The Robert Morgan Effect

Have you ever entered an online (or real world) space where you were absolutely certain that you were right about your position and everyone else was wrong? You may have had truth, facts and statistics on your side, but the sheer fact that the position you held or the idea you were espousing was so opposed to the consensus that you were seen as an outsider, an outcast, a troll, a reprobate, a lunatic, etc. In the eyes of those people, you are more than just a fly in the ointment, you are an aberration that must be cast out in order to create a homogeneity of thought, a safe space.

It doesn’t matter if you’re right, because if you’re the only person expressing that viewpoint in a given area you are wrong to everyone else in that space; you are so ‘other’ that you will not be engaged with but struck down.

This is a common phenomenon in discussions of religion, politics, science and even fandom, apparently, when a single ideology or viewpoint is the only one espoused or tolerated by a large group of individuals and a lone individual with an opposing viewpoint attempts to engage in that space.

I propose a name for this phenomenon, calling it the Robert Morgan Effect.

Watch the last minutes of this classic Vincent Price movie.

(Begins at relevant segment 1h24m53s; warning, spoilers for ending of a 50 year old movie that’s been remade 3 or 4 times)

Robert Morgan is the Last Man on Earth. He is the only person who is not a shambling cannibal vamzombiepire. But because he is not, he represents an existential threat to the world the vamzombiepires have set up for themselves. It doesn’t matter that he’s a Man. He’s the ‘other’ in this case, and his destruction is necessary to maintain a safe space.

Addendum: If the matter is simply a disagreement on a matter of opinion, it is not the Robert Morgan Effect.  It is the Robert Morgan Effect when the topic in question is a subject of falsehood, evidence proving the falsehood of a popular claim is dismissed out of hand, and a good-faith effort to engage and correct falsehood is met with attacks against the messenger, often ad hominem.  Presentation of evidence to correct a falsehood is perceived as trolling. It is something of an inversion of Poe’s Paradox.

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Organized Debate Format Racist?

Only if Other Races Are Actually Incapable of Following Rules.  If anything, it’s racist to assert that non-whites are so inferior that they are unable to adhere to established rules of decorum and refrain from calling one another names.  I’ll have to remember to do a better job of asserting my POC cred in the future in inappropriate forums to better take advantage of the lowered expectations we non-whities are held to.   The worst debasement of minority groups happens when they are not held to the same standards because they are thought to be incapable of meeting them.

Anyway, this story totally reminds me of the scene from Aristophanes’ the Clouds where “Superior” (rhetoric) and “Inferior” (ad hominem) Argument are personified, dressed up as birds, and have a cock fight over which method is more effective.  Spoiler: Rhetoric eventually says screw it and takes a seat with the audience, declaring that the people will get the discussion they deserve, because logic and reason don’t stand a chance against an endless slurry of name-calling, appeals to emotion and personal experience.