There was a time when political disagreement meant we might have a spirited discussion of ideas, or avoid discussing politics altogether, but now it means we hate each other. Disagreement over candidates and party equate to revulsion of the other.
Social media allows us to attack our “friends” with open gusto…and feel powerful and safe about doing it.
I just unfriended someone on Facebook. They thought nothing of a post saying: “Hey my Trump-supporting friends, it’s rough I know. The immigration ban is being bogged down in courts, and the euphoria of sticking it to poor and sick people is starting to wear off, It is now reported that Trump exposed secrets to the Russians about our efforts to thwart ISIS. I know it’s getting harder defending his actions, so I have provided ready-made excuses. Feel free to use as the damn liberals attack you on Facebook.”
He then proceeded to list the “excuses” Trump voters could use.
He approached this as if he is superior for supporting a very poor candidate who spent her life defending a sexual predator of a husband by smearing the women who charged him with rape (and then said women who charge sexual assault should be believed). He feels superior because he supported a woman who blew up the Middle East in her quest to score a military victory in order to ensure her way to the White House. He feels superior because he supported a woman who committed felony-level violations of federal record-keeping and communications security laws.
I guarantee he would not be so brash, vulgar, and caustic in person. But social media allows us to act like schoolyard bullies and insult vast swaths of people who disagree with us. His post did not hit at the president himself (a legit political target for caustic commentary no matter the administration). His post hit at ordinary people—his “Trump-supporting friends.”
I guarantee in real life he’d never accuse vast swaths of people of being evil and “sticking it to the poor and sick” like that. To insult a vast community is called bigotry. He is an ideological bigot. Obamacare is a failed policy. Having a different idea of getting care and coverage to the sick and poor is just that—a different idea. But on social media he felt comfortable insulting EVERYONE who thinks Obamacare is a failed system. He was comfortable being a bigot and equating disagreement with actual evil. Who does that when talking to someone face to face?
He is just like the candidate he supported who called half of Trump’s voters “deplorables.” It is a NOT a smart strategy to insult and demean those you might instead be trying to convince your ideas are better.
Today’s discourse no longer centers on a statement such as, “I disagree and here’s why I think my ideas are better…” No, today’s discourse has degenerate to, “You are a children and old-people hating pig. You just want to prevent women from getting health care and keep the poor starving, you Nazi.”
Not exactly an approach that encourages actual dialogue.
On social media I am not afraid to post articles or ideas I believe in. But I never insult my liberal friends. I may take shots at their leadership (again, a legit political target for commentary). But I never assume Hillary supporters are bad people, nor will I taunt them. I may tell them their ideas are absurd, but they are not.
Insults do not convince; they create conflict. If you want me to believe YOU are right, then do NOT insult me. TALK to me. Explain why you believe you are right. Do not talk down to me. The more you insult me, the more I will not listen because you are proving you are a sanctimonious bully.
The net result of this rude, insulting approach is that we are each more and more alone, trapped within a shrinking ideological tribe that will eventually run out of enemies and turn on its own members as retaliation for their ideological impurity.
This is NOT how our system—our discourse—is supposed to be.