Courage Dies, Hysteria Rules
In an earlier post about a false claim that a Jeopardy! contestant had used a white-supremacy gesture on the show, which led to a mob clamoring for blood against the innocent party, I held that people who don’t speak up for truth against such social-media frenzies are cowards. One previous contestant on the show, Shawn Buell, spoke about the phenomenon on the record to Ben Smith of the New York Times. I mentioned this contestant in passing because he admitted that he had misgivings about the lies the mob was spreading via a Facebook group, and thought their claims “unhinged,” but ultimately didn’t speak up because he “assumed he would be shouted down,” in Smith’s words.
Buell writes in to say it was unfair of me to charge him with cowardice, and he may be right. I didn’t mean to call attention to Buell in particular, not knowing much about his specific circumstances, but rather to a class of people who decline to offer any corrective when a group to which they belong turns into a mob amid false claims.
Buell notes that the peculiar constraints of the Facebook group to which a number of past Jeopardy! contestants belong seem to preclude any commentary that breaks with progressive conventional wisdom; one rule is “no politics,” but a specific exemption is alluded to in the assertion that “human rights are not political.”
Buell says: “This is code for ‘if you agree with us you’re in favor of human rights and scum if you don’t’ — which bothered me from the moment I was invited to join. Many of the folks who have signed this letter are very-online, extremely woke types and the admins themselves sport BLM avatars.” So Buell’s voice in this matter was probably not welcome in the first place. The Facebook group is itself an ideologically closed system.
Buell notes that he is the only one of the dissenting Facebook contestants who spoke to Smith of the Times on the record; others calculated that staying silent was prudent given the likely outcome of speaking out.
I also don’t think “cowardice” on the part of non-signing members explains this as well as “discretion being the better part of valor.” You are invited to join this group for having achieved something unique and don’t expect to be recruited into a de facto political action committee whose self-appointed task is to police the ongoing production of a television show.
I leave readers to judge for themselves.