For anyone who hasn’t been on the internet or seen the TV for the last week, it was the Melbourne Cup last Tuesday and social media is full of horror stories about the Cup & horse racing in general. Fortunately, the onslaught of annoying posts is starting to die down now.

Here’s the thing, right: this is not an article about the pros and cons of horse racing. This is not an article about animal rights, cruelty, veganism or anything else like that.

What this is about is whether what you’re posting is in alignment with your personal values and giving other people the freedom to live by their own personal values.

What’s happened in the last couple of weeks is that there’s been an onslaught of posts about the horrors of horse racing. They’re written in highly emotive rhetoric, stating “facts” about the racing industry and its poor animal welfare record and they’re usually accompanied by some outburst from the person sharing it along the lines of “Oh my god, this is terrible, it’s got to stop!”

A friend of mine posted an article with “statistics” about the Australian horse racing industry. Her comment on it was something along the lines of “I didn’t know any of this when I posted earlier about wishing they’d ban the Melbourne Cup but knowing this now, it’s got to stop!”

The article she shared opened with the headline: “If you don’t like home truths keep on scrolling!!!!!!”

Seriously? FIVE exclamation marks? Good grief.

It went through a series of “statistics” and ended with:

“Spare a thought today for these guys [horses] who aren’t being given a second thought while you’re placing your money down at the TAB!!!!

Happy Melbourne Cup Day!!!!”

I put the word ‘statistics’ in inverted commas because the “statistics” quoted come from the US Racing industry not the Australian one, and they’re two completely different beasts (pardon the pun). If you’re going to argue something, get your facts right. Someone tried to point out to my friend that the statistics were inaccurate, but the damage was done.

This kind of article is sensationalist story telling with enough of a kernel of truth to make people believe the rest of it. It’s designed to get people worked up with its eye-catching headline and emotional heartstring wording. It’s manipulative, melodramatic and is filled with half-truths and outright lies cited as “facts”. It’s designed to get people up in arms and make them come to a certain specific conclusions and take certain actions, in this case, to share the post, get worked up and demand other people do the things that the writer of the post wants them to do.

Believing the things written in posts like these is like taking what’s written in gossip magazines as being the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Core value #1 – Truthfulness. Broken.

Core value #2 – Honesty. Broken.

Core value #3 – Integrity. Broken.

Here’s what I find more disturbing: the nature of these articles is such that no one cannot comment against them. There is no reasonable middle ground and there is no tolerance or understanding of any viewpoint other than the one it puts forward. This kind of article is not a laying out of the facts in a way that allows people to make an objective choice based on their own moral compass. There is no free choice in articles like this; the tone of the article makes it quite clear that if you don’t agree then you’re wrong, you’re guilty and you’re condemned. There’s no freedom of choice and there’s no room for discussion.

Core value #4 – Freedom. Broken.

Core value #5 – Choice. Broken.

There is no freedom in this kind of article/speech, there’s no listening, no compassion, no thought that there may be another side to the story, that someone else has the right to their own beliefs. It’s judgemental in the extreme. It’s bullying. It’s not a reasoned, well-argued point of view whose author is unafraid of dissent because they’re confident, self assured and clear in their beliefs. It’s all fear-based.

Core value #6 – Compassion. Broken.

I feel exactly the same way whether the article is talking about something I agree with or not. The style of writing/talking in the article is sensationalist manipulation. You can’t even talk about the style of writing without people assuming that you disagree with the point the article was making. It’s divisive. It requires you to agree with what it’s saying or be proved wrong, believe or be condemned, support or be shown for ‘the kind of person you really are’.

Core value #7 – Respect. Broken.

Core Value #8 – Fairness. Broken.

Even writing this post, about the style of writing in a particular kind of article, I feel the need to defend myself and say again that what I’m writing here has nothing to do with the pros & cons of the racing industry or the moral rights or wrongs or anything else, this is just me getting the shits about poxy half-truths written in a way designed to manipulate and dominate. And I don’t care how worthy your cause is…

…the end never justifies the means.

This is about freedom, about everyone having a right to their own opinion. It’s about the fact that if a child behaved this way in a schoolground, they’d be hauled up in front of the teacher for bullying, yet we tolerate it in the media and in posts like this because, oh well, they’re getting worked up about something, and you know, they’re right in what they say, something ought to be done about it, so it’s kind of understandable, just ignore it if you don’t like it, but definitely don’t say anything because they’ll get all rabid on you. We’re not allowed to disagree with any part of it under any circumstances.

There are many, many examples in history of leaders/causes using exactly this kind of rhetoric and method to convince people to behave in a certain way or to evoke change. Have a think about that.

If we try to change things and we use a lie or a half truth to convince people, regardless of how wonderful our cause, it’s never going to work because we don’t have a relationship or a cause that’s based in truth. There can never be any trust there, there’s no integrity or honesty in the relationship.

If we try to force people to do something (i.e. bully them), they may go along with things for a while, but it will backfire eventually. We’re showing people no respect, we’re giving them no freedom or choice.

Kira moved down to Melbourne this year and she was shocked when she saw some animal rights protesters yelling and shouting outside a steak house, then storm inside and scream and shout at all the diners, calling them murderers and animal killers.

Nice. What a bunch of respectful, compassionate and caring human beings. But I can’t even make a comment on how poor I think their behaviour is without being accused of supporting animal cruelty.

I’m very glad that people feel so passionate about things, that’s wonderful. But before we start sharing posts and getting all up in arms about things, we need to check out the facts that we’re promoting for accuracy and check out the other side of the story to see what their take on it is. Let’s show some compassion and respect for our fellow human beings. Let’s not rationalise lying or manipulating, coercing, bullying or disrespecting people. There is no excuse. We cannot justify it, regardless of how worthy our cause is, because when we try to do that, we’re going against one or more of our own personal values.

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