Ensuring a part of the conversation we don’t agree with isn’t being heard doesn’t mean you’re right, nor does it stop their views from existing.
In an increasingly divided plane of opinion, defeating the other side resides in stopping their ability to speak. Be it shouting down someone on Twitter, drowning them out at QandA or plugging your fingers in your ears until they stop talking is all seen as a legitimate way to win an argument. They’ve stopped talking, therefore you won.
What holds true in the playground, holds true in eternity.
Last week, the other of many shoes finally dropped on Alex Jones, with Twitter removing him from their spooling, writhing ne’er do well merry go round of shouty people. As they represented the final social media pillar to do so, this act was seen as the final validation, the last moral nuke dropped upon him. We won, because we won’t have to listen to him anymore. But that doesn’t wash. It doesn’t stop those people from holding those views, or believing that they’re true. Alex Jones’ empire was founded on the general concept that the general media couldn’t be trusted. Them running him out of town merely validates his original point. You can’t trust the other side, man.
Twitter’s decision to permanently ban conspiracy-slinger Alex Jones shows it’s serious about enforcing its policy against abuse. But the platform has a long way to go. https://t.co/vCjQtc5Od1 pic.twitter.com/L2wg9ucEjX
— ABC News (@ABC) 8 September 2018
And yes, you might make the argument that his reach being significantly reduced might be a win for moral righteousness, but the truth is that it merely removed the less-serious, the casual piss-take audience that followed his rhetoric on an accessible social media platform, those who only watched him to poke fun, or validate the trueness of their own beliefs. While the preening arse might no longer be lead through the centre of town to pelt rotten fruit at, it brays nonetheless.
The idea of “deplatforming” is central to this moral fault. That in the removal of an opportunity equates to that view being found invalid. The banishing of Milo Yiannopoulos was seen as much as a victory as the ‘defeat’ of Germaine Greer was. These people, and all that sail with them, were not worthy of being heard. They blew it by being insane.
Combined with this was the New Yorker sponsored appearance of Donald Trump’s Gargamel in Steve Bannon. A publication looked to enable conversation, debate, but after social media backlash, the invitation was rescinded. Roll out the barrel of moral righteousness. The bad dude got got.
If we’re looking for a reason why discourse is dead, this is why. It’s the same reason why massed broadsheets aim nonsense headlines, or well-groomed television presenters fire “think” pieces, replete with rising music and elevated eyebrows. It’s why you couldn’t speak with Uncle Daryl about the plebiscite. Debate is a dirty word, and discourse is the filthy carriage it rides on. It’s easy to immediately dismiss someone you don’t agree with, and it’s easier to do that when you don’t let them speak. It’s difficult to imagine a return to the great verbal joustings of the 1960s, where progressive met conservative and the audience made their minds up when time expired. A great example would be author James Baldwin, a gay black man, against the originator of the National Review and a pillar of white thought in William F. Buckley. The topic was the American Dream, and what it meant to be proud of your country. Disparate, sure. Worthwhile, absolutely.
But it wouldn’t work now. All we have now is confirmation bias and wild assumption. It lobotmises conversation, and reduces us all to the most basic of topics, and indeed, being swept up on the wings of Twitter outrage. The beauty of debate is the ability to convince. To drag people off the fence, or over to your side, or conversely, step over to theirs. We’ve lost that, as being convinced against your views is capitulation. Agreeing with the other side in 2018 is considered something close to weakness.
You agree with Pauline? Get in the bin.