Quick question. Which is worse for “democracy” and “discourse”: A prominent public figure, with a large following composed mainly of increasingly enraged (and generally well-armed) members of America’s dominant but shrinking ethnic majority, spending months issuing vocal and repeated calls for the elimination of certain religious and ethnic outgroups from the body politic; or the act of “unfriending” people with annoying or offensive beliefs on a social networking platform? The answer—or, at least, one Washington Post writer’s answer—may surprise you.
According to Caitlin Dewey, the Washington Post’s “digital culture critic” and author of their Internet culture site The Intersect, this trend—which, obviously, cannot be measured because Facebook does not share data on the subject—of liberal Facebook users disconnecting from friends (or “friends”) who admire Donald Trump is symptomatic of a deeper rot at the heart of civil society.
But in an era where Americans are both more polarized than ever and more able to tailor their environments to their preexisting views, standard disagreements have veered in an ugly, intolerant direction: one that’s inconsistent, critics argue, with our most fundamental democratic values.
“Standard disagreements have veered in an ugly, intolerant direction.” Who could argue with that, in a piece examining the political rise of Donald Trump?
Though it’s a bit odd to say that not in reference to this...
...but to this:
Of goofy browsers extensions and apps like the one depicted above, Dewey says:
Some of these may seem pretty funny — and in practice, they can be. But they all share the rather serious goal of helping users avoid engaging their civic and political reality.
So engage with civil reality, dear reader, and re-friend those Trump fans. Because it turns out the real intolerance is declining to subject yourself to the ravings of would-be blackshirts.
As the old saying goes, if all you have are takes on the larger societal implications of banal Internet microstories, everything looks like a worrying trend.
(The Post has since changed the headline seen above to something marginally less stupid.)