There is a psychological bias that we as humans have when it comes to attributing causes to behaviour, depending on whether the subject of the attribution is one we like — ourselves, friends, or people we agree with making them part of our ‘in’ group — vs. subjects we do not like.
When it comes to someone we feel positively about we are more likely to attribute positive actions as being a natural result of who they are. Or another way — as a result of intrinsic qualities of the person. Giving money to a homeless person is because they are generous. Compassionate. Anything negative this person does on the other hand is likely to be viewed as a result of the situation or circumstances. Extrinsic from the person. If they snapped at someone — it is because they’re just over tired. Having a bad day. Need to get away from it all for a bit.
These tendencies flip when you are considering someone you dislike. Suddenly this person when giving money to the homeless is just doing it to escape the situation and conversation with the homeless person. When this person you dislike snaps at someone — they are just a grumpy, nasty person. Clearly.
I think that if we’re not careful, that this can translate easily enough into a tendency to rationalise (or not) a particular course of action depending on who our views happen to align with.
I am of course referring to the Blizzard reaction to Hearthstone champion Blitzchung expressing support for the Hong Kong protestors. Blizzard ultimately ‘fired’ Blitzchung and the commentators from his interview. Blitz also had his tournament winnings stripped. A harsh response. With a range of responses and views expressed so far.
Before I get to my response… A quick jump back to earlier this year, and Sport.
If you’re unfamiliar with the name — let me catch you up. Until recently Israel’s claim to fame was as Australia’s best Rugby player, bar none.
He is also a devout, fundamentalist Christian. Earlier in the year he tweeted that all homosexual people were going to hell. He included drunks, thieves, liars and a few other types in there to round it all out.
Rugby Australia had warned Israel in the past for similar — although not quite this inflammatory — sort of social media post. And in fact had amended his contract to include a clause barring Folau from making… well, exactly this sort of post.
Ultimately — and much to the surprise of absolutely everyone — Rugby Australia ultimately decided to enforce their contract. They terminated Folau, their star player. Just like that a multi-million dollar contract was torn up.
It became a hotbed of debate. Accusations of religious persecution were thrown around left and right. Folau (already a millionaire, mind) even attempted to setup a ‘Go Fund Me’ site to cover the legal expenses of fighting the decision on these grounds. When Go Fund Me pulled the page on the grounds of refusing to support such views, an Australian Christian activist group came in to collect on Folau’s behalf.
The decision through the end of all this though has essentially boiled down to the fact that Folau had consciously, and in full understanding of what he was agreeing to, signed the amended contract curtailing his ability to make social media posts of a bigoted, derogatory or otherwise inflammatory nature that could by association bring the Australian Rugby Association into disrepute.
My Opinion on the Folau Case?
Frankly, I was out for his blood.
I can barely begin to tell you how surprised I was Rugby Australia took action. I absolutely expected some small slap on the hand, a reprimand, a warning that the contract forbade such posts and they most certainly did not represent the views of Rugby Australia.
And then… Just a desire for it all to be swiftly forgotten and the news cycle to move on.
But RA took a stand. With the contract as their vehicle, RA took a stand. And I wholeheartedly agreed. That bastard knew what he was doing. Thought he could use his status to flaunt the rules — but he was in willful breach of contract.
And then the Blizzard case?
Some have already pointed out that Blizzard technically had the right to do as they did. There was a rule in the tournament covering Blizzard from any commentary that might in some way offend all or part of a given population group.
Because this time I agree with the cause of supporting the rights supposedly guaranteed to the Hong Kong people.
Sure — there are some differences between the two cases. But by and large, to retain any degree of cognitive consistency it is necessary to determine whether I truly believed it right to enforce the contract (or rules) or at least acknowledge that for me it isn’t that at all, and it was the views themselves I was responding to.
And the answer for me came down to…
In both instances — Rugby Australia and Blizzard were acting within their rights to terminate their respective contracts. They were entitled to do it.
I don’t think anyone can argue that, really.
But acting within your rights doesn’t intrinsically make the act itself right. Causes matter. Intent matters. Putting an end to someone spreading a message of bigotry and hate is a good cause. Not allowing someone viewed as a hero continue to shape the young boys of a whole nation with such messages is something worth doing. That needed to be done.
Blizzard bowing to Chinese pressure — and this is 100% what I believe happened — to protect a revenue stream… *sigh* …Look, if we cut all else away and look at it from a raw business perspective, it was the right call for them to make. There is no world in which the Western fall-out costs them more than the entirety of their Chinese revenue stream. Any belief to the contrary is unfortunately a delusion.
But that doesn’t make it right, or something that we should just accept and let slide. The people protesting in Hong Kong are there to endeavour to protect rights that are legally protected for another 28-years. I’ve even seen some mocking of those attempting to take any kind of gesture-based stand and that isn’t OK either. Sure, as a business Blizzard might’ve been entitled to the action they took.
But so to is everyone who then decides this isn’t something that they, personally, wish to support or associate with.