Welcome to the thirteenth installment of the Project on Civil Discourse’s Weekly News Digest, hosted on our Real Talk blog, which is back for the spring semester after a short holiday break. This semester the blog will continue to feature weekly posts that share students’ experiences with civil discourse, reflect on the Project’s events, and recap discourse-related news.
Before the holidays, Steph Black defined trauma-informed discourse, writing that it is about “believing that we, people of all backgrounds and experiences, are able to engage deeply with challenging subject matter on an even playing field.”
Belief vs. Science
Ibram X. Kendi argues in The Atlantic that those who deny climate change and racism attack observable reality when they discredit and disbelieve scientific findings. Kendi writes that denialists “explain their disbelief using examples in their direct line of sight [and] do not trust the far-flung hindsight, foresight, and bird’s-eye view of the scientist.”
Last week, newly sworn-in Congresswoman Rashida Talib (D-MI) made headlines after calling for President Trump’s impeachment and referring to him as a “motherfucker.” Talib’s comments sparked debate over the use of profanity by elected officials, with many – including President Trump and congressional Republicans – claiming her comments were disrespectful and inappropriate. In response to their reaction, columnist Michelle Goldberg argued that Talib said nothing wrong, citing President Trump’s past use of profanity and the double-standard that women face.
Earlier in 2018, Mona Eltahawy outlined her case for why profanity should be seen and used as a tool to call out and dismantle unfair and unequal power structures. She notes that she swears to make people uncomfortable, writing that “in the era of Trump – a man who has torpedoed the notion of civility – women are still expected to be polite.”
Civil Discourse Online
Kiley Bense writes for The Atlantic about the subreddit Change My View, a forum on Reddit that promotes discussion about issues that people commonly disagree on. Unlike other social platforms that struggle to moderate speech, such as Facebook and Twitter, Change My View successfully facilitates civil discourse by establishing strict, transparent, and constituent rules about how users may debate. However, the subreddit still offers a platform to problematic ideologies and its users are predisposed to open-mindedness.
In December, a student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst was asked to remove a sign saying “Fuck Nazis you are not welcome here” because its message was not inclusive nor respectful. Nicole Parsons hung the sign in her window after a swastika was drawn in her residence hall. While the sign didn’t violate school policy, Parsons received an email from a university employee asking her to remove it. UMass Amherst later responded, saying they “reject Nazis” but are “sensitive to the use of profanity.”
Thanks for reading!