On debates and guest lists

Don't punch people

It seems that this week the internet has been full of shouting and slandering and some people telling other people that they should shut their digital faces with a few additional poorly placed swear words thrown in for good measure.

I mean, this time I’m largely talking about the #AskELJames hashtag day that wavered from important questions about the book and its possible social effects, to downright flaming that edged onto the sinister side of verbal abuse.

So, business as usual, right?

And we all know about the trolls, right?

And we just try not to feed them, right?

But it seems that there’s an increasing presence of people who want to be in a debate, feel strongly about a debate, but who take it upon themselves to monitor entry into the debate with a strictly regulated guest list. There’s a growing number of people that feel the need to own the debate.

Wait, what’s that?

I ain’t allowed in to chat because I don’t own the debate, because I don’t pass the entry test?

Take, for example, the fabulous Chuck Wendig’s well-reasoned post in response to the #AskELJames hashtag, and humble follow up post in which he explains why he’ll take a step back from the argument. Hat’s off to you, sir – and, just for the record, I wouldn’t consider you a ‘mansplainer’.

It’s not the ins and outs of the specific argument that worry me. It’s when the bouncer on the door is all like:

Sorry, Ma’am, but you’re not coming in because, well; you’re a man, or you’ve experienced success, or you haven’t suffered enough, or you might need to learn some more before you tentatively delve your toe into the murky waters.

Face it lady – this just ain’t about you.

And no trainers allowed.

Well, gee, if I’d know that I’d have worn my flip-flops.

And never mind the fact that these people being turned away are often sympathetic, even supporters of the cause being debated.

Never mind that they might be suggesting that we just tone down the personal assault in the social media whirlwind of an argument.

Never mind that in turning these people away you might just be closing off the discussion and preventing people from learning about issues that are pretty damn important.

Surely a debate should never stop people from entering? Trolls, fair enough. People, with opinions, or eager to learn more, should get to come in regardless of what shoes they’re wearing. And sometimes those people will make mistakes, or something will come across a little differently to how they meant it to, but we’re all human so it’s gonna happen. And that’s ok, too.

However sensitive the issue is (and sometimes these things are really close to the bone), don’t punch the people trying to help. Because surely it’s far more dangerous to shut the conversation down than to open it up?

Because waving mansplaining flags, or privilege flags, or “you’d understand if you had kids” flags at people, does not automatically win the debate.

I mean, it’s a crazy thought, but maybe let’s just try and play nice for a change. And that goes for both sides y’all.

Please and thankyou.