GUEST COLUMN by Page Landrum
When it comes to online discourse, I believe in a “Free Market of Ideas.”
We have the freedom to offer and hear new ideas, both good and bad. When we meet people promoting bad ideas we have choices. We don’t have to buy into them. We can offer a competing good idea, or walk away in search of better ideas, or even barter with the seller. We can argue passionately, loudly, using all the wit and volume we can possibly muster. The vigorous, reasoned, and logical exchange of ideas thrives on the sound of free voices. It’s a free market, after all.
Shopping in The Market of Free Ideas should be a peaceful pursuit. There’s never a good reason to punch a vendor—no matter how noxious, vile, unpopular, or just plain bad their ideas. When shoppers attack or cheer the one who throws the punch, they invite retaliation in kind.
Just as drone strikes fail to extinguish the jihad’s beliefs, nazi punching will forever fail to quash the bad idea, or the offensive speech. A fist does not erase words, it only breaks teeth and earns sympathy for the one bleeding.
In this way, the Antifa-inspired phenomenon punching nazis succeeds only in locking down discourse. Their opponent’s mind is closed like a vice against any competing idea, and worse, they’ve sacrificed the right to offer their competing idea with any legitimacy.
Since it’s seldom that anyone convinces a seller their idea is bad, it’s the fellow shoppers we should really concern ourselves with. The speech and acts surrounding an idea are like marketing which drives the value of the ideas being offered.
We can see that there are some who believe this historical moment calls for a battle of fists and bombs, but in a free society, words are the ammunition needed. Trump will continue enraging the nation with midnight tweets. Bannon, Spicer, and Conway are going to spew alternative facts. Cable news, HuffPo, BuzzFeed, The Guardian, et al. are going to confirm their readers’ bias, while FoxNews, Breitbart, The Daily Caller, Infowars will continue to peddle the fear that The End Times are upon us. You may feel the urge to throw things, break shit, and even mimic Madonna’s violent fantasies. Just don’t.
This is a battle of wits—an Armageddon of arguments. Trump is bombastic and bombastic sounds like bombs, right? Nope. He employs rhetoric, deploys distraction, and we fall for the verbal sleight of hand. If we let him, he’ll have us all twisted into Antifa knots and marching in Black Blocs. That’s just where he wants us.
When we reply with violence, we empower our opponent, and before you know it, we’ll have more pressing concerns in addition to Muslim Bans and Border Walls. Violence in the form of nazi punching gives legitimacy to any steps Trump or his proxies wish to take. Curfews? Martial Law? Let’s not find out. Don’t fall for it.