I was, and indeed am, a fan of Louis CK. I also don’t think Louis CK is a person I would care to meet. This does not stem from his past controversy in where he would expose himself to women before embarking of a cruise of self pleasure before them. My lack of care for CK as a person is from looking at his material and surmising that he comes off as someone I’d probably not share a lot in common.
For instance, simply leaving his rental car at the airport terminal for the rental car company to collect.
Sure, it’s not the most earth-shattering of attitudes, and of all the moral crimes he could perform, this would rank next to “backing into another persons car and driving off” or “playing Bjork in a multi-storey apartment complex at 3am”. It’s inconsiderate.
But I feel it does reveal a certain personality trait that I would likely not get along with.
When it was eventually revealed that CK held some proclivities toward exposing himself to women, my reaction wasn’t one of shock, but rather of “yeah, that strikes me as something he’d do.”
This isn’t to suggest his actions rank on the same scale as the “inconsiderate”, but rather is an example of his attitude writ large. If someone has no qualms about inconveniencing others in a mild setting, then how would this manifest in its worst possible fashion? And for that question, CK had an emphatic answer, and it is one for which has cost him “millions and millions“, according to an excerpt in his latest performance.
Which is a performance that seems to have outraged the internet, which is no surprise. Outrage is now the natural behaviour for the internet.
I only mention CK here, because there is much right about this performance that needs to be taken on by more people. Not what he’s saying, per se, but rather the cavalier up-yours to those who would seek to destroy others for crimes that in the past would not have played out so publicly.
By attacking the taboo, as has been CK’s modus operandi for the better part of his career, CK challenges the outrage mob, effectively saying, “do your worst.”
And it is this method that will defeat the outrage mob, by revealing them to be the paper tigers they truly are. I understand that businesses are typically shy of controversy, usually doing whatever they can to put PR messes behind them. This usually involves a mea-culpa and some self-flaggelation, while the outrage mob sings and dances in triumph at yet another scalp they’ve beaten into submission.
Except, online outrage mobs, I contend, only exist online. For the most part, I don’t think these mobs are paying customers, and I don’t think businesses would suffer any loss of income by having an online mob vowing to never use their services again. Apologising to the mob only serves to embolden the mob, legitimising their tactics and giving them power where they ought to have none.
So CK is displaying the more dramatic actions that businesses, and indeed even politicians, should take when faced with a howling mob: stare them down and tell them “no”. Sure, it might be easier to appease them and throw them an empty apology, but in taking steps to stand up to them, showing how ultimately pitiful their outrage is, and how turning them away has no impact on the bottom line, it would send an example to future targets of the mob’s ire.
This extends to employers and their employees. Should an employee fall afoul of the online mob, an employer should clarify the actions of the employee and deal with the matter in-house. Publicly firing and shaming an employee again emboldens the crowd, thereby increasing this culture in where attacking peoples’ sources of income is a legitimate and celebrated tactic.
Employers should tell the mob to mind their own business and go away.
It would be most scary to do, facing what appears to be hundreds of thousands of angry people and hoisting the middle finger. But upon realising that many of the people are just angry Twitter users with an illusion of power, suddenly the mob must surely appear less intimidating.
I am hopeful that CK sticks to this method of pointing at the folly of the activist culture today, and poking today’s sacred cows without receding with an apology to placate those he supposedly offended. I maintain that many of those offended aren’t actually offended as much as their using a faux-offence to attack their political adversaries.
I have liked, and still like, CK’s work, and I still maintain that he isn’t someone I’d care to meet (and I am doubly sure the feeling would be reciprocated), but one can like the art and still be ambivalent on the artist. I have not changed my perspective on him as a result of the performance linked above, as I don’t want to be someone who flip-flops on someone as they flip-flop their attitudes.
So, take heed, future victims of online outrage mobs; stare them down, tell them to go away. They will.
Take heed, employers of targets of online outrage mobs; tell the mob to go away, that you will deal with the matter internally, and move on. Caution your employee, but know that firing them will only make matters worse.
Louis CK is right to ignore the consequences of outrage, because he reveals the pitiful illusion of power the online mobs have. Those emperors have no clothes.