There are many people concerned about hatefulness right now, and one might think that this concern came largely from opponents of the president-elect. I’ve found, however, that the concern comes from all sides. (“Both sides” is a very dangerous concept in a complex world.)
Let me suggest a simple test. When you find a blog post, Facebook status, Tweet or something else in the form “Did you know that (derogatory term here) (name of person) did (disgusting thing) and is unfit to feed pigs,” just substitute your own favorite politician/candidate/commentator in the (name of person) block and ask yourself how you’d feel. If it would make you very angry, then it’s just possible that it’s a hateful statement.
I know the standard retort: “But (name of person) actually did it whereas (MY name of person) is actually innocent. Truth counts!”
That’s really not the point. It’s not even an issue of whether the person deserves to get called out on it. The problem is that we need discourse that is both civil and truthful if we’re going to get anywhere but deeper into fruitless conflict. You do not increase the value of a truthful comment by adding insult to it. “The other side started it” and “we have to respond” are not adequate either. How effective has your response been with regard to whatever it is you’re responding to?
There are many proposed policies right now that make my blood boil. I occasionally start writing posts that I have to delete, not because I think they’re false, but because I think they won’t advance the discussion.
To identify a couple of such issues, let me say that I consider a border wall on our border with Mexico or a registry of Muslims to be misguided, based on faulty data, and, in fact, morally wrong. It’s much easier to discuss and support those positions than some of the more personal (and even moral) claims made against specific persons. On the other hand, if I were in the Senate (not going to happen!) I would certainly have to consider such personal issues and, based on the best evidence available to me, vote for or against particular confirmations. Suggesting a free pass is silly. The losing side does it after each election.
Let me reemphasize. I oppose hateful, insulting speech not because I think the “other” side hasn’t triggered some of it, but because I think it’s both wrong and ineffective. It does nothing to convince new people that your position is right. I’m not arguing for fairness, but for effectiveness.