The Disappearance of Decent Debate

Cade Peterman

An average internet debate. Graphic Credit / Cade Peterman

Society has been straying away from the idea of peaceful discourse. We don’t want to have a civil debate, we always want to go straight for the name calling and the ‘‘I’m right you’re wrong.’’ We don’t want to hear each others’ opinions and grow as people, we want to be right.
In an increasingly divided country, it is more important than ever to be open to other opinions. If you live inside an echo chamber, you’re only hearing people that agree with you, and you don’t grow as a person, you live your life thinking that you have the right answer and that everyone else is wrong. That’s not a very ideal way to live. By being open to change your opinion, or to at least hear what others have to say, you broaden your perspective and you learn more about people and the world.
Now, I’m not saying you have to agree with and support every opinion. From Federalist Papers Number 51 “When men exercise their reason coolly and freely on a variety of distinct questions, inevitably they will have different opinions on some of them.” Sometimes, you may think someone’s opinion is straight up wrong, but silencing opinions doesn’t help anyone. You don’t have to give someone a platform. For example, if you own a website or some other public forum, you aren’t required to let them speak on your media, but you shouldn’t stop someone from having a platform if someone else chooses to give them one.
All too often, we see people protest speeches because they don’t believe that person or idea deserves a voice. In several cases, when a university decided to hold a speech for some controversial speakers, the students try to silence them either through regular protest or straight up shouting over the speaker. Take University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMA), in 2016, UMA decided to host controversial speakers Christina Hoff Sommers, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Steven Crowder to talk about political correctness. Many of the students were strongly against this, accusing them of hate speech, and started trying to silence them by just yelling over them for the whole session.
It doesn’t matter if you agree with the these speakers, it is childish and wrong to do this. You can easily protest them while still allowing them to speak. Nowadays, it’s becoming more of a problem. People thinking that those with opposing opinions should not be allowed to speak, and this isn’t exclusive to any one side of the political spectrum, the more extreme you go to a side, the more you see this. An example from the other side would be Westboro Baptist Church showing up to protest anything from soldiers’ funerals to gay weddings.
People toss around labels to discredit each other, like snowflake, alt right, Nazi, or communist. These are all just used to silence and shut down other people’s opinions. We can’t have a communicative and open society if everyone is trying to shut each other up. Nothing gets done if every discussion ends up in a name-calling shouting match. Everyone just goes home angry with nothing learned and nothing changing.
People need to be more open to having a civil discussion and an exchange of ideas. If you disagree with someone, ask them why. If they’re open to it, debate them. Challenge their ideas, as they should challenge yours.
Sometimes, they will try to devolve the conversation into a smear session, but you can be the better person and just ignore those that don’t try to debate and only want to call you names. An example of how my opinion was changed by listening to people was that I used to believe the Xbox One was better than the Playstation 4, but by listening to people’s reasoning and experiencing it myself, I now realize the PS4 is the superior console.