Want to Save America? Stop Tweeting.
Comedian Michael Che is receiving backlash this week for jokes he made on Saturday Night Live about reports of a 67-year-old woman giving birth. Offended viewers took to Twitter, labeling Che’s comments ‘sexist’ and ‘ageist’ and calling for his removal from SNL. The controversy comes one week after Che received similar backlash for making Caitlyn Jenner’s 2015 gender transition the punchline of a joke in which he opined that the increasingly conservative rapper, Kanye West, “is turning into an old white lady.”
In respect to these controversies, Twitter users have predictably fallen into either one of two tribes: the tribe who believes that Che’s jokes promote violence against women, the elderly, and trans people; and the tribe who believes that any effort to censor Che violates his Freedom of Speech.
The first Twitter tribe (the anti-violence tribe, we’ll call them) argues that the second tribe (the pro-speech tribe) doesn’t want to protect Che’s right to free speech so much as it wants to continue to enable straight, cisgender men to oppress women and minorities and maintain the status quo. In response, the pro-speech tribe taunts the anti-violence tribe for its fragility and charges it with anti-American fascism.
Since these types of Twitter confrontations rarely yield positive results (if ever), each righteously angered tribe becomes more entrenched in its own opinions, and our cultural discord incrementally worsens.
Often, when controversies such as these arise, astute cultural commentators will remind the anti-violence tribe that, rather than empowering women and minorities, its calls for censorship reinforce the notion that the inability of women and minorities to tolerate scrutiny — even when it comes in the form of a joke — means that they are, in fact, ‘less than’ straight, cisgender men, a group that is strong enough to tolerate scrutiny. Additionally, they warn the tribe that it could be setting a dangerous new precedent wherein women and minorities who claim — either hyperbolically or not — that all men are “evil” and “need to be destroyed” could experience repercussions for advocating violence against men.
The cultural commentators will then remind members of the pro-speech tribe that words hold power; that hate groups often use rhetoric similar to Che’s to advance their agendas and attract new members. They encourage the pro-speechers to educate themselves about our society’s long history of oppression against women and minorities, so that by empathizing with the oppressed they might choose to avoid using offensive language.
But Americans don’t listen to the pedantic lecturing of cultural commentators. Instead, they throw reason to the wind and tweet their asses off, because they know that by punching characters into those little text boxes, they are saving the fucking world.
They couldn’t be more wrong.
You see, these Twitter wars garner media coverage by news outlets, which cherry-pick the stories to disseminate political propaganda to their viewers. As a result, people who are not on Twitter read articles or watch sensational news coverage of the controversies, and they, too, become more entrenched in their own politics.
And it doesn’t stop there. Media coverage informs political campaigns, so that suddenly we hear candidates saying, “The censorship of harmless comedians shows how far the liberal mob has gone off the rails,” or, “We must restore decency in Washington so that problematic comedians will no longer feel empowered to incite violence against women and minorities.” Meanwhile, issues like the economy, healthcare, climate change, and foreign policy fall so far by the wayside, that on Election Day voters find themselves trying to decide whether they should vote for or against Michael Che.
Here’s one more troubling fact to consider: there’s no way of telling how many Twitter accounts have been created by actors in foreign states whose sole aim is to fuel these controversies and sow political discord.
Fellow Americans, the tweets we carelessly lob off are chipping away at the integrity of our republic.
I beseech thee: Delete Twitter.