“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me.”
This outdated adage has limited applicability in a world where words, especially words-gone-viral, can compromise a child’s future, derail careers, shake a country’s confidence in its leadership, or worse.
Legacy media and its social media allies are bent on casting Christians, capitalists, and conservatives as villainous evildoers deserving public censure.
The ultra-progressive face of the Democratic electorate drenching social media is not its true face, according to data reported in the left-leaning New York Times. In reality, the vociferous super-woke are outnumbered about 2 to 1 by their more moderate counterparts who whisper nary a word on social media platforms.
Why invite a tongue-lashing and give party extremists’ fiery views even more oxygen?
Likewise, many conservatives who would be subject to outspoken leftists’ verbal assaults never feel its keen sting, either. The mere fear of it renders them mute.
The effect is particularly noticeable on social media where leftists applaud one another for verbally pummeling conservatives who dare express right-of-center views.
Conservatives regularly knuckle under without leftists ever landing a punch.
Like bullied children cowering beneath stairwells, they’ve learned to toe the line. Some learned the hard way. Others learned by watching friends or colleagues take a hit for expressing non-leftist religious, political, or economic ideas.
The right’s knee-jerk self-censoring, coupled with social and legacy media’s systematic squelching, has profound, detrimental consequences. Among the most pressing are the moral and economic decay that inevitably accompany a blind march into socialism.
Religion, politics, and economics are complex. Grappling with them intelligently and fairly demands deep thought, extensive research, and a willingness to embrace the notion that one’s own ideas may be flawed. They are thorny, complicated matters. Nuance counts.
While a 280-character rejoinder leaves no room for nuance, it does afford plenty of space for vapid characterological attack.
These sorts of attacks are easy to recognize. They come in three basic flavors: you’re mean, you’re stupid, and you’re insignificant.
Responses to this article may well draw from all three.
The language may be more erudite, but the techniques for establishing social dominance are precisely those with which tweens and teens are painfully familiar. They are petty, intellectually lazy ad hominem attacks meant to quash genuine discourse.
Instead of academically examining the historicity of Jesus, they declare Christians “homophobes.” In lieu of exploring the drivers behind the failures and (circumscribed) successes of socialism, they say capitalists are “heartless.” Rather than delving into hardline statistics on immigration, they rant about conservatives’ “racism.”
It is much easier—and more effective on social media—to attack the messenger.
To be fair, verbal thuggery is not the exclusive province of the left. The right plays this game, too. But the left, I would argue, is better at it.
Few leftists shoulder significant social or employment-related risk for openly expressing their views. Quite the opposite is true for those on the right, with that risk being significantly higher in some fields than others.
To give credit where credit is due, the tactic is smart in that it is efficient. As a means to an end, it absolutely gets the job done. The job, of course, is to keep members of ideological camp A from deeply and honestly interfacing with members of ideological camp B, lest they stray.
Though the “sticks and stones” adage went the way of the dodo bird, a parallel adage has withstood the test of time.
The pen is still mightier than the sword. By a longshot.
Who needs physical violence when you can decimate your foes with some well-placed keystrokes? When even the fear of the social media mob knocking at your digital door is an apt deterrent, the job begun is the job half done.
A portion of leftists’ verbal attacks on conservatives is garden variety virtue signaling. Breathlessly expressing outrage over the supposed moral failings of an ideological foe is meant to demonstrate that the pearl-clutching critic’s own character is beyond reproach.
At times, this virtue signaling takes the form of verbal attacks that include -ists, -isms, and -phobias.
A student cast as “racist” for wearing a Make America Great Again hat can face disciplinary action and verbal attack by a teacher. True or not, accusations of “sexism” or “white nationalism” can net reputational stains that never wash out. Business owners accused of “homophobia” can lose their livelihood.
Leftists’ weaponization of the word “phobia” is particularly ironic. Phobias, obviously, are debilitating fears. Suggesting that mental illness is shameful or that it is the choice of the sufferer is profoundly illiberal.
Leftists append “phobic” when they actually mean the target of their ire is either bigoted against a certain group or disagrees with the advisability of a given policy. Consider the terms “homophobic,” “islamophobic,” and “xenophobic.” Actual fear is rarely part of the picture when these terms are bandied about.
Weaponized use of –ists, -isms, and –phobias are effective, in part because they are difficult to dispute, and because people default to the hatred and bigotry explanation rather than the ideological difference explanation.
With respect to its use against those who disagree with a given policy, there is plenty to fear. Leftists who hijack the word to shame their ideological foes or to stoke hatred against them are quite often successful.
For too long, Christians, capitalists, and conservatives have succumbed to the fear of drawing leftists’ ire. For too long, we’ve permitted our ideological foes to wield power they have proven themselves ill-equipped to responsibly handle.
The longer it goes on, the harder it will be to re-balance the scales.
Meanwhile, some states have legalized killing healthy infants for any reason up to the point of birth. Illegal immigration has overwhelmed our capacity, and perhaps our will, to manage it. And our country is facing the ever-looming prospect of succumbing to the ravages of socialism.
There is much at stake.
The question is, will we summon the courage and the will to turn this Titanic around?