It seems we have forgotten that debate is a skill set. It is an art form that requires continuous refinement and strengthening, or it withers and dies. To be confronted by a dissenting opinion, to listen and understand an argument you don’t agree with, and to respond with a reasoned, factual rebuttal is a crucial part of any intellectual growth. Alas…the art of the rebuttal is slowly dying.
We base arguments on emotion rather than objective reasoning and fact. We insist on beating our opponent into silent submission rather than earning our victory through clever rhetoric and sound argument. The result is two-fold, but wholly distressing. First, our own thoughts and opinions remain weak, unsubstantiated, and unchallenged. They never mature or become refined into well-developed arguments and world views. Second, we become incapable of even hearing any dissenting opinion. We have no tools with which to manage a counterargument. “We’ve gotten lazy in our academics, and it’s come to the point where rather than debate with different ideas, we want to silence them, and make it as though those other ideas don’t exist,” Rev. Ross Engel reflected on Ringside last week.
The age of social media has created an environment in which this resulting mindset can retreat into and thrive. Sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are platforms for you to express yourself. They are not designed to spark deep conversations, nor have they ever claimed to be. “The problem is that Facebook has become so intertwined with our lives that we don’t see it as just a private thing that we engage in for entertainment or enjoyment. It has become more than just a platform for friends, it’s now a platform for everything. It has become the main way that people get their news, their socialization, everything.” We have wrapped up so much of our “real lives” into social media, that our inability to debate reverberates back up through the corporate structure and manifests in company policy.
Ross recounted a story about a video his wife posted that had been censored and removed by Facebook. The post was not violent or lude and didn’t condone any illegal activity. It offered a minority opinion on a topic within Mrs. Engel’s professional field, and there was quite likely some information that has since been either discredited or at least is not as infallible as originally presented. Nonetheless, it is far from harmful to anyone watching it. This posed some interesting questions. Why take it down then? According to Facebook, it was presenting false information.
Personally, I care less about what Facebook chooses to take down than I do the fact that there seems to be a great deal of public pressure that enters into the equation, especially in instances of “misinformation.” Someone chose to report Mrs. Engel’s post rather than point out the inaccuracies and engage in a thoughtful and respectful conversation. There was no meaningful dialogue, just a mad sprint to the Facebook authorities demanding that they censor the offensive post, because God forbid we should be made to suffer through reading or watching something we don’t like.
The art of the rebuttal is dead, and censorship rears its ugly head.
This is not Orwell’s 1984, where the Party controls, censors, and manipulates all information to suppresses individual thought. This is 2020, where the masses vehemently oppose anyone who dares to cause them to think critically or form and intelligent argument, and demand that government and corporation alike abolish anything at odds with their own thoughts. In doing so, we are slowly and happily building the walls of our own prisons.
“The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.”
― George Orwell, 1984
This article is a brief examination of one of several topics discussed on this week’s episode of Ringside with the Preacher Men. Listen to Rev. Joel Hess, Rev. Ross Engel, and Tyler the Intern, as they duke it out over corporate censorship, why having sex with demons is a bad idea, alien baptisms, and why Peter had no business getting out of the boat (Matt. 14), on the latest full Ringside with the Preacher Men episode, “Should You Baptize an Alien?”
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