One of the most pernicious memes to infect our political discourse is the misguided notion of universal civility -that all ideas and the people holding them should be treated with equal respect; That so long as someone is able to articulate an opinion, however heinous, stupid, ignorant, or reprehensible, that person deserves the courtesy of a polite response. The r/politics subreddit, as a particularly egregious example of this bankruptcy of moral discretion, enforces universal civility as a fundamental rule. It is as if merely expressing an opinion entitles that person to respect. But it doesn’t. Some ideas are not worthy of respect. Some deserve the opposite.
In a discussion about the use of prolonged torture and human rights violations against peaceful protesters -in which protesters were attacked with mace, tear gas canisters, fire hoses in freezing weather, rubber bullets, and concussion grenades- one comment read, roughly, “good. If someone made me work during Thanksgiving, I would shoot them in the face, too.” I called them a fascist piece of shit. Because they are. In defence of the fascist, someone responded, “very mature. Name calling!” as if this scumbag deserved respect or consideration. I don’t fucking think so. Those violent, fascist sentiments do not deserve respect. They deserve condemnation. I will not extend the benefit of my respect to fascist pieces of shit. Not going to fucking happen!
“But isn’t it more persuasive to be respectful?” I don’t know. Maybe. But maybe I am less concerned with changing the mind of one fascist than I am in signalling the type of attitude that I think is appropriate for these people. Let’s say that by calling them a fascist piece of shit, I lost whatever miniscule chance I had of changing their mind. Granted. Even so, that is far less important than the damage I would be doing by pretending their sentiment deserves even the smallest degree of respect or consideration. We don’t need to show respect to fascists. We need to tell them to shut the fuck up, because their views are not worth our respect.