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Dan McLaughlin @baseballcrank
, 18 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
1. The past few weeks have left me more pessimistic than ever about the future of civil debate in this country, and in particular on this platform. There are people who see civil debate as a threat and will bend their efforts to prevent it.
2. Twitter can be used for many purposes, but civil debate is one of those - even when "civil" includes a lot of angry rhetoric. We may not persuade each other by arguing, but we allow observers to judge and be persuaded.
3. The direct and public interaction Twitter permits is fairly unique; few other platforms or social media tools allow totally disparate public figures & public writers to interact and hash things out in the moment. Ideally, that could be a uniquely valuable thing in a democracy.
4. That ideal has been under particular siege since 2015, and it has gotten worse due to a lot of different sources - longstanding leftist/woke deplatforming & boycott tactics, the Putin/alt-right troll army, the "fight back" MAGA ethos aimed at aping the left.
5. The key point is that there is now a critical mass of people on Twitter whose view of debate is that you win it not by having better arguments but by taking people on the other side off the field one by one.
6. Just about everyone of note on the Right has been on the receiving end of this from one or more sources, and frankly it is draining; you spend a lot of your energy just defending your ability to keep speaking.
7. The real problem is not only that there are people out there with an ethos of "shut the other side up by any means necessary," but that there are increasing numbers of people with big platforms & followings with that ethos, who can command a rage mob at the drop of a hat.
8. It speaks very, very poorly of the confidence these people have in their ideas that their instinct is to seek out ways to prevent the other side from being heard. And that attitude is spreading. You can see whose followers just don't like debate.
9. Maybe eventually progressives or MAGAheads will miss having thoughtful people to converse with; I fear not. But at some point, the habits and tactics of Twitter will become ever more standardized elsewhere (we're pretty far down that road). And that is a perlious place.
10. The culture of free speech can survive rudeness and hyperbole and bald-faced lies a lot better than it can survive intimidation & self-censorship.
11. Nearly every civil, decent, reasonable, and/or principled conservative writer or pundit I know has faced this over & over, with real, tangible costs & consequences. And when they are done chewing us all up, they will go after the center-left next.
12. And there is a specially dark place reserved for the people on our own sides who encourage this sort of thing. You may find you need friends some day.
13. Of course, debate alone does not make for a self-governing society; you need leaders, followers, activists, donors, reporters, etc. But without the part of society that reflects on and refines arguments, we ossify into unexamined warring camps.
14. Call me an idealist, blame it on my training as a lawyer, but I still believe that civil, reasoned debate serves a valuable function. That so many people have given up on it for the rush of belonging to a crowd or the fear of being contradicted frightens me deeply.
15. If I stopped believing in reasoned debate, I'd leave political writing in a heartbeat. It's certainly never made me much money compared to what else I could do with my time. I do it because I still believe it matters.
16. But an awful lot of smart people have come to the conclusion that, despite its great technological and network-effect value for facilitating debate, this is no longer the place for that - or no longer a place where they are safe to try.

They may be right.
17. When you raise the cost of something beyond its value, you stop getting it. A lot of people are committed to raising the cost of conservatives, in particular, engaging in civil debate here - and not just here.
18. Do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?
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