Monday, 29 July 2013

Trollbusting in Twit City

Imagine you live in a city, one where there are lots of stupid, thoughtless, sometimes dangerous people, but where - on balance - most people are reasonably civilized and decent most of the time. Now imagine that somebody comes into town and sets up a new shop. This emporium sells disguises, in the form of masks and costumes. The shop soon becomes popular with people going to parties, putting on plays, and so forth. 

But then a disturbing trend arises. Individuals and even gangs of young men start putting on disguises and hanging out in public places, where they routinely abuse and threaten passers-by. Because they are all young men, women are often the targets of their unpleasant antics. Sometimes an irate person grabs the mask from an abusers and punches him in the face, usually to widespread applause. But sometimes a masked mob descends on a person and beats him or her senseless. The city constabulary struggle to deal with the increasing disorder linked to the mask craze.

The mayor decides that Something Must Be Done. But what? A debate is called in the forum, but before it can get properly under way a masked mob bursts in and starts shouting down the speakers. Once again fights break out. The constabulary, yet again, have to intervene to prevent worse bloodshed. When all the masked intruders have been ejected and the seriously injured taken to hospital, the debate proper can begin.

Some argue for an outright ban on masks. 'Let everyone go barefaced!' they declare. 'If these troublemakers want to say anything controversial or inflammatory in public, let them be man enough to do so openly, not skulk in disguise like cowards!' Another group of councillors who think themselves wise counsel caution, arguing that depriving people of the right to wear masks infringes free speech. The 'unmaskers' ask why some should need disguises to freely speak while others seem to do all right without them? 

And third school of thought holds that people should be allowed to go in disguise if they wish, but should be deprived of the protection of ordinary citizens i,e. if an unmasked person encounters one or more masked persons in a dark alley at night, they former should be allowed to take any defensive action he sees fit, up to and including shooting them all.

Finally, after long deliberations, a vote is held and... 

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