In a ChainLink Forum discussion on of all things “bicycle fenders” the usual downward spiral of the trajectory of the conversation took it to this point:
Rich, it seems that if you have an opinion and are in the minority you are labeled a troll or troublemaker. What is this board communist Russia?
The answer to the speaker here is, “No. The ChainLink Forum is not Communist Russia.” The Russians were far more inventive in their propaganda. Instead what we have here is the face of a Secular Religion with a Priesthood and a Catechism that is well-defined enough that people who broach subjects on the forum have to ask whether they should be for or against it. That is a sad state of affairs indeed. Group Think is more likely the outcome of this sort of organization.
One wag tried to suggest that having a minority opinion was evidence that you could be in the wrong. Fair enough. But having a majority opinion is equally problematic.
I can imagine that while Nelson Mandela or Galileo Galilei were under arrest so very many years it must have occurred to them that they were in something of a minority. What is most important here is not that they were in a minority in their thinking, but that they had conviction and offered logic for their beliefs.
A movement is only worthy of membership if it encourages questioning of its basic tenets.
Sometimes it is useful to remind those who would treat the Cycling Movement as a religion that theirs is a country with a proud tradition of tolerance of Free Thought.
In a free country, we punish men for the crimes they commit, but never for the opinions they have.
— President Harry S. Truman, Veto of the McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950
And a bit more from a famous jurist…
Freedom of the press is not an end in itself but a means to the end of achieving a free society.
— Felix Frankfurter
What is perhaps the weakest link in the Cycling Movement‘s chain is its intolerance of external criticism and its loathing of anything approaching internal self-examination. The very same groups that offer it monies for bicycle infrastructure improvements are excoriated when they offer profound thought about the nature of the attitudes of cyclists.
We need to get beyond being self-absorbed whiners, it is unbecoming. The kind and level of navel-gazing that we do so very often is embarrassing. We should be all about embracing criticism rather than seeking out ways to silence the loyal opposition. We are not the Tea Party and yet we show every sign of aspiring to its ignominious glory.