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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Let's Have a Discussion

 

I’ve observed a developing trend over the past decade that I think is worth discussing. So, if you don’t mind, I will take only 30 seconds or one minute to give you a short reference to history, for giving you a little historical background.

 

Between 2012 and 2014, when attending graduate school for a Master of Science in Social Work degree, there was a common tactic being used in halls of education, on social media platforms, and at various other venues across the nation. When encountering differences of opinion, I’d hear people say, “Let’s have a discussion” about any given matter.

 

This arguably healthy ploy related to the presentation of ideas, fostered use of logic and reason, and afforded ideologically divided parties an opportunity to persuade people toward one side or another of a topic. The experience reminded me of my time in high school when I took a debate class.

 

Then, I learned that in cross-examination, Lincoln-Douglas, public forum, and other types of debate or discourse, interlocutor X wasn’t attempting to convince interlocutor Y of a particular rhetorical, theoretical, sociopolitical, or ideological stance. Rather, the undecided listener Z was the focus of persuasive argumentation.

 

Nevertheless, something I found interesting began to occur at the end of 2014. I observed spirited dialogue with one’s ideological opponent begin to be replaced with calls for silencing of detractors from one position or another, creating an atmosphere of shame.

 

As an example, interlocutor X may take a stance against affirmative action. Rather than discussing or debating the merits of this position, interlocutor Y and those of a similar mindset would instead reject what I thought of as otherwise helpful dialogue.

 

Between 2015 and 2016, there was growing sentiment among some groups which outright advocated de-platforming of so-called hate speech. The inferred argument supporting this stance related to the irrational belief that some views are hateful, individuals maintaining these positions are therefore hateful, and no one who is filled with hate should be allowed a platform for hateful views.

 

As such, interlocutor X’s views on affirmative action are considered hateful. These views are apparently not only maintained by the individual, they are definitive proof that the person is hateful. Therefore, de-platforming interlocutor X is perceived to be the morally sound decision one can make.

 

Because I began informally practicing Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) in 2011, I recognized the demandingness, awfulizing, low frustration tolerance, and global evaluations inherent in claims from people like interlocutor Y. Such irrational beliefs are largely unhelpful.

 

Where did that leave the undecided listener Z’s of the world? When a group of people fundamentally reject truth and reality—inflexibly opting to force what they believe ought to be upon that which merely is—what is an uninformed or neutral party to conclude when faced with such unproductive behavior?

 

Between 2017 and 2019, I observed de-platforming of those who wished to discuss ideas when such attempts devolved into violence at speaking venues. I also witnessed children being wielded as political pawns at discussion-silencing protests with use of mind-numbing chants in place of dialogue.

 

As well, I watched as people protested southern border enforcement measures for fiscal year (FY) 2019, when United States (U.S.) Customs and Border Protection reportedly apprehended 851,508 individuals. Now, per one source:

 

In FY23, CBP recorded more than 2.4 million encounters at the Southwest border and more than 3.2 million encounters nationwide. Just this fiscal year, 169 individuals on the terrorist watchlist were apprehended attempting to enter the country illegally, and at least 1.7 million known gotaways have evaded apprehension since FY2021.

 

By merely highlighting this data, in an attempt to foster healthy discussion, some may label me a bigot. Many of the interlocutor Y’s within the U.S. simply refuse to engage in much needed dialogue concerning matters crucial to our nation’s civility and stability.

 

From 2020 to 2022, I observed cities set afire being accepted as a “summer of love” (2020), protesters and rioters at the U.S. Capitol being mislabeled as “insurrectionists” (2021), and ad hominem attacks used toward people who supported the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS) decision (2022).

 

As much as I’d like to report otherwise, 2023 wasn’t much better. For example, SCOTUS ruled against President Joe Biden’s attempt to forgive student loan debt. However, in defiance of the Court, Biden forgave a substantial amount of student loan debt.

 

Although I witnessed discussion on varying sides of this issue, I mainly observed interlocutor X’s and Y’s conversing with those within their own in-group paradigms. With this interlocutors encapsulated in their respective groups, the listener Z’s of the world were deprived of persuasive discussion in either direction.

 

In this way, interlocutors formed an echo chamber—an environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own, so that their existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered. This isn’t a healthy manner for societal function.

 

Now, in 2024, the developing trend of shutting down discussion has arguably worsened. For instance, political commentator Tucker Carlson recently conducted an interview with President of Russia Vladimir Putin. At the time this blogpost is written, it has 191.7 million views.

 

For full disclosure, I stated in a June 28, 2023 blog entry entitled Peace Treaty:

 

I find it interesting that many of my fellow United States (U.S.) citizens have unabashedly expressed support for Ukraine and advocated funding a proxy war against Russia. Even when concerned parties have attempted to establish a peace treaty, the U.S. seemingly interfered with the process.

 

I wasn’t one to jump on the pro-Ukraine or pro-Russia train, because I’m the listener Z in a crowd. Therefore, I don’t view the Russo-Ukrainian War in dichotomous terms of good or bad, right or wrong, holy or evil, etc.

 

While much of the information contained in the interview has already been addressed throughout my blog, with exception of the almost 40-minute history lesson on Russia, I was pleased to observe a discussion in which many Mockingbird media outlets refuse to engage.

 

Per usual, I witnessed interlocutor Y’s of the world brand Carlson as a “traitor,” calling him an “SoB” (son of a bitch), and mocking him for apparently being a “useful idiot” for having dared to engage in a discussion with Putin. Meanwhile, our nation continues to fund Ukraine and I witness interlocutor Y’s plugging their ears to discussion of the contrary.

 

According to the Council on Foreign Relations (2023), “The Joe Biden administration and the U.S. Congress have directed more than $75 billion in assistance to Ukraine, which includes humanitarian, financial, and military support.” That’s money our nation desperately needs.

 

Meanwhile, Reuters (2024) reports, “The Democratic-led Senate voted 67-27 in a rare Sunday [February 10, 2024] session to clear the latest procedural hurdle and moved the foreign aid measure toward an ultimate vote on passage in the coming days,” and, “The legislation includes $61 billion for Ukraine.” Which U.S. citizens voted for this?

 

I’d like to see more dialogue regarding measures that will further aggravate the delicate balance of an already contentious world order. Therefore, I advocate rejection of the ongoing trend to quash healthy conversation. As such, let’s have a discussion and stop irrationally behaving in a manner that could prove irreversibly devastating.

 

If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

 

As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.

 

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

 

 

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW

 

Photo credit (screenshot), fair use

 

References:

 

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Carlson, T. [@TuckerCalrson]. (2024, February 8). Ep. 73 The Vladimir Putin interview [Video]. X. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/TuckerCarlson/status/1755734526678925682

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