This is the time of year where we think about New Years Resolutions. I’m not a huge fan of the concept, but I have been convicted of something recently that I want to try to improve on this year. In our culture, we have this tendency to be outraged for the sake of being outraged. To be fair, some people say and do things that need to be challenged, either for the sake of meaningful dialogue or because they are too important to let pass. That said, lots of what we get mad about doesn’t fit that criteria.
Lets look at a couple of recent examples. Matt Walsh has taken a lot of heat recently for making ignorant comments about birth control. As a result, a lot of people have gotten mad and have been mocking him on Twitter. Also recently, Dinesh D’Souza made some historically ignorant comments about the great Congressman John Lewis. I don’t generally agree with Lewis politically, but he is a great American who has made meaningful sacrifices to improve our nation. A lot of people, though, responded to D’Souza with scorn.
That’s not to say that Walsh or D’Souza were any modicum of right in these instances (or ever, really). But let’s look at the criteria for whether a discussion is meaningful. Is there a possibility for meaningful dialogue in either of these instances? The answer is probably not. Walsh and D’Souza and their ilk (Todd Starnes and Tomi Lahren are a couple of other examples that come to mind) are glorified trolls who say the most outrageous things on a topic in order to receive attention. Their shtick is mostly being glorified attention-hounds that are essentially the political equivalent of Skip Bayless.
At the same time, though, most of the ramblings of the Walsh/D’Souza crowd aren’t particularly in need of challenging. While we should seek to dialogue with those who agree with them when the opportunity presents itself, most of these individuals’ adherents are going to agree with them regardless of what they say. At the same time, they aren’t winning new converts or permeating our culture with every single wrong tweet they produce. Thus, there it is generally unconstructive to engage with every single wrong tweet they produce, because no true victory is being won.
Many of these individuals in the Walsh/D’Souza crowd are critical of what they call “virtue-signaling”, which they loosely define as a practice Liberals take to try to demonstrate how enlightened they are. While I don’t believe virtue-signaling is as common as this pundit crowd does, what Walsh, D’Souza, and partners do is essentially the flip side of the same coin. They say outrageous things to gain attention for their adherence to some ideal.
Much as it is a waste of time for this group to try to shame Liberal virtue-signaling, though, it is a waste of time for trying to combat the egregious wrongness in every piece of content these pundits produce. I am as guilty of anyone of following these individuals just to witness the train-wreck and to feel an increase in blood pressure as they perform their shtick. In 2017, I hope to become better than getting irate at these people for the sake of being irate. I’m sure I will not be perfect, but if those of us closer to the middle/center-right than the far-right politically, and in particular those of us who want to present a gospel witness in our political engagement, become more prudent in our response to the trolls and attention-seekers, our political discussion will be more meaningful and our politics overall will be improved for the better.