We need to talk about the real “problem with the discourse”, which is the cheap culture of false equivalency and its exploitation. The issue in our culture is not that there two sides of every issue that are held and expressed with equal passion; that much we can handle. The bigger problem is that some views are expressed toxically and some are not, but the former demand to be held alongside the latter as though pluralism demands the abandonment of our dignity. When we insist that bullies and the bullied are tantamount to simply opposing views, we incentivize the bad behavior and both legitimize it and delegitimize good forms of disagreement. I am amazed how quickly liberal journalists fall into this trap, in their interest of trying to show their capacity to engage “both sides” of an issue and to appeal to the larger goal of a “better conversation.” It is backward.
Here’s the thing: two sides of an issue, in the good sense, means one side that you think is right and one that you think is wrong. We benefit from engaging, reading, debating on these terms. It does not mean one side that is debating an issue and taking a stand and the other side that is acting like an a-hole. Crediting this as argument and lamenting that the two sides can’t get along makes for worse public debate, not for incisive social commentary. Be on the lookout: who is advancing conversation with provocative ideas – the ones you agree with and the ones you don’t – and who is damaging conversation by calling names and delegitimizing the opposition?
Yehuda Kurtzer, Facebook post (12 May 2017) [https://www.facebook.com/yehuda.kurtzer/posts/10155369424427174]