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social media

The Gazette’s Allison Hanes weighs in on the Andrew Potter debate:

We live in the age of the digital lynch mob, where our slightest missteps get magnified, stupid remarks snowball and ill-considered words live on in infamy. Potter is not the first to be scorched by the blowback from this vicious cycle.

[ . . . ]

The modern tools that are supposed to foster societal discussion have a tendency to drown out dissenting views and become echo chambers of outrage. It is regrettable there can no longer be criticism without consequences, that ideas can no longer be challenged without resulting in a chill effect.

I agree. I also thought Andrew Potter’s column was ill-researched, ill-advised and lame. But I don’t think he deserved to lose his job over it. Everyone — academics especially — should have freedom of speech, which includes the freedom to sometimes be wrong. And if you’re wrong, people can call you out for it. And you can admit you’re wrong and learn from it. That’s how we all get smarter. But to silence voices just because we don’t like what they say? That hurts all of us.

I’m not so concerned with Potter in particular. By most accounts, the guy is a jerk. But in what happens the next time a professor says something that people don’t like?

The “pile-on effect” is one of those unfortunate consequences of social media that is hard to keep in check.

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Whenever tensions rise in Israel, my stress level goes way up as a proxy war gets fought in social media channels. People I respect, colleagues and acquaintances and people I think of as friends, sometimes post things that make my blood boil.

So I’ve been not saying very much. Because I know that I wouldn’t be saying anything that most of you don’t already know, And, sadly, nothing I could say will convince anyone who has already made up their mind otherwise. I don’t think that inflammatory posts belong on my Facebook news feed — or on anyone else’s, for that matter. That’s why I have this separate blog page in the first place. I’ve had to unfollow some folks. I’ve even had to unfriend a few people.

But if I had to give a nutshell account of my thoughts, this comes pretty close:

I ask the enraged critics of Israel’s defensive responses to Hamas: Would you have us not respond to this monstrosity? Do you think it’s not worth losing the PR battle to retain our humanity and save as many lives as possible? What country would stand by when thousands of terrorist missiles assault its citizens?

[ . . . ]

We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else.

No more apologies.

(Hat tip: Richard.)

And, in case this isn’t enough, let me just recap the statement from the About page on this blog: “This blog is staunchly, unabashedly and wholeheartedly pro-Israel. Eretz Yisrael is in my heart and in my soul, and I will never hesitate to tell off anyone who would threaten its right to exist in peace and security. A broad spectrum of opinions are welcome here, and I will never shy away from a good debate. But if you’re here because you’re a hater, a terrorist apologist, or just a plain old-fashioned antisemite, please do everyone a favour and f#$% off.”

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