Social Media, News Cycles, and False Dichotomies

You are either with us or against us

George W. Bush

I watched a podcast with Joe Rogan and Alan Levinovitz yesterday. Joe Rogan’s podcasts are a great way to hear a good conversation about a variety of topics. The aforementioned episode was no different.

One of the quotes from Alan that really struck me was “I feel politically homeless”. They went on to describe the sparring political system that divides people along lines that people rarely actually fall in line with.

I felt a lot of connection hearing all of this. It felt like my subconscious was having a conversation on YouTube. It was really great to see.

False Dichotomies Are Bad

False dichotomies are the biggest frustration that I have with the political system as it stands in 2020. Woke vs Not Woke, Racist vs Anti-Racist, Capitalist vs Communist, Masks vs No Masks, Reopen economies vs shut everything down. There’s a myriad of choices that people are almost forced to take sides on.

The loudest voices on the news and social media take clearly defined sides on all of these issues. They create a clear right or wrong declaration on their positions too. My experience shows that things just aren’t that simple.

Choice Into Law

Even worse, is when people try to make their clearly defined position into law. If a position on any circumstance really is the right one, it should be communicable to others without the use of force. If the police are required to enforce a position, it’s possible that position might need some re-consideration.

There are clearly exceptions to this. Rape, murder, and robbery are wrong. People will do them anyways thought. Law enforcement should protect citizens from the malicious intent of criminals.

Most “things” are debatable.

I’ve written about my issue with forcing people to wear masks in open environments. I don’t think it’s wise to beat a dead horse here. The point is – it’s not black and white.

Speaking of black and white, it’s become common to claim “You’re either racist or anti-racist”.


I’m not involved in that conflict at all. I know I want people to be successful regardless of the chemical makeup of their epidermis. I have no power in that situation however.

When well meaning friends brow-beat me with this false dichotomy, I tune out. That doesn’t make me a racist. I just don’t spend energy where I can’t make impact.

The sensitivity of these issues matter. Creating false dichotomies around complicated topics only serve to put people into camps. The further those camps divide, the closer we all are to violence.

Why Do We Choose Sides?

What purpose does that serve? Why would you want people to stop talking to each other? Who benefits from anger and vitriol?

I could be wrong, but I don’t think it’s you or me. Exhibiting humility in my conversations with friends (or not friends) of differing opinions has served me well. I have opinions. They might be different than yours. I might be wrong. You might be wrong. We don’t know.

In 2003 the Bush Administration was making a case for invading Iraq. At the time I was a vocal proponent of the idea. 17 years later I don’t hesitate to tell people I was wrong.

Does that make me a bad person?

The Mind Experiment.

Here’s an interesting mind experiment. Consider a topic that is morally imperative to you. I’ll leave the specific situation up to you to consider. Think about what it means when you hear people vocally disagree with you. What do you feel when you consider those people making a law that contradicts your belief.

What do you want to do with people who may always see differently than you?

I think we need to answer this question before we answer questions about topics that seem to be tearing the country apart. I’ve had to tell friends lately that the “how” they say anything is equally as important as “what” they have to say.

Subtlety and nuance are important. Life isn’t black and white. Politics are not red and blue.

By ftpcory

I am a fitness, technology, and music enthusiast. I enjoy introspection and reflection. I believe in decentralization of the web and freedom of expression.

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