I saw on Facebook recently where a liberal friend was saying he has found a way to unfollow Facebook friends without actually defriending them.
He said this was terrific because he could maintain the relationships, see the children of his conservative Facebook friends reach their various milestones but not have to view their vile political screeds. He wants to remember them the way they were before they were sucked into the vast right-wing conspiracy.
I have no official data on this, but I bet if Facebook measured who blocks and unfriends the most, people on the left would have a significant advantage. They simply don’t want to hear arguments counter to their own.
If the argument can be won with the meager talking points most command, then fine. But if not, if the person on the other side also commands some talking points, then it’s not a learning experience we witness but a hissy fit.
I also bet that if Facebook analyzed every political discussion in its pages, it would find that the first person to abandon the notion of arguing the facts and launch into direct personal attack would be the lefty participant. I also bet it would find that the first swear word of any such contretemps would be uttered by the lefty.
They want to believe what they believe, and they are infuriated when others express different views in their presence. They buy into a narrative, expertly presented by most of the nation’s leading media organizations, and they can’t bear any deconstruction of that narrative. Their opponents are not wrong; they are misogynistic, anti-whatever, knuckle-dragging, hate-filled racists.
They cling to words such as compromise and understanding, but they search for neither. What they call compromise actually amounts to capitulation. What they call understanding amounts to the same thing.
This has been on view this week, ironically, at two universities known for producing top journalists – the University of Missouri and Yale. At Missouri, it didn’t even take a right-leaning view to elicit tribal condemnation – merely a student wanting to document the historic events for, well, history.
In the chilling video all over the Internet, a student journalist is attempting to photograph the crowds of protesters in the university quad. But he is screamed at to go away, blocked, intimidated and maligned.
The coup de gras is when a teacher in, heaven forbid, the school of mass communications calls for some “muscle” to help her toss out the journalist. The same teacher, it must be noted, two days earlier was trying to interest journalists in the story of the heroic students standing up for … whatever it is they were standing up for.
Never mind the obvious question: If your cause is so righteous, why are you ashamed to be associated with the protest? This is not what college is for. College is where you go to have your ideas challenged, to test them against those of others. You should cherish debate, not stifle it.
But at Yale, where you would think they would know better, this is precisely what happened. School officials put out an email before Halloween warning students to not wear costumes that could “threaten our sense of community.” It even provided a list of costumes to avoid, courtesy of the university’s Intercultural Affairs Council.
Erika Christakis, associate master of Silliman College, one of Yale’s 12 undergraduate residential houses, responded with a memo that essentially took what should have been the students’ side. Her problem was with this group of institutionally affiliated do-gooders telling supposedly adult college students what they could wear for a Halloween costume.
“I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (which is to say: bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students,” she wrote.
All heck broke loose. Christakis’ husband, Nicholas, the master at Sillman, has attempted to explain free speech to the supposedly educated folks at his school. They have responded by trying to force him out, or at least apologize and confess his crimes. In one memorable part of a video, a girl screams nonsensically at him for minutes, then demands, “Who the f--- hired you?” The girl herself was, in fact, on the screening committee.
People will try to equate this to the march across the Selma Bridge. It is not. It is pedantic young people being led by pedantic slightly older people who have been trained by society, the media, their parents and their schools to entertain not a single opposing idea in their heads throughout their lives. They can’t take opposition. They can’t argue meaningfully because they have been taught arguing is wrong and mean and disgusting.
It is not. It is healthy. In fact, the ability to argue is critical to a pluralistic society. It is the only way we can move forward with ideas that help everyone. Because, at present, if those ideas don’t emanate from the left, they will not be allowed to be heard by the left.
It hurts them politically – they don’t get the signals that global warming, “wealth inequality” and supposed unequal pay for women are not mainstream issues for many Americans.
But they don’t care. They’re too busy blocking and defriending and cursing and intimidating those not in lockstep with their views to notice.