The Normalization of Violent Public Discourse

You’ve probably noticed that in recent years public discourse has become increasingly violent. I am not simply talking about the time frame since the 2016 elections. The tone of public discourse has taken turn towards the violent ever since we normalized the use of terms like “Liberal”, “Left Wing”, “Conservative” and “Right Wing.” Upon first glance it may appear that these terms are benign enough but if you are honest you will admit that these are labels that dehumanize the labeled, that is their purpose. The normalization of these terms into everyday use has become a convention when used to justify the treatment of others, those so labeled, with less than the respect they would be due if we acknowledged the humanity of the other.

Use the terms enough in the news media, television, twitter-sphere, etc. and it is a short jump to the use of more blatant name calling that has become rampant at the national level since the 2016 elections. But make no mistake, the bar was lowered well before 2016. 

Our increased insensitivity to violent and disrespectful language is what makes the recent memo from Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, to his employees commenting on the firing of his chief communications executive for twice using the “N-word” in working situations all the more encouraging. It is imperative that leaders, in business religion and politics recognize the civic dilemma that has been created with our culture over the past many years. 

I cannot pinpoint where it became acceptable to publicly treat adversaries as objects of derision but when a business leader like Reed Hastings steps up and takes action that so clearly says that some values are more important that profit or winning or who is saved and who is not, it creates room for others with similar platforms to do the same. There is a lot riding on turning us into the culture we have always said we aspire to be.