“The beauty of doing nothing is that you can do it perfectly. Only when you do something is it almost impossible to do it without mistakes. Therefore people who are contributing nothing to society, except their constant criticisms, can feel both intellectually and morally superior.”
Such masterful writing shines like a beacon, cutting through the swirling unintelligent abyss that is Twitter. Thomas Sowell’s words are, as always, both succinct and accurate, and are no more relevant to our lives than today.
Not only are many of those who contribute nothing to society often the ones to be allocated the most authority on matters of politics or morality, the net has been cast wider than ever before. Now, the notion of speech is given the same respect as the notion of action. People are congratulated for “speaking their truth,” “speaking truth to power,” or simply speaking at all. Whether their speech is accurate, productive, or results in any objective good is irrelevant.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has pushed this problem to the forefront. One example was brought to us by the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Last week, he chose to send President Trump an open “serious letter,” where the goal was clearly to grandstand rather than join forces. Just this weekend, Schumer criticized Trump by stating that “In America, patriots speak truth to power. President Trump has turned that inside out. When you tell the truth, he fires you.”
Chuck Schumer is not only wrong in basic terms - the president has every right to select the members of his own administration - he is also wrong in fundamental American terms. In Schumer’s version of America, the sign of a patriot is someone who “speaks truth to power.” Luckily for those of us who enjoy the freedom and liberty guaranteed by our unalienable rights and protected by the United States Constitution, the true patriots who founded this nation did much more than simply “speak.”
The problem of unproductive speech being viewed as synonymous with action is not limited to the political class. With the coronavirus outbreak spreading across both the country and the globe, we have seen many in the United States spring to action. When Mike Lindell (the “My Pillow Guy”) announced that his company would - voluntarily - aim to increase its daily output of cotton face masks from 10,000 to 50,000, one would assume that this would be cause for celebration.
Instead, many fell over themselves to mock a citizen of the United States for the crime of putting his money where his mouth is and doing something. MSNBC’s Ali Velshi scoffed, tweeting “Trump just called the “My Pillow” guy up to the podium in the Rose Garden. You cannot make this stuff up,” Tom Nichols sarcastically cheered with “Well, imagine my relief that the My Pillow guy is on the job,” and Jonathan Chait jeered with “Look, it’s hard to fill up 90 minutes worth of material every single day, so you need to get some sponsored material/infomercials.”
Besides pontificating on Twitter, what are people like Ali Velshi, Tom Nichols, and Jonathan Chait actually doing to fight the coronavirus? If they are even doing anything concrete, it is hugely doubtful that it could ever compare to the impact Mike Lindell and his company will have. But, in our world where speech is celebrated as action, cynical and unproductive mockery is enough. If it can be used to ridicule someone who happens to be acting upon their sincere religious beliefs in order to help their community, even better.
Thomas Sowell wrote that “The beauty of doing nothing is that you can do it perfectly.” As we struggle to gain ground against this pandemic, we should no longer be wasting our time on the words of those who contribute nothing. Instead, we should applaud those whose actions - whether flawed or not - bring us closer to victory.