It was somewhat surprising that a post about a 3-second Snapchat would go out into the wild, but it captured much of what’s at issue in the culture war. It wasn’t posted for shock value, or to demonstrate who was more culpable. To the extent blame was directed at anyone, it was the grownups.
First, the New York Times for publishing an article that framed the matter to valorize the young man who deliberately harmed a young woman, whose word choice was immature at best and offensive at worst, who intended harm to no one. Second, the University of Tennessee who succumbed to the shrieking of the mob by ousting her from matriculation.
But these were the issues up front. The reactions to this scenario, as reflected in the comments, tell and retell the tale of how difficult, if not impossible, it’s going to be to overcome the anger, viciousness and simplistic tribalism that permeated the comments. Notably, I trashed more than half the comments as being repetitive (the same commenter repeating essentially the same comment directed in reply to multiple other commenters), needlessly offensive (random comments by people hiding behind ‘nyms calling others names or suggesting violence), or just contributing no thought whatsoever.
But I posted quite a few comments that contributed no thought whatsoever for the purpose of exposing just how emotional, simplistic and mindless the warring tribes are. What is apparent from these comments is the facility with which sides flip positions, with the woke asserting “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time,” the usual retort of the tough-on-crime law and order crowd, while the others discovered nuance, inequity and the immaturity of kids uttering foolish words.
This will come as nothing new to most of us, fully aware that people simply pick their sides and then use whatever arguments they can muster to push their agenda. Some can’t distinguish between their feelings and reason, one of the most troubling aspects of this moment in history when people argue in emotive terms and believe they are entitled to never have their feelings hurt or questioned. That, of course, makes discussion and resolution impossible.
Forget about the underlying beef and consider the method of argumentation that’s become pervasive. It’s disingenuous. It’s empty. People pick their sides and use whatever argumentation is available to bolster it, oblivious to the fact that they’ve seized upon the other tribe’s rationalizations and shamelessly proffering arguments that would outrage them under another circumstance.
Even worse, some have no argument, but just vapid snark or conclusory assertion, because they feel the compulsion to register their “vote” for their tribe. This was particularly notable for the side that attacked the young woman for her utterance, for whom the wrongfulness of a white girl saying the n-word needed no further consideration or thought. Would it have been acceptable for someone to have taken a gun and killed her for it? If there’s no limiting principle, like youth or proportionality, and her act was so inherently wrong and evil that no consequence was too great, why not?
One commenter put a lot of effort into a remarkably idiotic comment. While another five comments by the same person attacking various other comments in the same fashion were trashed, it stood out as reflective of what’s happening.
HAHAHAha all you haters of the black kid are hilarious! You wish him all this ill will while magically jumping over the fact that that white girl was the one that was wrong in the first place. So what if she didnt directly call HIM a N-word, if she’s that casual with her use than yeah she probably uses and hears it a lot more behind other people’s backs. And her little excuse “i didn’t know, i’m just a privileged white girl that doesn’t bother to listen or understand the world around me or other people because i’m white dangit and everyone is supposed to act the way i act”. Welp, she just found out that that is not true and it’s hilarious. I applaud this young man for being this patient to teach a good lesson to white people. Time is up, cut the racist crap or get handled. Its’s her own fault!!! Ain’t nobody force her to record herself being a racist, coulda just said nothing and been excited about her permit and moved her way through life, now she lives at home. And every job she ever tries to take will find out about her so easily. Oh what i wouldn’t give to be the black HR person at any job she applies, the sweat on her butt must almost permeate the room. SHE DESERVES THIS. PROVE ME WRONG. Sorry for the caps….
A snarky response would be to wonder how this person remembers to breathe, but I suspect this was written by a well-intentioned, potentially well-educated and likely tenacious ally for social justice. She deserves this? Prove him wrong? What possible narcissism makes this person believe anyone cares to prove anything to him ever? Yet, he does, as do so many other young people absolutely certain of their ideological righteousness and blind to their mindless viciousness.
Have we reached the point where there is nothing to be gained by discussion, as discussion is dead and we’re left with tribes taking their respective sides and saying nothing more substantive than “reasons”?
*Tuesday Talk rules apply, even though it’s Wednesday.