And no. Not to slap the backs of their heads.
Oddly enough, it took the election of Donald Trump to wake the other side of the political spectrum to the dissatisfaction on the right. This is the perfect time to reach out, if you dare and try to explain conservatism and libertarianism. I saw a post on free speech which began this way:
Ladies, that guy who put his hand on your bum after a few drinks, and then apologizes several days later saying it was the alcohol, is lying. He wanted to do it while sober. Only the alcohol made it easier to ignore social norms and repercussions. In reality, it is when he is sober that he is lying! He was more truthful when the whiskey sours lowered his inhibitions.
Now there’s an example that is nearly universal.
And so it is with the online environment. Several online media outlets, such as NPR and Huffington Post, have banned anonymous comments because they tend to be vitriolic and disrespectful – especially to women. But there is truth in these comments because social norms are weakened and inhibitions are lowered.
His point is that anonymous voting is a lot like anonymous trolling: We can act in a way which would be embarrassing if we did not have anonymity. He then wandered off into some research he did online with the alt-right communities and group think.
I saw at least a glimmer of hope here:
I am a fanatical believer in free speech. It is the only way to ensure that people can speak truth to power in a peaceful democracy. Autocracies have their own way of speaking truth to power, and that is with armed coups. All things considered, I prefer the free speech route.
Instead of banning anonymous comments, or simply dismissing them as mad ravings, it is better to acknowledge that they are indicators of people’s true sentiments about an issue. This understanding will allow us to embrace these comments and develop metrics of political opinion. If academics and pollsters would have accepted the truth of trolls, they may not have been blindsided by Trump’s victory.
Hey, this guy would make a great conservative, if he could get there. My response in part:
You can disagree with his opinions (thank the Founding Fathers for that!), and even his worst supporters, but he is really not far from mainstream America. That’s a fact which was missed by the media, pundits and the left. Keep defending free speech from your perspective, as I do from mine. Things are not as bad as they might seem.
My point is not to share what a good little community builder I am, but to encourage open dialogue. All over America, liberals are left with the strange idea that we’re just the Hutus and they’re the Tutsis. We’re the Hatfields, and they’re the McCoys.
Because their leaders and media pundits painted Trump as not just wrong, but evil, they have given in to the conclusion that half the country is both evil and wrong. Maybe it’s time to remind people that Trump voters don’t look forward to a return of Jim Crow (who do they think we are, southern Democrats?) or internment camps for LGBTQ folks (lets be honest, they’d find a way to make that fun, anyway!) But I joke.
While we’ve got their attention, remind them that dissent is patriotic, and has been for the last 7+ years, that speech should be free even for those who have lost an election. We’re not monsters, and never have been.
My previous post on a liberal who said “Fairwell America” is not an example of this project. I suspect some liberals can’t or won’t learn. Poke ’em with a stick if you need to.
Roderick Graham is a professor and author of The Digital Practices of African Americans, and you can buy it at this Amazon link.