- Posted December 22, 2013 by
Social Media Lynch Mobs End Civil Discussion
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve probably heard such names as Phil Robertson, Melissa Bachman, Paula Deen, and Justine Sacco. What do all of these people have in common? They’ve said or done something that wasn’t politically correct and faced the wrath of the social media lynch mob. Now you may be thinking, they got what they deserved. And you may be right. I will be the first person to agree that if you embarrass your boss, they have the right to fire you. Where things cross the line is how they've been attacked on the Internet by everybody who disagrees with them. It accomplishes nothing and can in fact be very counterproductive. When these incidents occurred, aside from a few people having their careers ruined, did anything really change? Or did we just alienate a sizeable part of America, changing absolutely nothing? I would argue that it's the latter.
Now bear with me for a moment. Say you’re on a 12 hour road trip with five of your closest friends. It’s your car and you’re driving. For the first six hours of the trip, you’ve had the radio tuned in to a classic rock station. Now your front passenger loves classic rock, but the other four passengers absolutely hate it. Finally fed up, one of your friends says to you, “You are a selfish a-hole for only listening to your music, which sucks by the way, and we want to listen to some country music for a bit.” If you’re like me, you’re probably not going to be inclined to change the station, in fact you may even turn up the radio out of spite. Additionally, you may tell them how country music is inferior to classic rock in every way.
Instead of attacking you, despite how annoyed they are, what if your friends had simply said, “Hey dude, we appreciate that this is your car, but we’ve been listening to your choice of music for the last 6 hours. None of us really like classic rock, do you mind changing it up to some country music for a bit?” Even though you may completely hate country music, given such a rational and civil request, you’re much more likely to listen to them. In fact, maybe after three hours of country music, you realize that in fact, you don’t mind it so much after all.
The point of that analogy is this, if you feel like your beliefs or ideas are superior to somebody else’s, lashing out at them is only going cause them to go on the defensive. It doesn’t matter how homophobic or racist you believe Phil Robertson is, as soon as the media started labeling him homophobic and racist, the people who need to listen the most went on the defensive. It's not just about Phil Robertson, it's about everybody who even remotely identifies with what he said.
According to recent polls, 45% of Americans believe that homosexuality is a sin. Do you really think that most of those people are really going to listen to what you have to say when you call their beliefs bigoted and homophobic? I know I wouldn’t. I can only speak from personal experience, but if I’m having an argument with a friend and they start calling me names because of my opinion, I immediately stop listening to what they have to say. It doesn’t matter how right you are or how morally superior your beliefs are, as soon as you begin calling people names, civil discussion ends and the very person you are trying to convince stops listening to you.
To be clear, I am neither defending nor condemning any of the previously mentioned people, that’s not the point I'm getting at. The point is, if you want people to change their beliefs, a little bit of tact and diplomacy goes a long way. If you really want to foster change in America, instead of immediately resorting to name calling and labeling people (I’m looking at you Atlantic Magazine and Slate), try to civilly and rationally explain why they are wrong. Try to civilly explain why it doesn’t make sense to only pick one or two sins from the book of Leviticus while ignoring the rest, just doesn’t make any sense. Try explaining how making racist jokes or comments hurts other people without labeling that person a racist or homophobe. Do I think everybody is going to listen? Absolutely not! I mean let’s be honest here, Phil Robertson is a 67 year old self-proclaimed Bible thumper I sincerely doubt that his views are ever going to change at this point. But there are people who identify with his views who are young enough that they might actually listen to what you have to say. If your ideas are in fact superior, eventually they will win out.
For you Christians out there, you guys really need to stop focusing on all of the sins from the Old Testament and focusing on the love that Jesus represents. If you’ll recall Jesus once said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone” (John 8:7). So until you are perfect (which none of you are since you aren’t Jesus) stop condemning people to Hell for their sins, that’s God’s job. Jesus hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors for crying out loud, do you really think he wants your jumping up on a soap box telling two people whether they can’t get married? Even if He did believe that to be a sin, He was all about love and forgiveness, not fire and brimstone. So just stop it, OK?
And for you liberals reading this, do you really think Martin Luther King, JR would approve of your mob like attacks on people you don’t agree with? Dr King once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Does that sound like somebody who would approve of name calling and internet bullying? I think not. Despite all of the hate and racism that he faced, MLK continued to civilly and rationally put forth his ideas and eventually they won out. Now racism may not be dead in America, but we are certainly a lot further along than we were 50 years ago!
In closing, let’s take some cues from Martin Luther King, JR and Jesus and rationally and civilly communicate your ideas; if they are in fact superior, eventually they will prevail. On a side note, if you’re an atheist, regardless of whether or not Jesus existed, the message is still the same: love thy neighbor. I think that’s something we can all get behind.