The Danger of Abrasive Rhetoric

In today’s modern society everything in instantaneous. We get information and news right away, we expect politicians, global leaders, and agencies to act or speak out right away, but we are also able to react right away. And while it’s important to share news and information—like Facebook’s tool to alert loved ones of the status of individuals in states of emergency—this ability to instantly react often has nasty consequences.

The thing is, when we interact with people we know well, are related to, are friends with, or have to work with, we are all usually pretty considerate of our responses. Like they say, when you’re mad and you write an email you should always wait an hour before you send it to make sure you still want to send it. Because if, in the heat of the moment, you horribly insult people you care about you have to deal with the fallout. You lose a friendship, or a job, or awkwardly have to avoid your co-worker, or sit through a few weird holidays with your family before you hopefully finally make up.

But on the Internet, nobody knows each other. Or really knows each other. You probably interact with a crew of people on Twitter that you don’t know all that well. Or maintain friends on Facebook that you haven’t talked to since high school and don’t particularly know anymore or care about to any great extent. And this provides a certain amount of freedom to respond a bit harsher than one otherwise might. Certainly most people wouldn’t show such venom as is sometimes seen on the Internet in person, and almost certainly never with people they care about.

This isn’t new information. We’ve all heard this before. We’ve all probably done this ourselves. It’s a natural reaction to a certain degree on anonymity.

But it’s a dangerous path that may have contributed to the polarized worldviews we currently experience.

I’m clearly not talking about ‘your band is stupid,’ ‘I hate that actor,’ ‘every movie he’s made is idiotic.’

The Internet is now a major source of information and a major means of communication. People discuss things that really matter on the Internet and how they experience another person’s point of view shapes how they see the opposing side.

This is especially true for issues that are not identity-centered. For example, a liberal who supports Black Lives Matter but who is, in fact, not black but simply showing solidarity.

A view without strong roots is shaped more by immovable and un-understanding forces than by acceptance and willing speech.

Picture an actual tree root, underground and reaching for sustenance: water, minerals, clean earth. If it runs into a rock, it will attempt to break the rock before retreating another direction. If it expands into soil of a different variety than it originated in it will expand. If it runs into soil that is richer and more healthful than that from which it was instigated, the rest of the root system will grow in that direction.

For millennials, opinions appear to be more of a nurturing occurrence than a natural one. Most college students identify as liberal, and many come from conservative homes. They claim they feel ostracized by the views of their parents.

The only way to nurture conservatism into the minds of young people—or any people—is not to shout at them, tell them their view is wrong or stupid, or even to bombard them with facts.

When convincing people of something, even more important than what you say is how you say it.

Nobody cares about facts that are provided with a scoff.

There’s equal danger in saying “conservatives who support Trump are sellouts,” and “#NeverTrump people don’t care about America,” as there is in saying “people who support Hillary condone her corruption,” and “socialists don’t understand the value of freedom.”

In fact, most people have a valid argument. In many cases, their argument is not valid enough to condone their opinion or actions.

If this is the case, hearts and minds can be turned by showing a reasonable case against opposing views in a way that shows little or no animosity.

Ostracizing people polarizes them.

Individuals who cannot meet people where they stand and attempt to lead them have no room to try and convince them.

When you want to call something out of hiding you gently coax it or go and get it. You don’t throw rocks.

The only way forward for conservatism is to convince people who have never considered it, and the only way to convince people is by understanding their needs and informing them of the ways in which conservative principles meet them.

The future of America rides on the kindness of everyday people, and we are failing her.

About the Author

Natalie Fraehlich
Natalie is a pragmatic Progressive Conservative from Iowa. She works in communications and politics as a Republican staffer, campaign consultant, and supporter of bi-partisan progress. Her preferred pastimes include travel, music, and art. Natalie's major influences include Thomas Paine, George Washington, and George Will.