When you are at a dinner party with friends there are two topics you should steer clear of: politics and religion.
What happens, however, when a party has no walls or is hosted by someone you have never before met?
Welcome to talking politics online.
Going Public With Politics
Firstly, it will take a lot of restraint not to get involved in the discussion that has been made public. Secondly, this conversation can be about democracy and the future of our nation-state system, so it is kind of a big deal.
As a society, we need to be engaging with the type of topics that are being discussed in the digital sphere. It is our job to stay up-to-date with conversations that are happening online, and in turn to discuss them with our peers as well as politicians.
Fighting For Democracy Today and Tomorrow
Over the centuries there have been thousands of people who have put their life on the line to stand up for what they believe in.
In 2021, you are less likely to be in danger of persecution for your beliefs but cancel culture does exist and it is worth being cautious.
Here are ten ideas to help you navigate the wild seas of online political debate.
Participate In Politics Online
The best way you can get involved with politics online is to take an interest and follow a few political speakers, think tanks, and even politicians with whom you do and DO NOT agree with.
When you engage with people you disagree with, it is important to remember that you do not have to disagree with EVERYTHING they have to say.
Even when you DO agree with what they say and/or think, it is still important to respect their right to be wrong.
Online conversations also need an element of civilized decorum, which is why it is important to help others out.
If you are looking for more non-partisan news, Foundation for Defence for Democracies has some great resources and is chaired by Mark Dubowitz. Read about the CEO of FDD, Mark Dubowitz.
Be Active On Twitter
Twitter is a great way of being part of an online conversation directly to the point where you are engaging in it, but also a good way to interact with politicians and other influential thinkers.
It is also a great way to get your voice heard and one of the few platforms you can jump on and be heard.
Twitter is also a great platform to find news, stories, commentary, and other interesting content.
Work Towards Improving Digital Equality
Participate in charity drives to make sure the most underprivileged people and young people have access to and the digital skills necessary to use decent technology.
It is also important to ensure that the online space is a free and open environment. Try to stay up to date with the digital rights of people in other countries, as this is often neglected.
Do not Fall For Ad Hominem Attacks
An ad hominem attack is when a person attacks another person to degrade, discredit, or in some way subvert their argument.
It is important to make a distinction between ad hominem attacks and what could be called logical fallacies, which are an argument that uses value judgments based on false information.
Fallacious arguments are often used in political debates to distract people from the real issues at hand. If a politician is using fallacies to help prove his/her point, it is not your job as the other party to disprove each of the fallacious arguments.
Do Not Create Ad Hominem Attacks
Your argument or point is weakened when you throw insults around or start being derogatory towards your opponents.
If you are making a point using false information, try to redress the arguments that have been made against you when possible.
Remember: If an argument has been made, it is there for a reason. You do not need to engage in a battle of wits if someone has already said what they intended and at most can give a rebuttal (not every argument has to be debated).
Build Up The Other Person’s Argument
The best debaters in the world will actually build their opponent’s arguments up so that they are stronger.
If you start your discourse by arguing against the points that have been made, you are going to weaken your own case.
Instead, try and build up the other person’s arguments so that they are as strong as they possibly can be.
One thing you should avoid is attacking every argument being made by your opposition. If you find a way to use their ideas to strengthen your own argument, go for it.
Find Common Ground
You do not have to disagree 100% with your opposition. Try and find common ground amongst your differences.
It is important to remember that you might be able to find some common ground with people who disagree ideologically with you.
If you can engage with people with whom you disagree, it is important to try and find areas where you do agree. If there are areas of agreement, make sure to use those to help build your argument.
You do not need to agree with a full argument from start to finish; you just need a few points on which to build on.
Be Responsible For What You Say Online
Remember that the internet is a public space and your privacy could be at risk.
It is important to know that you are responsible for what is said, especially if you are being rude or insulting.
When in doubt, think about whether you would say something in person or to someone’s face. If not, do not say it online.
Consider The Context Of Your Debate
The context of a debate will always be important. You need to consider what is being said by the opposition (and what is not being said) to be able to strengthen your point.
You might not always have the context, but you still need to make sure that you are making a point that people understand.
Do Not Be Mean-Spirited
You cannot just insult people and expect them to change their minds. Arguing with people you disagree with might make you feel good, but if it is not done in a respectful way, it will not add anything to your argument or strengthen your case.
If you are facing a rude opponent, try and find out if the other person means the things they are saying or if they are just being rude because they truly believe that what they are saying is the truth.