Just as in the timeless football movie classics “Remember the Titans” and “Friday Night Lights,” our politics has turned into two different inspiring half-time speeches by politicians, pundits and comedians to incite anger and energy against one another. But now, our outrage and contempt for the other team has eclipsed our desire to even meet on the field to start the second half.
Instead, we choose to name-call, shut down events with opposing views and reaffirm our own opinions. We take away the opportunities to challenge each other’s beliefs to find what works. This current state of outrage politics is enormously profitable to those who have the entrepreneurial spirit to seize and build upon it, and feed the masses hungry for a new reason to hate.
The 2016 election hopefully was the climax of this story arch. Resolution needs to happen now more than ever because partisanship and distrust of political rivals is at all-time highs – causing grandstanding to take precedence over any real action.
Personal responsibility is of singular importance, not another slur thrown or complaint lodged. These “alt-right” speakers are born from the hypothesis that on college campuses an anti-free speech agenda is being used to silence conservative voices and ideas. Only hard data and facts can speak truth against these figureheads – if you’re certain they are wrong then prove it.
College campuses have uniquely sparred with this growing chasm of discontent and its inherent relationship with the First Amendment. Many college students consider themselves liberal, which has resulted in a growing movement to stomp out dissenters with various public firings, disinvitation of controversial figures from speaking events and even threats lodged toward these individuals. With every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. These tactics have only multiplied the heads on the hydra, resulting in what I call “outrage conservatism,” as exemplified by President-elect Donald Trump, Breitbart senior staff Milo Yiannopoulos and Ben Shapiro.
The “alt-right” movement is now on a stronger footing than ever before: its president of choice will soon be in office and its leaders in senior advisory positions. However, college students have yet to alter their failing approach toward these offensive figures. Our political figures reflect the current state of our politics. It is only through community-building and mutual respect of ideas that these purposefully spiteful messages are put to rest.
Yiannopoulos was recently shut down at UC Davis, but it is he who benefitted from it – with a newly acquired $250,000 book contract. The more anger and hate thrown toward this movement, the stronger it tends to become. It will be through working to mend the culture that has led to these figures’ lucrative success that this movement will finally begin to be put to rest.
UCLA students can choose the simple, self-gratifying option of showing their anger and attempting to copy UC Davis while becoming yet another successful advertising tool for Yiannopoulos with videos of “Angry Snowflakes Getting PWNED” on YouTube, or we can open the door for discussion with his followers. These speakers emphasize a virulent attack on conservatism and free speech, and they use the protests over their hateful and ludicrous statements as their self-fulfilling evidence.
It will take a community effort to make it clear their hypothesis is misguided and to take away fodder for their market. John Stuart Mill said open debate of ideas was the only way for misguided logic to be evicted from a free society. He further predicted shutting down certain speech would only lend power to those words, no matter how untruthful they may be, and would detract from finding what is actually best. His predictions have become reality in the past few years: politics on both sides has become more attention-seeking, factually incomprehensible and spiteful toward dissent. Political discussion in its essence is supposed to be painstakingly fact-based and nuanced. Although it is exciting for so many to be involved in the political system, so much of this energy is wasted on pointless theatrics instead of research and effective action.
Media outlets and pundits now advertise politics like they advertise the Super Bowl. Focusing on the spectacle of the body politic has only lended to unproductive trash-talking before the cage fight, with little substance. When only facts are brought to the table, it is found that the truth lies within a murky middle – a grey area where there are no wrong answers, but space for compromise and debate.
Yes, protesting is good. Protesting and political energy are the engines of democracy and change. Proper methodology, however, is crucial for these to work. The most successful campaigns for change had an emphasis on love and respect. The most recent slew of events from both conservatives and liberals has been characterized by both disdain and disrespect for the other side. Burning effigies of Trump and blaming his election on a “whitelash of racism” is just as misguided and ineffective as erroneously proclaiming those who are transgender have a mental disorder. Not only that, it has added even more fuel to their unproductive fires.
As young intellectuals, it is our duty to use our incalculable access to primary resources to formulate our individual opinions instead of to provide an endless market for ludicrous coverage and outrage seen on many media outlets. We are not defined by two political directions; we are people with individual experiences and needs that guide our interpretation of what functions and outputs we want and need within the domain of facts.
Actually playing the game is messy. Inevitably there will be penalties and injuries, but in the end there will finally be decisiveness, as we move on to prepare for next week’s bout. True compromise and progress in politics is repetitive, tedious and difficult. It requires energy and restraint from our most tempting tendencies for anger and self-gratification. However, the rewards are too great and the penalties too ruinous to not give it a shot.
Read more Daily Bruin coverage of the presidential inauguration, along with analysis of California and federal policy under the Trump Administration: