Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Large Mob Is Still A Mob

I've been on Twitter for a little while now, and it seems that there is a consistent bias (I don't mean to pick on Mr Geraghty specifically, his was just the tweet that sent me to my soapbox) against paying any mind to people with few followers. Now, granted, it can be very hard to pay any mind to someone you don't follow, since you won't see what they say most of the time. But I'm not just talking about the fact that folks with few followers tend to be harder to find and their words are seen by fewer people.

When replying to someone who has thousands (or even millions) of followers on Twitter, there is a tendency among folks of all stripes to denigrate any offering from someone with only a few hundred (or dozen!) followers. The unstated assumption seems to be that if you had anything worth saying, or if you were at all correct, more people would be paying attention to you.

Now, I do grant that the number of followers can be a good indicator of the validity of the remarks a person often makes, but while there is a correlation between the two, the assumption of validity slides too often over into believing that there is a causal relationship between the two. This is not always a problem, depending on what your belief system is. If you are any sort of democratic populist, then your beliefs about what is good, right, and just are dependent on them being popular with large swathes of people.

This is a severe problem, however, for conservatives of most persuasions. Since a conservative believes that there are transcendent moral values that obtain regardless of whether many, or any, people adhere to them, the idea of denigrating the opinions of any because of the lack of followers becomes a betrayal of your core ideals. It is entirely possible that someone with no following whatsoever could make a brilliant and insightful point. Perhaps it is not likely, but if we are to reject their stance on a particular topic, let it be because it is ridiculous and wrong, and not because they don't happen to be popular on a small (relatively speaking) social network.