Monday, 22 August 2011

Debate with me, don't silence me

Yesterday someone unfollowed me on Twitter. Well, this is no big deal, really - it happens all the time, and indeed the constant dynamic of following & unfollowing is one of the things that makes Twitter fun. But this one was different.

I was debating with someone who disagreed with something I wrote in my last blog. But instead of engaging with the argument, he complained that I didn't know what I was talking about, that I was "losing touch with reality", and finally sent me a direct message that he was dropping out of the argument. When I tried to reply to that message Twitter informed me that he was no longer following me.

Quite apart from the personal distress that this caused me, I find this behaviour very worrying. This is a person who influences people's thinking: he is a frequent writer and broadcaster, and has a considerable following on social media. And I am by no means the first person that he has unfollowed because of disagreement over politics or economics. If he will not debate, and will only engage with people who agree with him on these matters, then his influence is partisan. But the ability to debate, to disagree and in the end to agree to differ while remaining on good terms, is essential to the working of a mature democracy.

It is not only immature to close down debate because your opponents don't agree with you. It is dangerous. That's what happens in police states. You may think that unfollowing someone on twitter because you don't like their politics is hardly equivalent to banning political opposition and imprisoning those who don't agree with you. But it's the same mindset. The effect is to close down debate and silence your opponents.

I don't want to live in a society in which the only way to be heard is to agree with the prevailing view. It is the rich diversity of views that makes our society dynamic and interesting. And we all have the right to express our opinions, however extreme they may be, without being insulted or silenced. I hope this individual, and others like him, never get anywhere near political power. Heaven help us if they do.

9 comments:

  1. I followed the 'discussion' on Twitter and was concerned by the abrupt language he used. It seemed strange from a person whose writing generally is considered and well-balanced, albeit with a distinct 'left' bias. I still don't understand why he felt such ire at your ideas, but then I'm not an economist, banker, or taxation expert.

    I had to read the Northern Rock history on http://www.nao.org.uk/publications/0809/northern_rock.aspx to see if that cast any light. It did, but only a little.

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  2. I bloody agree and I get it all the time, I'm usually left with no right of reply, frustrating! Can you not name him? Was it David Allen Green? You can tell me...

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  3. "I hope this individual, and others like him, never get anywhere near political power. Heaven help us if they do."

    Unfortunately Frances, I believe some have already got near political power as the majority of our politicians lecture us, they do not wish to debate. Witness Cameron refusing three times to debate membership of the EU in his own constituency. Witness the Lib/Lab/Con's unwillingness to produce a cost/benefit analysis of EU memmbership - just telling us it is to our advantage. Witness quangos lecturing is on how to live our lives.

    You keep speaking out! Don't always fully understand all that you write but its always interesting...... !

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  4. Frances, I completely agree with your stance on this. I am sorry you had to suffer this sort of indignity. But the problem is his and you have come out of the situation with your dignity intact, which he has not.

    larry

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  5. Frances;
    It was a bizarre post of his, uncharacteristic I thought in that they are usually well argued. He seemed to miss the point entirely about how disastrous it would be to privatise the banks as they are. Perhaps it's an article of faith with him.

    Anyway I wouldn't worry about it. It's his loss.

    Mike

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  6. I named the individual concerned in another blog - Regretful Criticism. He has now blocked me. What a surprise.

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  7. Am I allowed to use the phrase "weapons-grade cock-end" on this blog to describe Herr Ritchie?

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  8. @RichardJMurphy, for it is he, closes down debate when he realises that he is on a losing streak and so rather than admit it and learn from it, he stops the debate. Either that or he is a closest fascist.

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