In the spirit of the anti-Twitter, I’m always glad to get a well-articulated response to my articles. Thank you for taking the time to engage in a constructive conversation!
To be honest, I think there is a lot we can agree on. There is plenty of rubbish on social media, and it draws people in. Pundits are granted legitimacy not based on the quality of their argument, but on how loud and flashy they are. When you say that we need “the best brains, not the loudest voices,” I couldn’t agree more. (Although to be fair, as someone with a higher education and a soft voice, I may be biased.)
While I’d rather not get into the game of what topics people should be talking about, it is sadly true that many of the great injustices, human rights violations and atrocities going on in the world are largely overlooked. But they have always been. And in fact, I truly believe that thanks to the digital savvy of international organizations, they are getting more attention now than they used to be.
Where I take issue with the Harper letter isn’t in the fact that they denounce toxic behavior online. That behavior most certainly exists, and the world would be better off without it. I just don’t think there’s any way to make that behavior change on a large scale, so we’d be better off accepting it as a reality of our times and finding a way to move on with our lives. Preferably by realizing that Twitter isn’t real life. It isn’t representative of the diversity of opinions and lived experiences that exist in the real world.
To me, the greatest act of cowardice isn’t people who voice their opinions online (which, let’s not forget, is also an expression of free speech). It’s the supposed guardians of free speech — the editorial board members, faculty at prestigious universities, curators of art galleries, and other powerful figures within the creative and research industries — folding before the swell of online ranters.
Sure, it is easier for them to let their employee go, but opting for the easy way out is what will destroy our culture. There’s also something to be said here about the capitalist imperative to value profit over virtue, but that’s a discussion for another time.
Virtual pitchforks only work against digital haystacks. We shouldn’t let them spook us. Yet somehow these powerful figures get a pass in the Harper letter. It’s not the fault of the few with actual power, but of the indistinct masses yelling from their keyboards.
I believe online cancel culture is here to stay. There’s no point in feeling self-righteous indignation toward the ghosts of Twitter. Instead, we should be preventing it from spreading into the real world. Call me an optimist, but I believe most people are willing to stand up against that vocal minority and support reason and debate when it matters.