All of our disagreements are missing one thing- nuance.
What if I were to tell you that I agree with 95% of the stuff you put on your various social media channels? The snarky quips, the political think pieces, the in-depth explanations of why Libertarianism is dystopian bullshit or whatever other really great points you are probably making. The problem is that in reality, nobody cares.
As an opinion writer, the irony of saying this is not lost on me. I have plenty of opinions about stupid shit, many of which have alienated people I care about or helped develop closer relationships with others. Opinions are a valuable asset to your life, but the medium in which you express them is make-or-break in terms whether or not they hold any intrinsic value.
We are living in a time where anyone and everyone has a platform if they so choose. For generations before us, it was difficult to develop a platform for our thoughts. It was extremely difficult to develop a following based on that platform. Before the internet, the only real options were to work your way into an already established media outlet or to give the FCC the finger and set up your own pirate radio broadcast (which is still very cool). Subculture found an outlet with DIY zines and other small publications, but running copies at Kinkos can be cost-prohibitive and some might argue that your sphere of influence in this medium is…. limited.
But now we are living in the golden age of platforming. Any shithead can post “i aTe a whole coconut once” on twitter and get 200k retweets and a development deal from Sony. Coconut Boy gets a book deal and a Netflix series, followed by an eventual memoir called Too Close to the Sun; the Rise and Fall of Coconut Boy. It’s ridiculous and silly and will eventually even itself out, but for now it’s the reality of the media landscape.
The constant conversations online about who should or should not be censored by Twitter or Facebook is exhausting and complicated. Are the Krassenstein Brothers as dangerous as Milo Yiannopoulos is, therefore leading to the same need to be “deplatformed”? Everyone will act outraged in one direction or the other depending on their self-avowed political views, but ultimately I don’t believe that anyone cares about either case all that much. They see these lightning rods as extensions of whichever side of the aisle they prefer to sit- all of it for the sake of self-elaboration. Public figures gain support for one very specific reason and that reason is self-definition. The first time this was ever explained to me was in a marketing class my freshman year of college when my professor asked why we thought anyone liked Kid Rock. The answer was that people will view a figure like him as an extension and definition of themselves. They suddenly feel empowered as their own American Badass, and therefore will further develop their own persona with his as his career advances. This is also why supporters of our president seem to have no basement when it comes to things that they will support. They have already hitched their personality to his wagon and now they’re along for the ride.. it’s too late to back out because he is them and they are him. Keep this in mind the next time someone that you care about posts a Ben Shapiro video or a think piece from Charlie Kirk on the internet. Their bias is set, and so is yours.
In terms of deplatforming, there are set rules for media platforms and violating those rules should be the only way to lose your platform. If one of those rules happens to be don’t be a nazi then great! But if it isn’t, then you have to let the nazi’s stick around until they break another rule. This is all a basic lack of foresight on the part of these platforms and Nazis should be permanently banned from everything forever. I doubt that the founders of twitter thought they’d one day be in the position of being the mouthpiece for an American president, as well as a majority of other world political leaders, but here we are.
A few months ago I was at a party celebrating a close friend who was about to become a dad for the first time. Also at this party was a guy that I’ve met a handful of times who is a very outspoken proponent of political ideas that strongly clash with my own, which is fine. He’s outspoken in one direction, I’m outspoken in the other, the setup of a modern-day Rocky IV (or any other Rocky except V). A few beers in and the conversation was off to a rough start. He wanted to touch on all the hot topics and had all of the standard talking points to further his positions. I supposed I did much of the same, although I like to think I have these conversations differently, it’s hard to know for sure. We see things the way that we see them. We ended up settling on him making a few good points, myself doing the same, a handshake and a few more beers. Did I change his mind? No. Did he change mine? Also no. This interaction was a microcosm of our national climate on almost every issue where we don’t debate to better understand each other, we debate to solidify our own pre-existing bias. We are all just yelling into the void because we like the sound of our own voice and it makes us feel better about ourselves to be able to claim one side or the other. This is not to say that we don’t actually feel passionate about the things we proclaim. I feel very passionately about a lot of issues, but I can’t remember the last time I found myself in a debate with the intention of swaying my opponent, as opposed to making a few good points that would make my friends and family that I know to share my views say “hey man you really roasted that guy!”
So what do we do? Should we all just give up on trying to talk to each other and understand opposing positions? Probably not, but it’s helpful to understand that the primary thing missing from almost every debate is nuance. The nuance of where someone grew up or what they experienced along the way. The nuance of what they do for work or experience every day. The nuance of childhood traumas or their proximity to any of the systems in our country that we go to battle over every day on twitter or facebook to prove that we’re smart and everyone else is dumb. If someone feels strongly about an issue, it’s probably helpful to try to understand why before jumping down their throat with your own views. We have to do a better job of understanding the nuances that make each person who they are if we want to have any chance of meaningful discourse.