Or, the problem of communication in an age of emotion.
I am more and more convinced that Ben Shapiro’s adage that “facts don’t care about your feelings” is really an inversion of reality which is that “feelings don’t care about your facts.” This covers the entire political spectrum, too. Both left and right will denounce you if you say anything that may upset something that is especially near and dear to them that they are emotionally invested in. In such cases, dialectic loses and rhetoric is the only remaining option.
On the surface “facts don’t care about your feelings” is true enough. Facts are objective, rational, and unemotional. Yet, the problem is that we’re dealing with human beings with feelings and often highly irrational (though still very legitimate) reactions to what those facts say. They pose a threat to their view of reality; their worldview. What may seem like little more than a dry, dispassionate debate to one person may be seen as a hostile, hateful attack on what they believe is the truth by another. Many people are more prone to be like the former, but almost certainly more people are like the latter and even most that appear at first blush to be like the former more often than not will have their own shibboleths that when challenged engender a visceral response.
Various forms of fear are frequently at the root of these responses. Fear due to deep-seated insecurity over their attachment to a set of beliefs or lack of confidence in being able to defend them, or fear that they are on the wrong side of an issue, or it may be a political fear. A politician afraid of acknowledging something, as it may unsettle a large bloc of their constituents. This final fear can also be exhibited in regular citizens who have so allied themselves with a view that to suddenly question it may result in their own denunciation and isolation from that political group. They become anathema and may be shamed as a hateful bigot or simply a kook, conspiracy theorist (again, regardless of how tenable the facts may be that show that their view is the less credible one).
To be clear, this isn’t solely an issue of the left, people can be this way regardless of where they are on the political spectrum, especially on any hot button issue that people believe is foundational to their worldview and both personal and political identity. In the end, anything that threatens this is immediately tagged as lacking credibility, a conspiracy theory, or even hate speech. Just try bringing forth any issue that is like this in mixed company and you’ll see the result. It’s inevitable you’ll get some serious blowback, mocking, hostile words, shunning, possibly resulting in more extreme measures from seeking to cancel you to possible physical abuse (indeed, to even provide examples are likely to engender outrage that one could possibly have an alternate view on whatever issue they hold dear); all because emotion doesn’t care about your facts.
IMAGE: Vintage style emojis (edited by Andrea Widburg) from rawpixel.