Fishing For Friends

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No matter how deplorable in life one has been, there is something sad about watching the death throes of another living thing.

In the case of the fish that continuously nips and harasses the rest of the school in the aquarium, that moment comes when one evening, it slowly starts swimming on its side. By morning, it has been transformed into a tiny floating skeleton, as the rest of the school swims around innocently.

For Uncle Scar in The Lion King, the turning point came when the bullied hyenas who had seemed such spineless followers, realized the power had shifted and there was a new King on the veldt. Scar, like the little fish, was also devoured – when the bullied mob turns, there is no mercy.

When a nasty alpha female wild dog shows the first signs of losing status, the bad bitch is quickly torn to shreds by her pack. I witnessed this once on a remote BC beach hiking the Wild Side Trail. The dogs were part of a wild pack that roamed between the Nuu-chah-nulth community of Maaqtusiis and Mount Flores. Our Ahousaht First Nations guide had told us they were the most dangerous animals on Flores Island.

Humans are no different. The bully is easily recognized by aggressive behaviour, threats, and intimidation. Donald Trump would be a classic case, following the mantra of lie, threaten, and sue until you win. It is also easy to recognize when he is floundering at the bottom of the aquarium – his Twitterstorms increase, he holds a rally of the deplorable base, and he gives himself Fake News Awards for his terrific accomplishments.

Trump tends to Twitter because of the alliteration, but others prefer Facebook for their social media rants because it is one of the easiest ways to let the dogs out and spread chaos with misinformation. It is why I generally avoid Facebook – the postings require no safeguards. Any fanatic with an axe to grind and an unshuffled deck with a few ethical cards missing can post absolute El-Toro-Pooh-Pooh online and have their adoring acolytes sharing it around the world in a matter of minutes. And as several victims of this kind of *maliteracy have discovered, the effect can be devastating, even fatal.

When I post a news article, it goes through three fact-checks and two editors before it goes to print. If we have made an error, an immediate apology and retraction are issued. I began editing and writing for professional publications in 1986. I remember it well, because as the editor of Anee,  then the official journal of the Council of Outdoor Educators of Ontario, I was accredited as a journalist to attend and report on an historic event. UN delegates had just completed a three-year journey around Earth to ask its inhabitants one simple question: “What is the preferred future you want for yourself, your family, and your community?”

The answers to that question were synthesized into Our Common Future, the groundbreaking United Nations publication that received its Canadian launch at Ontario Place in Toronto. This seminal work, authored by former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland and her team, first introduced the term “sustainable development” to the world. I was in awe, ushered in through high security and surrounded by international dignitaries. It was my privilege that day to interview Ms. Brundtland, who I later dubbed “the most powerful woman in the world.”

I had no idea how profoundly that experience would change my life. Since that day I hold every politician to the standards she set for ethics and intelligence in governance. And Our Common Future set a blueprint for human survival into the twenty-first century and became my moral compass. Some older works might be fine for ancient goat herding Semitic nomads from the Middle East, but as an evolving human I’ll stick with Brundtland and Dawkins. I choose to write and speak truth to power, to bring light into the darkness, to .. but I digress.

Where was I? Ah, bullies who lie and intimidate  Now, every once in a while on social media, a bully starts to lose status. People stop reading the rants, begin to realize the information has been negatively skewed, and begin to delete posts and unfriend. There is nothing more terrifying to a bully on social media than to be unfriended and deleted.

In response, like the thrashing fish, or the cowering lion, or the submissive dog, the bully begins posturing for acceptance. In social media terms this is referred to as going on a “fishing for friends” expedition. It is usually signaled by a frenzy of “friend” requests to everyone under the sun in the hopes of maintaining status.

For all out there who don’t want to get hooked, line and sinker hooked, recognize the frantic last gasps of a deeply troubled being who deserves our forgiveness and empathy. Be kind but be careful when you get one of those random “friend” requests from out of the blue. It could be genuine, or it could just be a bully going through the death throes, desperately seeking solace.

* maliteracy = malicious literacy


Skid Crease, Caledon



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