Empathy and professional victims (reply to Jason Calacanis)

Jason Calacanis’ recent email (“We Live in Public (and the end of empathy)” ) talked about the lack of empathy and caring on the internet.

Empathy has been taking a hit for a long time. Remember that seeing executions used to be considered a family sport.

I point the finger at Republicans and the moneymen of Wall Street who made empathy and compassion a sign of weakness. Republicans have also perfected the “art” of professional victimhood. My definition of professional victimhood:

Someone who claims to be a “victim” in order to reduce punishment or to justify monetary gain. A professional victim usually points to minor issues as proof of victimhood in an effort to deflect attention from larger crimes or issues. A professional victim points to being denied monetary gain as proof of victimhood.

Unrealized future benefit is not a sign of a victim.

My definition of a real victim is:

A real victim has goods / health / freedom taken from them, that they had prior to being a victim. Their real victimhood is revealed because they are not trying to use the cloak of “victimhood” to justify financial gain. Real victims are not eager to proclaim their victimhood for profit but only to restore what was previously theirs. Real victims talk about being victims in the context of trying to benefit the community. (A rape victim revealing the rape so that the community is warned)

The real tragedy is that with so many “victims” — society has become jaded to the idea that anyone is a victim. As a result the real victims are victimized a second time by society’s indifference to their suffering.

Some recent professional victims:

  • Thain (ex CEO of Merrill Lynch) is a “victim” because he didn’t get his bonus,
  • Scooter Libby is a victim because he was convicted a crime (outing a CIA agent) that others got away with

[Update: a bit of necessary clarification. I am not regarding Mike Arrington as a “professional victim”. It looks like he faced a real threat and was compelled to take real steps to avoid becoming a real victim. The break back to talking about Jason’s email on empathy was not clear enough.]

Returning to the discussion of empathy (or lack thereof) on the internet,
Jason ends his email about empathy talking about Mike Arrington being spit on.

On more than a few posts, Mike has carried out personal attacks that really are unwarranted. Random example PayPerPost Users Freaking Out Over Google PageRank Nuke:

Among the more pathetic messages:

Oh. My. God. Oh my god! I can’t believe this is happening. I NEED to earn money with my blogs, I’m going to have to take every single opp I qualify for every day in order to keep up with expenses.

So Mike terms “pathetic”, someone who is struggling to make ends meet and is now faced with an even greater economic hill.

Mike has had many opportunities to show compassion when having to deliver harsh reviews about a company’s behavior or its products. But many times, Mike has turned a harsh review into a personal attack.

Apparently, now Mike was on the receiving end of a spitting incident and an angry blogger. So what does Mike promise?

Mike promises to be less empathic:

Seeing my parents fear for their lives and not understand how or why their son was in this position changed me, made me a much less forgiving person in general.

As a countervailing example, I would like to recognize this post on TechCrunch (although not by Mike Arrington):

How bad is the economy? In an effort to raise money for his rent, one man named Victor is trying to sell his Digg account on Craigslist for $650.

I’ve set up a TipJoy account for him below. Give him a dollar to help him with his rent, if you’ve got the spare change. All proceeds will go to Victor.

Is this justification for any attacks on Michael or anyone else? No.

However, if the victim has a history of his own personal attacks — maybe he should look at showing more compassion when having to deliver the harsh review.

Having said this, I read TechCrunch every day and I hope Michael does resume blogging but refrains from personal attacks.

I suspect that I have just condemned any hope of a positive review from TechCrunch, but such is life.

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