Has anyone else noticed the increasingly aggressive online arguments going on around terrorism, racism and immigration? David Chadwick certainly has.
Does everyone need to take a step back and have a few deep breaths? The level of abuse I am seeing online as the arguments over our treatment of refugees intensifies is getting a little out of hand.
Now I have commented that I am in favour of a much more humane approach to refugees and separately that I am pretty sickened by the sensationalist anti-Muslim sentiment being stirred up in the media and the political arena (Jacqui Lambie should be ashamed of herself). Perhaps unsurprisingly then, I have been pretty disgusted by some of the bigoted and plain stupid posts I have come across on social media recently. For all that, I have tried to keep my responses as civil as possible. Some of my responses have probably been a little on the sarcastic side, especially towards the truly stupid, but I am at a loss to understand the people who whip themselves into such an apoplectic fury with those they are arguing with that they make it so personal.
The idea that if someone doesn’t share my belief, I can heap scorn and abuse on them- even threaten them and wish them harm, as I have seen- seems disturbingly familiar. Oh that’s right – that is how religious extremists think. I would like to think most of us are better than that, but that belief is getting harder to maintain.
While I think it is pretty obvious which groups a lot of this type of behaviour is coming from, there is enough of it coming from all sides of the debate that I thought I would just put this out to everyone.
Do we need to be getting that angry with each other? The real trolls and bigots are too insignificant to even deserve my anger, but to some extent I do believe others are entitled to disagree with me. They might even be right about some things. If we define each other according to a single opposing belief, we are being very one dimensional. Some of the people who I hold very different beliefs to have turned out to be really good friends. Of course that is more of an exception to the rule, but it is worth remembering.
To those who have experienced this rather unpleasant overreaction to airing contrary views, I am a little saddened you had to, but I suggest you take it as an indication you were probably winning your argument. Those who have logic on their side should have little need to resort to abuse and violence. There is more than one form of cowardice in the world and one form is to not have the courage to admit that you are (or may be) wrong and to try to cover it with bluster and threats. If you can, I recommend ending that conversation immediately and reporting the comment if appropriate. There is going to be little you can do to affect that person’s world view. Getting angry and responding in kind is only going to be counterproductive. One poorly worded post in anger can do more damage to your cause than anything your opponent says.
To those who are seriously aggravated by not getting through to those they argue with, you are probably arguing with the wrong people. Rather than letting it devolve into something that will entrench each side’s view further, disengage now. Save your arguments for someone who might listen to them. If you can’t change someone’s thinking with calm discussion of facts, you are not going to change their thinking through getting personal or aggressive. And if you are not going to change someone’s thinking, what is the point of the conversation.
Obviously many people realise they are not so much arguing to change the mind of their direct interlocutors, but to shape the dialogue that others are reading. If that is your goal, fair enough- you have chosen a difficult task. Still it remains important to retain your composure and stick to stating the key facts that refute opposing arguments, as once again you will persuade few third party observers of the legitimacy of your belief by getting sucked into a personal feud with a troll.
This article was originally published as on the Quietblog.