Conservatives Debate About Social Media and the Public Square

The participants: Tim Miller and Tom Nichols, on one side, and Rameesh Ponnuru and John McCormack (from National Review), on the other. (David French comes in at the end as a sort of peace-maker.) I don’t comment on Twitter anymore, but I really wanted to weigh on the points made in this debate, so I’m going to do that in this thread–just to get it off my chest.

Tim Miller starts the thread by criticizing a recent Peggy Noonan op-ed (which I haven’t read). Her article condemns Trump now, but Miller finds this annoying as she didn’t vote for Biden (and refused to endorse him over Trump?). He wonders why she should have a prominent platform–why people should trust her judgment–especially if she doesn’t recognize (and apologize) for this error in judgment.

Ponnuru calls Miller “insuferable” for this position, and Miller responds by saying, “The people who knew better and who couldn’t swallow their pride and just admit the obvious truth that this dangerous con man had to be removed and Joe Biden was a perfectly fine alternative are insufferable and I’m not sure why we need to suffer their lecturing anymore.”

John McCormack responds: “Tim, what do you think about people who couldn’t vote for Biden because they think dismembering an extra 60,000 babies each year is evil?” Here’s where I want to comment, and I’ll do so in the comments section.

Go here and scroll up to the top to read the thread

One thought on “Conservatives Debate About Social Media and the Public Square

  1. Here are some of the problems I see with McCormack’s response:

    1. Many Americans believe abortion is murder and keeping it legal is evil. But many Americans do not believe abortion is murder. They believe individual women should decide when life begins in a mother’s–that the central issue is about control over her body–or that is my understanding of their position.

    The way I see it, McCormack (and Ponnuru?) essentially don’t see the abortion as a legitimate dispute. Their position is indisputably right–the pro choice position is immoral and evil.

    I find this position highly problematic–and incompatible with a functioning democracy. If one group believes their position is the morally correct one, and the other side holds an evil position, then this could easily lead to an ends-justifies-the-means approach–including breaking vital democratic norms and principles to achieve one’s political objectives. And this leads to make next point.

    2. Is the Republic worth sacrificing in order to ban abortion? Is this objective worth the cost of incompetent handling of a pandemic, leading to 100s of thousands of lives? (It’s possible that another president could have reduced the global spread of the virus as well.) What if Trump launched a nuclear strike–would that be worth it?

    To say yes these questions strikes me as unreasonable.

    What allows me to say this relates to my attitude about the first point–specifically, the way we handle disputes in a democracy. We have political processes to peacefully and civilly (for the most part, hopefully) to handle and resolve contentious policy disputes. To vote for someone who would threaten this entire process–essentially the republic itself–seems clearly wrong. Same with electing someone dangerously unstable to achieve one’s policy objectives.

    If there is something that is “evil” in a republic, it’s an authoritarian or those who support them. If we have a rules-based, democratic system–with checks and balances to prevent abuses of power, then we can handle almost any dispute. But once we lose a democratic system, we’re totally lost.

    To me, voting for someone like Trump because of the abortion issue would make sense if the person felt like the they would prefer America cease to exist as a republic if abortion rights expanded. That doesn’t seem right to me.

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