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Binary Bigotry

June 12, 2014

It is thoroughly distressing how often I see tweets proclaiming something along the lines of:

  • If you don’t agree guns should be banned, you condone murder
  • If you vote Republican you are an illiterate, racist hatemonger
  • Liberals are terrorist-loving suckers on the public teat
  • Only a moron disagrees climate change is man made and the science is settled
  • You must agree with my definition/tactics regarding issue of the day
  • If you do/don’t like _(genre/title/music/movie/food)_ you are an idiot
  • Theists are all deluded dinosaurs

When you express disdain, or even worse, hatred, for another group that may have only that one characteristic in common, you expose yourself as an intolerant, small minded bigot. Not only that, you contribute to the “us vs them” binary mentality many of you profess to dislike.

In politics now it is absolutely commonplace to regard the other side as a force to be eliminated by whatever means necessary. So we see memes floating around originating from both left and right that play loose with facts, or contain outright lies. When you create this BS nonsense you are giving up any claim to moral high ground. When you distribute this (often blatantly false) gibberish without verifying whether it is true, you display both your own lack of critical faculties, and laziness. And in both cases you contribute to polarization that plagues society, diminishes your own cause, and contributes to political paralysis that conveniently aids candidates on the fringes and discourages compromise or consensus.

On gun control, it ignores the very obvious problem of the 300 million guns in circulation and the second amendment. Putting all your eggs in the “ban” basket completely ignores other harm mitigation strategies that may help reduce the carnage until such time as progress can be made on second amendment challenges or changes. Without knowing the facts behind what drives gun violence, any actions taken to reduce violence are simply a guess.

Gender issues are rife with people making ridiculous and laughable claims, and insisting very vocally that they are right and there is NO room for discussion or seeking common ground. All men are evil, and if you disagree you are a misogynist or dudebro or fedora or some other equally mindless put down. Cisgendered white male? Well that’s worse than Satan.

All theists get accused of being deluded dinosaurs guilty of defending pedophiles and fighting against the truth, when in fact the majority of the secular movement are believers that recognize it is healthy for society to have governance separate from faith.

In all these cases, dismissing the ‘other’ based on one small facet of the whole package risks turning away potential allies who are at a minimum sympathetic to your cause. More damaging, it could repulse those who share a great deal of common ground and passion, and drive them into the arms of apathy where they become completely disengaged, or possibly even hostile and working at odds to your goal.

As with almost any such cautionary tale, a little empathy or critical thought goes a long way. If you are making a sweeping generalization about a disparate group of people you haven’t met, what are the chances you will get it right? If you are employing negative stereotyping to dismiss others, what are the chances they will want to work with you in the future? If you feel justified in using these types of tactics, what does that say for the validity of your stance? And perhaps most importantly, how can you argue against the same tactics you favor being used to dismiss you?

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