Rarely has public debate felt as adversarial as it does today. Express a nuanced opinion online and all too often you won’t be engaging in good-faith discussion, you’ll be abused, “called out” and “cancelled”. Have we forgotten how to simply disagree?
The new provost of University College London, Dr Michael Spence — an Australian Anglican minister and an expert in intellectual property law — said this month that we had reached the point where universities need to start teaching their students how to discuss controversial topics without shouting each other down.
“Practising the norms of disagreeing well, not making an enemy of other people, trying to work out where there is common ground — these are core intellectual skills,” he said. …
The Iliad provides a good example of how disagreement once looked.
“The Greeks and Trojans are clearly at odds, but they don’t hate one another,” [philosopher John Armstrong] says. “They think something like: ‘My clan loyalties lead me to be attacking your city and your clan loyalties lead you to be defending it; we both operate from the same underlying values.’ ”
The internet has blown that apart. We now exist in a context where people can hide behind anonymous accounts and howl into the abyss. Add to that the conflation of ideas and identity, with a dash of linguistic sloppiness, and you have a recipe for disaster.
The Internet has allowed large portions of the population to become significantly un-tethered from reality. The digital world of the Internet is their new reality. This is allowing an active minority that controls “Internet reality” to take over the world. The woke have induced people to support them by spinning beguiling fantasies, and their supporters have taken over the left’s political parties throughout the West. Via the fictional world they have created on the Internet, the woke have persuaded most inhabitants of “Internet reality” to feel strongly they should vote for their left party
It’s as if they are living in a novel or a tv series, where God is the scriptwriter. Collectively, they write the script. They “know” it’s real because of the social affirmation that everyone they know is into the same fantasy world. People who don’t believe are cancelled, and never seen or heard from again, so criticism is increasingly uncommon. “See, everyone who is anyone believes! So it must be true,” they say.
Which of course has left society’s current leadership unable to deal as effectively with the real, non-Internet world. Which will matter soon enough.