Conduct of discussion in the age of weaponized speech

Gadi Evron
May 7 · 3 min read

I want to hold discussions, and feel like I can’t anymore. Here’s how I propose to fix that. At the very least on my own Facebook wall.

First, why do I feel that I can’t?

Some years ago a friend won World’s debate championships. One of his arguments was that you can’t talk about Hitler’s economic policy and not be talking about the Holocaust. Such loaded issues clutter discussion. They leave no room for discussion out of one specific context.

Respecting triggers and sensitivities is reasonable, but having gone to extreme it now limits speech instead of enabling it. Today, nearly any issue would trigger someone on the wide political spectrum, and effectively leaves no place for any context outside of what’s associated with that trigger.

Further, resolution and understanding is not the end goal anymore. Taking offense cerebrally, for what could be offensive to others or to your agenda, as opposed to what you are offended by, is now the norm.

The goal seems to be creating deterrence against those who would go against your sensibilities and sensitivities. I’m unsure if that is good or bad. But, considering all sides of any topic of discussion do this, triggers grow by the minute, and our way of handling triggers is to shut down discussion, discussion itself becomes an unsustainable proposition.

Lastly, people tend to get violent over speech, using their voices to drown out others, effectively using free speech to limit speech. In essence, weaponized speech for advancement of an agenda.

Abandoning the attempt at resolution of disagreement, the attempt at communicating over offense or topics of contention, and the attempt to givepeople the benefit of the doubt, is leading us down a spiral toward the end of the ability to reach empathy. That, leaves only war.

We should be sensitive to others, we should avoid being offensive. Triggers are reasonable to have and to avoid. But there must be a way by which we can hold a discussion outside our own group think limits.

This is not about attacking PC culture which in the US would paint me conservative, or seeking PC culture which in the US would paint me as a progressive. It’s about being about to cordially converse with others.

Hence, now introducing:

Gadi’s House Guidelines for holding a discussion:

  1. Assume the other side means well. Be optimistic about intentions.
  2. Friends always de-escalate. If you feel like escalating, say why that is. What was it that rubbed you the wrong way? Let’s discuss it.
  3. Rules of argument mean less than existence of discussion. A person may have a point, or something bugs them, even if they fail to articulate it at the moment in a way that’s acceptable to you.
  4. Collaborate for a good discussion. If collaboration doesn’t exist, disengage.
  5. Of you state an opinion without an argument to support it, say so.
  6. If you wish to discuss a topic that could be clouded by wider context, admit to the context. Discussion of context is then relegated to another time and only those interested in the out of context discussion should engage.
  7. Instead of the weaponizers running you off from the discussion, they are uninvited. Break these guidelines (being mindful of #3 above), and you will be called out on it. You would be the one who is illegitimate, rather than moral outrage, rather than moral outrage instigators. People will disengage, and if disruptive, you may be uninvited from the discussion.

Other guidelines may be added in the future, but these should be good enough for now. I believe in keeping it simple.

I declare any discussion on my Facebook wall to be under the Gadi House Guidelines.

Of course, you are also invited to argue this with me, and discuss the guidelines themselves. I’m happy to make this a collaborative effort.

With many thanks to Stephen Llano and Doron Shikmoni.

Gadi Evron.
(Twitter: @gadievron, Facebook: @gadioncyber)

Gadi Evron

Written by

Founder and CEO at Cymmetria. Chairing global task forces, threat hunter/miscreant puncher, scifi geek, dance teacher.

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