(TOU) to include specific language about prohibiting items that "disparage or promote hate." While I ultimately agree with the decision they made, the events leading up to it and the key themes within the comments on the article left me with a bit of a bad taste.
If you're not familiar with the story behind these changes, I'll offer a brief history. Last week, some controversy arose around a particular seller who was making cards that most found offensive. Many believe the cards promote hatred, particularly against people with disabilities, rape victims, and Christians. Yet others saw the cards as just being in poor taste and got on with their lives (and I'm sure you can tell which category I fall into by my tone). But those who were offended? Thanks to the power of social media, they created a feeding frenzy of negativity that ultimately led to higher exposure and sales for the seller. Angry viewers posted and reposted links on Facebook, Tweeted their horror, and routed a petition to ban this seller from Etsy, and soon the story hit CNN and Etsy announced their TOU changes.
Since I ultimately think it's a good thing that Etsy has a specific anti-hate policy, why does this story bother me?
Well, it feels a little bit like a witch hunt, doesn't it? You offended me, so in my righteous indignation, I round up all my friends and their friends and their friends, and we come get you. Hooray us! All the while we applaud Etsy for their decision because respect has won the day!
But has it?
Here are but a few of the over 600 comments (as of this posting) on the Etsy article:
- "good riddance to that creep"
- "that crap isn't tolerated in the forums and shouldn't be for sale either"
- "I am pleased that someone has recognized MY right not to have to wade through offensive, disgusting material that some people try to pass off as arts and crafts."
Granted, most of the comments are just harmless "I support this decision" or "glad to hear it" type of things. But the comments like the ones above really disturb me, especially in light of how many people said things along the lines of "now we can return to being a compassionate and respectful art community." So because you personally were offended by something someone you never met did, suddenly the entire community is a disrespectful mire of filth? What?
Even more disturbing, perhaps, is that many people congratulated Etsy on taking the high road, though many of them took the low road to force Etsy's hand on the issue, hurling abusive comments at the seller (and even Etsy administrators) online. So why is it okay to hurl insults at someone who offended you while demanding respect for yourself? Is it okay to be rude and insensitive to someone just because you feel they were rude and insensitive to you?
I don't think so.
Where has common sense gone? I was raised to respect other people regardless of whether or not I agreed with them. If I think you are doing something in poor taste, well, then, I'm going to take personal responsibility for myself and look the other way. "But this person was hurting others," you might say. I can appreciate the argument, but it's a fine line. Some have vulgar senses of humor, yes. But does that make them wrong and you right?
Many comments also (rightfully) question who decides what is or isn't offensive, and the resounding reply in the comments is "we the people." But remember when we the people decided a group of teenage girls were witches? Or when we the people thought slavery and segregation was a good idea?
We all have to be very, very careful where these kinds of movements might lead us. Ask yourself how you would feel if the lens were turned on you. What if an angry mob suddenly decided something you were doing was offensive? Would you still agree that "we the people" had a right to decide you suck?
All beings deserve respect. You don't have to like them, you don't have to buy their wares or support their cause. But you should, at the very least, do what your mother always told you to do: treat them as you yourself would like to be treated.
My four or five cents.