by Edwin Santana
Twitter isn’t the best place for thoughtful debate, but I managed to have one Tuesday. You can read the entire thread here. The debate revolved around this central issue; are some debates worth having? The question was posed by Jamelle Bouie, Slate’s Chief Political Correspondent, when he said “people should just be open and clear about whether they think white supremacism is an ideology worth debating”. To cut straight to the chase; no.
This all began with the New Yorker inviting proud White Supremacist Steve Bannon to a “festival of ideas”, which would give him a platform to further his white nationalist ideals. After an outcry and outrage, the invitation was rescinded. This led to the comment by Mr Bouie.
I argued that debating the human worth of someone based off their skin color is not worthy of debate. I don’t believe we should revisit the Nazi ideas of anti-Semitism and genocide simply for a good debate. The other gentleman believed that the power of a strong argument could sway those on the fence, yet I strongly believe that anyone who can’t make their mind up on the equality of all men is incapable of having a reasonable debate in the first place.
What many individuals who push these racist ideas want more than anything is validity. Allowing these people a spot on the stage next to others can give the impression that their ideas are just as worthy to be considered. Whether or not their arguments are dismantled by a superior debater is unimportant, just being there is all that matters. A perfect example of this is President Trump giving the North Koreans an audience. Two striking images stand out from this visit that will be used by North Korean dictators when making propaganda long after Trump is removed: President Trump saluting a North Korean General and the American Flag next to the North Korean flag. The North Korean regime will be able to point to these instances where they were held as equals and leverage that to their advantage.
Now, some will counter that if we ignore these issues we will allow them to grow and spread. I’m not advocating that we ignore the issue, rather that we refuse to give it a stage. We should and must continue to fight against hate speech and racist ideals, but not by giving them space on the debate stage.
The bottom line is, not all ideas are created equal. We can discuss how bad trickle-down economics is, but not the inherent value of a human being. Another debate I don’t think is worth retreading is the science behind climate change. The skepticism behind climate change science exists almost exclusively on the right side of the aisle, and for obvious reasons. The moneyed interests behind the fossil fuel economy drive Republicans to be willfully ignorant of an issue that is already having drastic effects on our planet. The problem with debating an issue that 97%-99% of published climate scientists agree upon is we’re not focusing on finding a solution.
Whether debating the value of a human being or arguing with the vast majority of climate scientists, we’re not spending that time on solutions. Like Donald Trump distracting us from Russia news with a tweet about athletes kneeling, we take our eyes off the prize in pursuit of petty argument.