The End of Civil Discourse

Things are getting a bit loony in the USA. Hysteria has become the standard reaction to almost everything, overwhelming and desensitizing the public, and preventing them from being able to distinguish where real concerns actually lie. When everyone who disagrees with you is Hitler, such language loses its potency, and thus in turn we lose the ability to identify actual threats.

The current climate has allowed for the flourishing of firebrands and contrarians who only further profit from stoking the fire. This is partly fueled by the new attention economy and the ability to monetize outrage over both the internet and traditional media platforms. For those in power or in the media, there is little incentive to give a voice to anyone who does not command massive attention through the use of extremist rhetoric.

The media either wants to make money from viewer advertising, promote a specific agenda or more strongly consolidate their base around a singular ideology. There is no room for any honest discussion that may allow for the development of a more nuanced understanding of an issue. Online echo chambers are quick to down vote and bury any ideas that don’t perfectly align with their dogma.

The current market has deemed rationality, facts and honest debate to not be profitable ventures.

While political and economic forces continue to encourage and provoke the storm, an underlying growing cultural divide provides the raw fuel.

There has been a growing discontent for years among those who have prescribed to society’s standard social narrative, only to end up feeling duped. For many, the American dream was used as a bait and switch tactic which resulted in their enslavement in debt.

The liberal arts student who was promised the world by their guidance counselor, only to end up six figures in debt, and the blue collar worker who lost their factory job and can’t pay their mortgage, are upset about the same thing. They both notice their quality of life decreasing and are quick to rally against whomever they are told is the culprit.

We have now gotten to the point that neo-Nazis are holding public marches in our streets, while simultaneously a Jewish professor and Bernie Sanders supporter is being accused of being a white supremacist.

You cannot make a more inclusive society by ostracizing anyone who does not prescribe exactly to your own narrow worldview. You make a more inclusive society by respecting other’s opinions and letting their voices be heard instead of drowning them out.

We need to recognize the historically disenfranchised and the systemically oppressed without automatically demonizing everyone else who might be viewed as being ‘privileged.’ Likewise, just because a person holds a position of authority, does not automatically mean that they are abusing it or have not earned it through merit.

While we should undoubtedly strive towards creating a world where all people are treated equally regardless of race, gender or wealth, we cannot ignore the physical realities of the world in which we live. The better that we accurately understand our environment, the more effectively we can bring about positive change.

However, without the ability to hold a dialogue and debate in a constructive manner, sustainable progress will not be possible.

While our first amendment rights will likely continue to be protected by federal law, individual institutions are likely to continue enforcing ever stricter compliance standards.

We are creating environments where if one wants to graduate from their university or continue receiving a paycheck, they must conform to evermore constricting doctrine. It is much more cost effective for institutions to immediately weed out any dissonance, rather than risk expensive lawsuits or angry mobs creating bad publicity. Don’t think that capitalism requires the upholding of democratic values such as free speech. There are plenty of profitable McDonald’s all over the world.

What terrifies me the most is that as corporations continue to merge and consolidate their power, monopolies will form as the providers of common services. Thus to avoid any controversy or force compliance, these conglomerates may blacklist people and limit their ability to access and utilize services that will become essential components of the new economy. For example, your personal views may result in your bank account being frozen or a self-driving car service refusing to pick you up.

The other immediate danger brought about by this new wave of censorship is that it gives the real Hitlers of the world a valid claim to the right of protecting free speech. It is a terrible move to concede the issue of free speech to the far right and in turn legitimize them.

This student was reported for gender misconduct and put through a ‘re-education’ program for jokingly calling himself handsome while practicing adjectives in his Chinese language class. While most of the administration recognized the absurdity of the charges, they were all too afraid to put their own careers in jeopardy by challenging the university’s overzealous PC culture.

This type of extreme PC ideology can only exist within policed institutions. And while many in such institutions may feel that they are successfully creating impenetrable ‘safe spaces,’ fanatic populism has always been willing to completely tear down and overthrow institutions which they feel do not represent them.

In the of name of creating a more inclusive environment, institutions are simultaneously spawning resentment within other large portions of the population. As people flee from the overly politically correct insanity which is resulting in witch hunts, they are only more likely to end up at the other dangerous extreme. Since an alternative congregation of reasonable individuals seems to be missing, they end up trading one brand of fundamentalism for another.

The eventual backlash is only more likely to lead to greater setbacks in the long run for any progressive agenda. Nothing seems to have been learned since the last presidential election, with the defeated only doubling down on the same practices that cost them victory.

As citizens of the United States, we need to come to the realization that we are being presented with a false dichotomy, reject self-serving one-sided narratives, revive the ability to hold constructive dialogues and unite around the universal issues that we all face.

 

Related Articles:

Are you a Fundamentalist Without Knowing It?

The Attention Economy: How We Are Forfeiting Our Most Precious Resource

 

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