Jon Levett writes at The Atlantic about modern society’s propensity to shout down those who we don’t agree with.
A recent example is the ostracisation of the Mozilla CE for daring to democratically put his money where his personal beliefs lay, and for daring to support one side of a democratic argument.
Then there is the case of Phil Robertson and Duck Dynasty being bullied off air, and the moves by the media and the pro-warming crowd to silence skeptics on global warming who dare to challenge their views on the matter.
Teacher unions and scientists use this technique all the time…”Shut up, when was the last time you were in a classroom teaching”…as if that is a valid argument for the right to have a say on education. “Shut up, what is your science degree in relation to? Was it in climate science” using the same childish argument to silence critics.
Homer Simpson once said that alcohol is the cause of, and solution to, all of lifeâs problems. And I kept thinking: Thatâs actually a pretty good description of the Internet and how itâs changing our discourse. Itâs basically the cause of, and solution to, everything that plagues our culture.
Thatâs an exaggeration, of course. The Internet didnât cause Donald Trump, and it certainly canât solve Donald Trump. The way you defeat Donald Trump is by getting the ring of power into the hands of a pure soul, a hobbit, say, and that hobbit must journey to Mount Doom and release the ring into its fires. But the Internet: Did you know that every single day, the Internet produces more speech than was created between the dawn of civilization and the year 2006? You didnât know that, because I just made it up. But it feels true. We are all bombarded. We are drowning in information. Itâs no longer thrown on our doorstep each sunrise, or even just broadcast into our living rooms; itâs in our hands every waking hour; the endless stream of talking, as we spend all day moving our eyes from screen to screen to screen; itâs the first thing we see each morning and the last thing we see before we go to bed. The shower is the last safe space, which is why itâs the only place where we have decent ideas anymore.
In many ways this is good and getting better: We have unlocked the gates and we are removing the gatekeepers. We arenât beholden to the views of the three green elders in the village. (See, I tied it back.) But what happens nextâhow we face the downside of so much connectednessâwill determine whether or not this revolution empowers us, or once again empowers those gatekeepers. And I donât want that to happen, because those gatekeepers suck. Theyâre arrogant and easily swayed by big, nice-sounding dangerous ideas; theyâre ambitious and careerist and forgetful and unimaginative and shortsighted; theyâre subject to groupthink, beholden to corporate interests, and enamored of fame and power.
I donât want those voices to drown out the diverse and compelling voices that now have a better chance of making it in front of us than ever beforeâeven as we still have a ways to go. And what I think we have to do, then, to protect this new wonderful thing of âa good idea can come from anyone anywhereââis we need to stop telling each other to shut up. We need to get comfortable with the reality that no one is going to shut up. You arenât going to shut up. Iâm not going to shut up. The idiots arenât going to shut up.
We need to learn to live with the noise and tolerate the noise even when the noise is stupid, even when the noise is offensive, even when the noise is at times dangerous. Because no matter how noble the intent, itâs a demand for conformity that encourages people on all sides of a debate to police each other instead of argue and convince each other. And, ultimately, the cycle of attack and apology, of disagreement and boycott, will leave us with fewer and fewer people talking more and more about less and less.Â Read more »