Sunday Soliloquys: Civil Discourse

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Hello, internets. It’s been a little more than a year since I’ve posted on this blog and, despite many people surely not missing or knowing that I exist, it’s good to be back. I’ve contemplated the best topic to discuss for a few months…but honestly, I felt like I really just needed to start writing again for the sake of doing so. As a result, here I am!

In an effort to hold myself accountable and post regularly, quality or not, I’ve decided to make a blog segment called Sunday Soliloquys. For the less informed, a soliloquy is an aside in theatre, where a character expresses his thoughts or feelings aloud, generally to himself (and the audience). Basically, in this segment, I’ll be doing brief comments and thoughts about things that have been crossing my mind recently.

Today I’ll be talking about civility in discourse. Hope you enjoy, and as always, feel free to share, like, comment, and email me thoughts!

So, to get to the point…why do we need to have civil discourse?

When having a discussion with anyone, we hope that our points and concerns can be expressed and heard AND we can adequately present counterpoints and concerns to the people that we are having our discussion with. Regardless of what our beliefs may be, we expect this level of civility to exist because that ties directly into our freedoms of expression and speech, which are, as many recognize, tied directly to our first amendment rights. However, in the social world that we currently live in, this need for civility in discourse (and this expectation) is presenting our news media and the rest of our public sector some very distinct challenges.

What happens when, in a civil discussion, one or both parties do little more than falsify or present assumptions or generalizations as if they are facts? What happens when, unlike in a school house or dinner table discussion, this discussion is broadcast to millions of people? Many people have grown accustomed to the notion of civil discourse as the “reasoned” presentation of multiple sides of an issue, where, much like in a debate, both sides have equal representation and should be permitted to make their points without being discredited on the basis of their position. When two people, or parties, approach each other to discuss an issue,  neither side should be presented as inferior or less credible on the basis of what their beliefs are. However, what many people seem to be missing is that, while people do in fact hear what people say through some sort of biased lens, people label different sides of an issue as less credible because of what they perceive to be as flaws in the general argument that is being made. Although you might feel that your audience or your “opponent” in this debate or discussion is discrediting or ignoring what you are saying simply because of your label, more often than not, no matter how fallacious, they are doing so because of association.

I am openly liberal (except for when I’m working). I recognize that many people will make assumptions about and discredit the things that I say because of that. This is negative in general, but is totally acceptable if the specific thing I am saying IS FALSE or IS NOT CREDIBLE. I have occasionally shared false news, false information, or misleading information, which was not credible. My liberal bias lead me to do so (accidentally of course). In response, several of my friends, regardless of ideology, pointed this out. I either rectified the situation by deleting the post, or by commenting my apologies for spreading this false information. During our discourse, they pointed out the invalid points that I was making OR the invalid evidence that I was using, which I thought was valid due to my own personal bias. I am not a totally unethical or non-credible person because I used this false or misleading evidence, but my argument at the time, on that topic, WAS FALSE and NON-CREDIBLE.

Pointing out the invalidity of an argument, or requesting for additional evidence or clarity when hearing an argument doesn’t mean that you are discriminating or directly discrediting the person’s total beliefs. It just means that in the case of that particular argument, you are trying to differentiate between false or misleading evidence/information AND true/credible evidence/information.

As a society, we must work harder to divorce an argument from a person. Instead of just listening to the words that people say, do background research and ensure that their evidence and commentary is credible and based on fact. Even if something sounds logical based on your own experience, make sure that it truly is logical and isn’t based on misleading or fallacious evidence and reasoning.

Thanks for letting me air that out. Stop through next week!

Peace,

Rafi

(PS: this was inspired by Tomi Lahren’s recent appearance on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. You can check out the clip here:

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