No, it is not as good as some people think they are.
People -me included- often have positive receptions of old footage of debates, especially when they involve bigots and their opponents.
I love watching the footage because the anti-bigots -who tended to be from marginalised groups- were able to intellectually eviscerate their opponents calmly; not once they raised their voices and resorted to personal attacks. I wish I am someone who is capable of calmly roasting my opponents.
But, it seems many other people are inspired by the old footage for the wrong reasons.
Very frequently, they would praise people in the olden days for their ability to stay civil, regardless of their opponents’ views. If the debates involve trivial topics like our tastes in foods and entertainment, then I am all for the civility.
But, if they involve topics like “should we treat our fellow human beings like actual human beings?”, then why should we celebrate the civility? What’s so wholesome about being nice towards those who dehumanise their fellow human beings?
Call me radical. But, we have no obligations to be nice to bigots. In fact, I have no moral qualms about being uncivil against them. It will be a set back for causes, that’s for sure. But, there is nothing immoral about giving them less than stellar treatments.
The root of the bothsideism is very telling. It is either an extreme case of moral relativism OR they realise how horrible their opinions are and they want to persuade the world that no one should face social consequences for their horrible opinions.
From my experiences, it is often the latter.
Personally, I believe the problem is many think civility is the only bare minimum out there. Somehow, morality is optional.
If morality is also the bare minimum of most people, what we debate about would be a lot different. Instead of the justifiability of bigotry, we would have debates on how to fight it.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see anything wrong about debating bigots. But, there should be no pretence that the debates are about accepting the possibility of them being right.
If we embrace the pretence, the debates will give an illusion of equal validity of all opinions. Whether you like it or not, there are such thing as wrong opinions and it dishonest to believe otherwise.
You cannot expect me to believe that dehumanising hatred of inconsequential human differences is on equal ground with understanding and coexistence. The former actually breeds prejudice and violence. The latter? They create peace and harmony.
I do realise my argument also applies to science vs pseudoscience debates. But, I focus on bigotry instead because it riles me up even more.
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