Is civil discourse a thing of the past? | Blogs

I have read a lot recently about the lack of civil discourse in the country today. Much of the attention has been focused on attacks or “cancellations” of people who have some level of public exposure. For example, Jon Stewart was hammered for suggesting that the COVID virus originated from the Wuhan lab. Obviously, Stewart’s point, which is supported by a lot of evidence, is off-limits, something that cannot be argued.

Mike Gonzalez, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, wrote a book on the Marxist Black Lives Matter Global Foundation. In it, he takes care to distinguish between “Black Lives Matter” as a slogan or sentiment, which he endorses, and the organization, which he seeks to expose as revolutionary.

No matter. Amazon has informed the Heritage Foundation, of which Gonzalez is affiliated, that it will not accept the advertising copy offered by the foundation. The reason? Amazon says the ad does not meet its “standards” but does not specify exactly what those standards are.

Last year, Twitter deleted tweets linking to a New York Post article about the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop, another subject that an unspecified censor of Google-owned Twitter decided to to prohibit. More personally, I see constant complaints on my feed of people saying their followers have been deleted or their tweets have been deleted. Not all of them are from people whose tweets are “conservative”. Several are of those whose tweets and profiles show them to be quite progressive.

Personally, I try to avoid getting involved in any political debate on social media, which in my opinion are poor platforms for debate. But as I wrote before, my rather moderate tweets in favor of vaccination drew name calling from committed anti-vaccines. In contrast, hip-hop singer Nicki Minaj, herself an anti-vaxxer, drew a lot of abuse for saying she would not get the vaccine. His reasons are crazy. But deserve a full press from the government? Barely.

On Facebook, where I carefully avoid political discourse, I notice accusations directed at officials avoiding closures and masking warrants, suggesting that those officials are agents of death. The same people celebrate every death in Florida as a very good thing.

So much for civil discourse. Can’t someone politely disagree?

Sometimes I think not. Not anymore. Even in private conversations, I notice a rapid rise in the temperature in the room. Many are quick to make all kinds of accusations similar to what I’ve seen on Facebook, sometimes without any provocation from anyone else. Others I know quickly get angry, don’t want to listen to fact-based arguments, and resort to name calling almost immediately.

We notice such behavior from those with whom we disagree, but an honest assessment leads me to conclude that people on our side of a problem are capable of the same behavior. I’m trying to understand the reasons.

I think there are several. First, the pandemic has made us all fearful, tense, frustrated, and in some cases a little crazy. In such an atmosphere, trying to strike a balance, get the best information possible, and make decisions accordingly, has become difficult.

Second, we all live in our own bubble. There are “red states” and “blue states”, left-wing media and right-wing media, and so on. We see colleges teaching ideology for granted, and TV commentators voicing all kinds of wacky opinions. Many of us are shocked that there are people outside our bubble who have different points of view.

You can still get factual information, but you have to work on it. I find it necessary to consult a number of sources and decide which ones are reliable. For example, Fox News can be useful for reporting stories that the beehive mindsets that control other media will not cover; but at the same time some Fox talking heads are spitting out all kinds of garbage.

Fortunately, it is always possible to find people with whom we can have reasonable discussions. I know several of them and enjoy my conversations with them because I hear more than “but Trump,” “but January 6,” or “but voter fraud” from them. It doesn’t take long to find out who they are.

But these opportunities are fewer and fewer. I find it sad, but I don’t think things are going to change anytime soon. It will take a real commitment from many people to bring us back to a civil society.

But I think it will be worth it.

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