Some years ago, I engaged in discussions on the late Harlan Ellison’s webpage.
Harlan was not a computer guy. A friend who was set it up, and Harlan could post his comments. I knew Harlan slightly, was a fan of his writing and speaking.
The discussions were sometimes lively and contentious, and there were some bright and clever folks who showed up for the fray. Some posted under pseudonyms because they were kinda famous and didn’t want to flash that around. Others just hid behind screen-noms so they could safely snark.
There were rules, one of which was, you were allowed one post a day, so as not to clutter things up. Ellison had favorites, and would allow them to post more frequently, but pretty much, the laity were to speak their piece and then wait until the next day to continue -- unless Harlan asked them a direct question.
One particular discussion involved a science fiction writer who was a Canadian. Upon attempting to cross the national border from the U.S. back into Canada, said writer got into a pissing match with a border patrolman. Words were exchanged, and the writer was marched off to the hoosegow.
As I recall the backstory, the writer allowed that he had done nothing to merit an attack, and that the BP agents thumped him, MACEd him, and put the cuffs on, for no reason.
The agents said that the routine inspection of his vehicle resulted in him stepping out of his car and getting surly. When told to get back into his car, he refused and got surlier, and physical.
I wasn't there, I don't know what happened, but he was charged, arrested, bailed out the next day, and came back in the spring for his trial. ***
Many of Harlan’s fans and friends and other posters were liberals, shading into radicals. The outrage at this event was exclaimed high, loud, and repeatedly. How dare those jackbooted stormtroopers do such a thing! The writer was an innocent, beset by bullyboy thugs! The injustice of it! ACAB!
Lot of echoes there.
Being a liberal-shading-into-radical, one would expect me to be on that bandwagon, sloshing my beer and ranting about the goose-steppers.
As somebody trained to be a journalist, I was curious, so I poked around, found the news accounts, the writer’s comments, those of the border patrol agent, other witnesses, and lo! the full-color picture of the innocent writer attacked for no reason whatsoever by the evil brown shirts was somewhat clearer than the fuzzy black-and-white snapshot offered to Harlan’s forum.
So, I said, Um, perhaps there is more to be seen here? You should go look. I did not say he was guilty, mind you, only that further research might be beneficial.
Oh, my. The explosion of the liberal-left was deafening. How dare I!? What was wrong with me, that I would take the side of the fascist pigs?
Got called a jackbooted Nazi Fascist stormtrooper by a few of the serious spittle-spewers, which, I confess, I found hilarious. There are those on the Left who, if you are not in 100% agreement, count you as fully against them.
Since the pile-on was heavy, I was allowed to post more than once a day, and my refutation of the knee-jerk response was, I thought, reasoned, with, you know, facts and all. I was right, the mob was wrong, and I said so. Because my heart was pure, I had the strength of ten, and amongst the other folks who were capable of reasons and not simply cant, I gained a following.
Eventually, the arguments died down and we went on to some other tempest-in-a-teapot. I considered that a win, because, being right and all.
But: Here’s the point of this long-winded backstory: A couple years later, on FaceBook, I friended a writer, one of the folks involved in that aforementioned discussion. He had not been the most vehement about me being a stormtrooper, but had been on that side of the table. Still, it had been a while, and that discussion well back in the rear-view mirror. I liked the writer’s work.
Howsoever, when I posted comments on this writer’s page, in most instances, if I said something even mildly critical? I got quick and hard pushback. Often for things that other posters had said or echoed, and for whom doing so got no such response.
It was just me, apparently.
And I wondered: Am I still the jackbooted stormtrooper in this narrative? Did he hold onto that in some memory engram?
I believe it is a possibility. That there is a supposition my stormtrooperness is so, and thus a prejudged expectation.
Not a major problem, and first-world at that, but interesting if that is the case.
*** The writer was found guilty by the jury for obstruction, got a fine, sentence suspended.