The Death of Articulation
Brad Johnson, Politics Contributor
With the rise of social media, we are able to communicate with others in ways that have never before graced this Earth. An artist can engage with his fans, an employer can sift through hundreds of potential employees, and a President can speak directly to his constituency, all at the click of a button. Technology has advanced so much in recent memory that communication has largely lagged behind. With all the great benefits that have accompanied social media, one glaring defect has as well: loss of conversation and articulation.
The computer screen has a “man behind the curtain” effect. No longer must individuals be held accountable for their words. Anonymous accounts plague the annals of Twitter like diseased rodents plagued Europe in the 14th century. When incognito, keyboard warriors are galvanized to partake in the mudslinging of ghastly insults. In early 2016, David French’s name was being floated as a possible conservative alternative to the apparent GOP nominee Donald Trump.
Once this came to light, the trolls took it as their personal duty to bedevil French. They even went as far as to tweet at French, pictures depicting his children in gas chambers. French is not alone in this harassment. Conservative stalwart, Ben Shapiro, was found to be the most targeted anti-Trump journalist in the country. He too, received pictures of gas chambers, and miscellaneous anti-Semitic tweets. Make no mistake, these individuals who hide behind their desktop, hurling insults at anyone they disagree with, are simply cowards. However, this destruction of conversation and articulation, albeit to a much less hateful degree, is not limited to the aforementioned troglodytic cowards.
Everywhere, political debate seems to have shifted away from face-to-face interactions or through reputable mediums (opinion journals, town halls, classes, etc.) and towards social media almost in exclusivity. When the opposing party’s humanity can be ignored, it makes rudeness more easily comported. Cable television started this trend of yelling back and forth at each other, and ultimately getting nowhere. Viewers would have their preconceived notions corroborated, instead of challenged. This occurred because for entertainment purposes, the two or more “debaters” will trend more towards screaming indignantly at one another, rather than the point-counterpoint format of a debate. It makes better T.V.
Nowadays, many arguments are had on Twitter (I am not exempt from this). True discussions are very difficult to conduct over exchanges of 140 characters. Arguments must be dumbed down in order to fit within the parameters. No matter how much one tries, it is impossible to squeeze every valuable point within a 900 word article into even a lengthy tweet chain. The ability to be articulate is crucial to (1) maintaining accuracy in an argument in full and (2) preserving one’s credibility. Belittling an argument down to buzzwords like cuck, commie, RINO, etc. have no place in a gladiatorial arena of ideas. Using such words only does a disservice to your own argument. While simplification is necessary when explaining a 1,000+ page jobs report to a layman, oversimplification of arguments is detrimental to debate as a whole.
Which brings me to my next pet peeve: memes. Sure, memes are hilarious. Who doesn’t love a good Harambe (RIP), Arthur, or Crying Jordan meme? But when used to make political arguments, they take Twitter’s 140 character limit even further. Ineffective only begins to describe their capabilities in the realm of battling ideas. And they are employed on all sides. Memes are presented as act, instead of…you know…actual facts. The inability, or indifference, to provide articulate and easily understood arguments has been overcome by a preference for one-sided claims coupled with an obsession for a lack of substance.
Too often nowadays, we use social media as a substitute for actual interaction. That’s not to say social media cannot be used in a beneficial way. It certainly has been. However, the largest problem continues to get worse. The vast majority preserve their worldview by staying within their own bubble, largely unchallenged by anything that does not reinforce already held beliefs. On top of that, far too many allow verbal excrement to seep from their mouths in the sole interest of damaging another human being. Social media can be used for good, but the cancerous elements must be ostracized for it to become a net-positive. Articulation is becoming a lost art, both through mediums, and conversely face-to-face. Politics is meant to be complicated and engaging. Instead, it has become oversimplified and enraging. Only time will tell if it can reverse course.
Follow this author on Twitter: @bradjCincy
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