From top: Are you a hidden Flying Monkey?; Tony Groves
Or hidden Flying Monkey?
Tony Groves writes:
Whenever I send in a “new piece” I think of that scene in Jurassic Park. You know the one where Sam Neill’s character, Dr Alan Grant, mock eviscerates a boy while explaining about the pack hunter mentality of Velociraptors? As the blood drains from the child’s face, Dr Grant completes the humiliation with the clincher:
“The point is, you are alive when they start to eat you”.
There’s always a little bit of self-immolation in the clicking of the send email button. Knowing I’m about to piss off one group or another (isn’t that the point) and that some faction will turn their Flying Monkeys on me.
Flying Monkeys, for those unfamiliar with the term, are a gang of, very often, anonymous individuals, who act out the orders of their particular Wicked Witch.
The natural habitat of the Flying Monkey is the internet, on social media, chat rooms and online comments sections. While most are proponents of argument techniques like deflection, whataboutery, ad hominem attacks and straw man bluster, some of them are witty and not without a kernel of truth.
I confess to getting more than a little fun out of the Broadsheet Flying Monkeys. You guys are all alright, not Alt-Right…
The more malignant Flying Monkey is less easy to spot. These are the Party Loyalists, who defend the latest betrayal of an election promise by claiming the disenfranchised “need to see the bigger picture”. They will defend the indefensible out of loyalty to tribe.
The other variety like to hang out in the “political reports” of the majority of newspaper pieces. You’ve probably seen one today if you browsed through any of our “papers of record.”
In “political reporting”, the Flying Monkey is more easily recognised, once you know what the traits are.
A journalist who writes a piece a based on views expressed by “a source close to” or from an unnamed “advisor” or the very often anonymous “party spokesperson” is a Flying Monkey.
By allowing “anonymous sources” disseminate unverified and unverifiable information into your news feed the Monkey helps his “paper of record” stay close to the source of power and the politician (who is very often the source in question) keeps the journalist on side.
The reader, already inclined to believe said journalist, eats the propaganda and uses it to reinforce their views. This is mass production of confirmation bias.
It’s important to say that there are many valid reasons that one would want to maintain anonymity. Should one be say, a Whistleblower, especially in Ireland, you would almost certainly be better maintaining anonymity.
Ask the courageous Dr Jim Gray, who called the travesty of our health service for what it was and was quickly rounded on by the then Minister for Health and defender of the Welfare Budget, Leo Varadkar.
Back then the Minister’s Flying Monkeys leaked spurious accusations about the doctor and the compliant media reported these claims rather than the ongoing crisis in the Health Service.
When I put my occupation on a blog post last year, a few people told me I was either brave or stupid. But I think it says more that someone’s means to make a living and pay their mortgage could be deemed to be at risk because of a world view contrary to the Flying Monkey Brigade!
This may seem a fantastical claim, but worryingly, it is not. I recently discovered I’ve been blocked on twitter, by large swathes of a certain political party for “being unfair” to them in my writings. It appears some of these Flying Monkey’s only believe in Freedom of Speech when the speaker is of the same opinion as themselves.
A government that can mute dissent can silence anyone they choose to and point to the legislation for justification. Martin Luther King said “don’t be more devoted to order than you are to justice…that an unjust law is no law” in a letter penned from an Alabama Prison Cell.
I believe strongly in the Freedom of Speech and while I used to be tempted to “Block” the Flying Monkeys, I find it ultimately unnecessary. People have the right to their opinions, they have the right to express them. They, like me, have the right to be wrong. We should all defend that right, whether we agree with them or not.
So whether you’re called a Shinnerbot, a Lefty Loony, a Political Hack or good old Rotide, it’s all good. Dissent is good for debate, debate is necessary for progress.
But look out for the Flying Monkeys. Recognise them for what they are. They can be apologists, propagandists and or salesmen. They are selling snake oil, and a snake oil salesman is to be pitied.
And if you still feel tempted to block them, remember, as I do, Saul Bellow who said
“A man should be able to hear and bear the worst that could be said of him”.
*turns off notifications for a few days*
Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld
Top pic: Shutterstock