Friday 18 October 2019

Larissa Nolan: 'Tubridy dead right to stand up to do-gooder Twitter mob'

Ryan Tubridy. Photo: Andres Poveda
Ryan Tubridy. Photo: Andres Poveda

Larissa Nolan

The 'spiral of silence' theory states the human fear of isolation means most of us will shut up if we believe our opinions are in the minority.

They may not be the minority at all - in fact, they can be the majority viewpoint - but even the perception they are is enough to make many self-censor.

It's Hans Christian Anderson's 'The Emperor's New Clothes'. It's even more relevant in today's society.

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Only when someone has the courage to stand up and call BS will others have the support they need to come forward. Otherwise, they remain silent in the background, while those with the "dominant" idea are encouraged to shout louder.

It goes on in a spiral, until the "minority" falls silent, and the perceived opinion becomes the status quo.

So it was all the more important this week when Ryan Tubridy stood up to the pitchfork brigade who depend on the spiral of silence and get very angry when they're exposed.

The Twitter mob tried to paint Tubridy as some kind of villain for some common-sense comments on activist Greta Thunberg's distressing appearance at the UN climate summit.

No one actually listened to what he'd said on radio - they just got "outraged" by reading reports of it out of context.

He expressed concern for a young girl on a world stage, demonstrably tormented, concluding it has "reached tipping point". He said, in a clearly kindly fashion: "She needs to be brought home to watch a movie, go for a walk with her Ma and Da."

Everyone knew what he meant: she looked like she needed a break for a while. Psychologists will tell you it is harmful to load responsibility on a teenager, let alone the burden of "saving the world".

Most people - and certainly most parents - agree with Tubridy. Having watched the teenage climate activist, I was no longer thinking about the climate. I was thinking about how childhood anger is a manifestation of anxiety. With a psychiatrist as his father, the late Patrick Tubridy, Ryan may be more alert to this.

The broadcaster was suddenly the world's worst; some sinister hybrid of sexist climate-denying curmudgeon. It was risibly suggested he was "trolling" Greta.

The censorious call came up: He must apologise! For what? Commentating as a commentator? Airing a concern?

Others got personal and wondered sneeringly if he was patronising to his daughters. The notion he was earnest wasn't considered. It's Tubridy - he's hardly turned into a monster overnight - but the sanctimonious do-gooders dismiss the possibility of goodness in others.

He could have ceded to the mob - an easy option and so far businesses, politicians and media have bowed down when they should have stood firm.

He could have apologised in the face of spiteful threats of boycotts and their next stage, advertiser pull-outs. He would not - he simply clarified what he had said for those who wilfully misinterpreted it the first time.

The attempt at a pile-on failed.

Perhaps not being on Twitter went in his favour. It meant he had the clarity to see what was actually the majority opinion, not what was wrongly perceived to be. Just because you're being "shredded" on Twitter doesn't mean you're wrong. It's more likely you're right.

Ryan Tubridy's refusal to abase himself to please an imaginary crowd should be a turning point after confused hypocrites on social media have dominated for too long - while in the real world, few agree. We have a duty to be true to our views instead of cowering in fear of non-conformity. If we don't, it has important implications at social level, linked to some of the worst events in history.

It's time to break the spiral of silence.

Irish Independent

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