Never Judge a Person by His Politics: Backlash Against Viral Tweet
“Ignorant,” “stupid,” “dumbass,” “pompous bitch.” These are all names I’ve been called on Twitter.
I once tweeted about my disapproval of Vogue India’s Kim Kardashian issue, striking concern with the magazine only showcasing lighter skinned women. This tweet went viral, and I was flooded with hundreds of comments that called me: “ignorant,” “stupid,” “dumbass,” “pompous bitch” — most of the comments were from men telling me how to feel about my own underrepresentation as a brown woman (I hope you see the irony in that). But what should strike you most is the crass language thrown around so callously and carelessly.
While I don’t expect those Twitter trolls to sit down and have an open, civil conversation about our disagreements via a comment thread, I never thought that people who disagreed with my opinions would resort to such underhanded fallacious arguments— ad hominem was so early 2000s. Their comments stung, and I had to turn my notifications off after a point because I knew reading all of them would break me. I had already cried twice that day, and I was determined not to make it a third.
So what does it say about us as a society when we find it so easy to treat people like they don’t matter? We see someone voice an opinion different from our own, and we take it personally and respond harshly. It saddens me to know that so many of us think so little about the consequences of what we post on the Internet.
Our words are unnecessarily cruel, hurtful, and do absolutely nothing to create a platform for open dialogue. It’s like we have this singular understanding of humanity—that if we disagree with someone, we should hate them.
I wish I could say this weren’t true, but just look at what’s happening to the Parkland students who are advocating for gun reform. Whether you agree or disagree with them is irrelevant, the things people are saying to them on the internet should shock you, should disgust you, should make you weep for what we’ve become. When we otherize people based on opinion is when we do humanity a great disservice.
What worries me is that this shift in rhetoric will soon transition from keyboard to conversation.
Just yesterday I watched a clip from a Birmingham City Council meeting where the city council was about to vote on a $90 million spending bill to expand the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC). Members of the community stood up and voiced their concerns about this bill in front of city council members. And then one young man stood up, only 24 years old, and called the Mayor of Birmingham the n-word and claimed the First Amendment as a defense. I was absolutely floored. This was a-typical— right? I had only seen words like this used in heated Twitter wars. I bring up this example because I’m friends with this young man on Facebook, and a lot of what he posts and comments fail to make that distinction between person and politics.
So you see, we’ve become so desensitized to such cavalier rhetoric used on the Internet that we now use it in political dialogue. And I believe such actions are only becoming more and more commonplace.
The notion of civil discourse is lost on us with the rise of social media. We attack peoples’ characters, not their arguments. We judge, think, speak harshly. We let our computers and phones embolden us to spite. We say terrible things about one another and claim that it’s our First Amendment right.
As a global citizen, I am discouraged and disheartened to see that this is a growing problem. In a world torn by war, famine, political strife, and disagreement, we could all do with a little more kindness. I’ve realized that no matter how different two people’s opinions are, they’re almost always able to find common ground—which usually only happens when people are willing to have a civil conversation.
With a notably obvious rise in political thought, opinions, conversation, and activism, I think making the distinction between person and politics is most pressing, now more than ever.