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Is Respectful Engagement Possible on Twitter?

Social media is a powder keg, just waiting to explode. Lockdowns. Vaccine mandates. Masks on kids. Firing and loss of privileges for medical professionals. On all of these topics, there is actually some reasonable discussion happening, and the science is evolving. Public health officials are trying to do their best to set the best policies based on the best information available. And that changes seemingly every day. Medical professionals are not all on the same page as the science is far from “settled”. Professionals have to apply their own critical thinking to establish their own beliefs. And the beliefs may change tomorrow as more information becomes available. Yet anyone that raises a question or even a thought about any of these topics is almost instantly labeled with a derogatory term (like "anti-vaxxer" or “anti-science”) and often dog piled on social media.

“Hitler”, “holocaust”, and “Nazi” are other words that have also become powder kegs. If even the slightest comparison of our current situation is made to any of these terms (by someone without lived experience), twitter gets set ablaze. A few weeks ago, an MD wrote a piece contemplating “How Democracy Ends”, a future scenario where pandemic precedents may subvert democracy. The piece was primarily about lockdowns, mandates, masks on kids, etc. At the end of the article, he compared the current situation to the way the Nazi regime began:

When democratically elected systems transform into totalitarian regimes, the transition is subtle, stepwise, and involves a combination of pre-planned as well as serendipitous events.  Indeed, this was the case with Germany in the years 1929-1939, where Hitler was given a chance at governing, the president subsequently died, a key general resigned after a scandal and the pathway to the Fuhrer was inevitable.

This could have and should have been a thought provoking piece. And it was. I'm guessing that the author anticipated feedback. And he got it. Twitter lit up. Hate responses flowed in. People seemingly looking to stir up the crowd misrepresented and lied about the content of the article and others went so far as to tag his employer in the threads. Incidentally several came to the author’s defense including a few who suggested that people making an obvious play for someone's job are inappropriate. Some of the people that came to his defense were Jewish people who were not even remotely offended by the suggestions in the article. I’m sure more would have liked to, but standing up on social media against a pack of ravenous wolves is a pretty rare occurrence.

Given the environment we’re in as described above, it seems that any discussion that even slightly challenges the status quo regarding vaccines, lockdowns, mandates, masks on kids, Hitler, holocaust, Nazi regime, or several other topics is going to be flagged by someone as “offensive.” Propagandists and others are sitting and waiting for the opportunity to jump on content such as this with the intent of demonizing the suggestion AND the person making it. When this happens, several others jump on the bandwagon and create a dogpile scenario.

This is not an isolated case. It is not uncommon for someone’s social media post to be screenshot and shared to social media as “offensive.” Vitriolic responses flow. The person’s employer gets tagged. The person is essentially silenced. People who wish to question the status quo fear standing up in support as they don’t want to face the same demonization and dog piling. Nor do they want their employer to be contacted by someone making a play for their job.

Is this where we are? Is this the new “normal?” One person asked “If you get more offended by my words than what is happening, just take a moment to think about it some more.” Hmmmm.

Lived Experience

A post on social media was recently shared by someone whose twitter handle identifies as being Jewish – “Just a word to those who object to comparing the current fascist regimes to the Nazis: think of oppression and persecution as a gradual process, rather than a fully implemented genocidal policy. Every government sponsored atrocity STARTS with division and segregation.”

In a related video a Holocaust survivor shared: “I was 3 ½ when my family and I were evicted from our homes and deported to a concentration camp. … Fear of infectious epidemics was exactly what the Nazis used to demonize Jews as spreaders of disease. Today the unvaccinated are being accused of being spreaders of disease.”

These posts don't get targeted the same way. Because they are coming from someone of Jewish faith or someone who relates to experiencing the holocaust, or some other similar reason, no one is going to touch them probably for fear of offending someone with lived experience.

Why Can't We Have These Conversations?

Back to the powder keg analogy. The Holocaust, Hitler, and the Nazi regime are incredibly sensitive subjects, and given the atrocities that happened, it is very easy to understand why they are. We need to be respectful. But we also need to have these conversations. It is not people with lived experience who are disrupting these conversations, igniting the powder keg and throwing fuel on the flames. It is most often the regular crew of disruptors that light the match. It is the same crew who provide additional fuel. And the followers are more than happy to join in on the dogpile to demonize the message as well as the messenger.

Are most of these posts offensive? Are they the work of the “organized anti-vaccine cabal?” Given the number of people that are suggesting that there seem to be similarities to the beginning of the Nazi regime, what should our response be? Should we dog pile these people? Or should we pause and consider that we’re smack dab in the middle of division and polarization? Should we pause and ask ourselves who our polarization is benefiting? Should we enact critical thinking and respectful engagement? Or should we just keep shitting on people that challenge our ideologies and beliefs?

I don't know where any of this is going to end up, but I have a lot more respect for anyone challenging the status quo than I do for folks targeting these people and trying to silence them. And the ones that try to target someone's job, the Disruptors, and the Useful Idiots .... why don't you go ahead and delete ALL of your accounts.

KenJaques 07.12.2021 0 456
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07.12.2021 (165 days ago)
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