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Monday, July 16, 2012

Flounce... writ large

For those not up on the latest buzz words, 'Flounce' is a term which is used to describe when a member of an online community announces they are leaving, usually after a protracted disagreement with other members of the community.

In the pre-Internet world, one would flounce by storming out of a meeting, office or social gathering, while vowing never to return. 

Perhaps the most memorable flouncing that can be offered for illustration of the term would be the the morning after the polls closed in the 1962 California gubernatorial race in which the incumbent, Pat Brown handily trounced the Republican challenger.  That challenger, in his ill-advised 'concession speech', blamed the press for his humiliating defeat and offered the parting shot, "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference".

Nixon's famous 1962 'flounce' serves as a classic example/cautionary tale for the simple reason that it certainly wasn't his last press conference, and the media definitely hadn't finished kicking Dick Nixon around... not by a long shot.

'Flounce' has had a resurgence in popular usage in our era because such behavior - the announcement and accompanying drama surrounding the departure... not the departure itself - remains as counterproductive to the one departing as it is baffling to those left behind.

Obviously, anyone who 'flounces' from an on- or offline community after a real or perceived slight/insult hopes that his/her noisy departure will:

1.  deprive the community of his/her presence (a very big deal or a shrug-worthy yawn, depending on whether seen from the point of view of the flouncer or the community he/she is leaving).

2.  serve as a very public reprimand to those against whom the flouncer has a grudge.

3.  create a deep feeling of remorse on the part of those left behind, as well as serving as the impetus for changed behavior so that nobody else will be similarly hurt.

But what all forms of flouncing share is that the person who storms out ('flounces') is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that his/her departure will force those left behind to beg him/her to return (almost always an incorrect assumption), when what happens is that nobody seems particularly bothered by their departure... forcing them to either remain apart or slink sheepishly back into the community with their tail between their legs.

Probably the most serious, and potentially risky, form of flouncing is the public suicide attempt.

This type of flouncing has been used as a literary device in countless books and movies, but the one that sticks on my mind is from John Steinbecks 'Tortilla Flat' in which Jesus Maria tells his friends how Petey Ravanno won the attention of Gracie (a pretty girl) by hanging himself and being rescued at exactly the right moment, thus convincing her of his love; and how Petey's father the viejo (old man) hanged himself to get the same effect, but as he stepped off the chair, the door blew shut at exactly the wrong moment, and nobody found him... until it was too late.

I've had flouncing on my mind over the past day or two because of an event that took place in Tel Aviv during one of the recent Social Justice protests.  A man who felt that he had been soundly, and iretreivably screwed by the system, poured a flamable liquid over himself and lit himself on fire.  He remains in critical condition, but survived (at least so far) because many of the nearby protesters poured their bottles of water over him and put out the flames with clothing.

I want to make it very clear that this post is not meant to make light of as serious a topic as a suicide attempt.  The man in question here, it seems, had reason to be dispondent.  He was partially paralyzed from a stroke and had supposedly been denied necessary benefits to the extent that he was essentially homeless.

What is truly troubling is that in the wake of this attempted self-immolation, the coverage has taken a very bad turn.

First, almost immediately the leaders of the Social Justice protests grabbed onto the unfortunate event to further their agenda.  They gave lip service to common sense by saying things like 'Obviously we don't want anyone to do such a thing, but...", and what followed that 'but' placed the blame for the suicide attempt conveniently at the feet of the very government they feel is deaf to their own demands for cheap housing, free education and endless benefits.

What had been a single, despondent, man attempting to flounce in as public a fashion as possible, has now been given the nod of legitimacy by the inexperienced, childish leaders of the protest movement who found it too conveneint a weapon not to take up and wield.

As a result, the day after the event more than 2000 people held an anti-government rally in support of the man who tried to kill himself, making him a convenient hero, albeit a tragic one. 

Daphni Leef, one of the most visible and vocal of the protest leaders said, “This is the responsibility of the Israeli government which is not taking care of its citizens.”.  What she failed to mention in her rush to capitalize on the tragic event, is that the man in question had attempted suicide previously (in 2005) and had a long history with a variety of drugs, run-ins with the law, and the inability to take care of himself. 

A report of his background and his psychiatric and social problems was posted to an Israeli scoop news site called Rotter, and paints a clear picture of a person who was almost certainly failed by the Israeli health care system, not by any lack of the government's interest in what is currently being called 'Social Justice.  Yet, because it was convenient, the protest leaders made this tragic man a poster boy for their agenda.

What the leaders of the Social Justice protests have failed to grasp is the inherent danger in offering a flouncer some, or even all of what they want from their act.   They don't appreciate is that once the behavior is proven effective... you can't easily put the genie back in the bottle.

By offering the excuse that 'He didn't have any choice..." or "He had nowhere else to turn...", the protest leaders have given blanket permission to anyone and everyone who has a sad or tragic story (something that, unfortunatly, is in no short supply here in Israel), to act in an irrational, dangerous, or even criminal manner.

Case in point is the fact that the above mentioned solidarity rally turned into an impromptu attempt to burn down the National Insurance Institute; the governmental well from which the Social Justice Movement childishly thinks they can magically draw unlimited benefits.

As if to make my point even more strongly, less than 24 hours after the attempted self-immolation, a man attempted a repeat performance, but was stopped before he could light himself on fire.  The man in this case, who was 'suffering' from a cell phone debt of more than 20,000 shekels (about $5000 US).  He walked into an Orange outlet, threatened to douse himself with gasoline and light himself on fire if they didn't wipe out his bill.  Luckily a security guard was able to get the bottle of gasoline away from him before he could act.

Going back to my original example, the way a well managed online community keeps flouncers from distrupting the fabric of the community is by discouraging people from giving the flouncers the attention they are seeking.  Some flouncers come back... and some don't.  But that is not the community's problem.  Flouncing cannot be allowed to become a potent cudgel with which an individual can beat the group.

Unfortunately, the leaders of the Social Justice movement are so immature, irresponsible and desperate to remain relevant, they will stoop to legitimizing even this most counterproductive of protest tactics; flouncing... even if it means spawning a rash of equally dangerous behavior.

Posted by David Bogner on July 16, 2012 | Permalink

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More importantly, the man was the owner of a private, for profit business which seems to have been bankrupted by tax liabilities. This guy needed less government, not more. It boggles the mind that social 'justice' types are making him the poster boy for bigger government, higher taxes, and more powerful government bureacracy like the one who left him so desperate and helpless. I feel for him, and he's being used by people who would make his fortune worse, and hundreds more wind up like him.

Posted by: Noach Roth | Jul 16, 2012 4:12:41 PM

In all fairness, I have no problem with cell-phone users setting themselves on fire. I will suggest it to a number of them.

PS.: Neither I nor my flatmate are cell-phone users.

Posted by: AtTheBackoftheHill | Jul 16, 2012 11:19:01 PM

Quote attributed to Barack Obama: "Never let a good crisis go to waste."

The people who are trying to use the attempted suicide as a political pawn are no better than the Palestinian activists who turn suicide bombers into martyrs. The man doesn't need more government. He needs therapy. Period. And whoever uses him to further their political/social goals should have trouble looking themselves in the mirror. They won't, of course - to folks like that, the end always justifies the means.

BTW - I'm fairly sure that the above quote is apocryphal. Still, you see the point.

Posted by: psachya | Jul 17, 2012 7:03:35 AM

Fun Fact: which politician holds the record for most votes cast in favor of, when running for Vice President or President of the US?

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Jul 26, 2012 6:19:40 AM

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