You really should go read this article on shame culture at First Things. We need to stop feeding the online Outrage Mob, and ruining people’s lives and careers (and sometimes endangering their lives) over things they say online. This has been out of control for a long time, turning private matters into public spectacles and taking sinful things said in public over the top beyond all sense of rational proportionality.
Before I go further, let me say this: Shame in and of itself is not a bad thing. We have come to think of shame as bad, so “(whatever) shaming” is seen as an immoral act. But if you do something shameful, you should be shamed for it. My pastor says that God gives us “pain to protect our bodies and shame to protect our souls.” When properly directed, shame points to our sin and leads us to the cross. Shame over our sin makes us realize how helpless we are before God and how we need the blood of His Son. Shame leads us to restrain our bad impulses and put more of a filter between our brain and our mouth and/or keyboard.
I recently attended a workshop that was very helpful in how to have a productive in-person conversation between people of differing viewpoints on issues. That that made me think about is how it is often much easier to have a civil face-to-face discussion than a civil online discussion.
This is ground that has been trampled often, so we have all heard it before. Online, you do not get tone of voice, facial expressions, body language and instant feedback that you get when talking in person. Online, it is very easy to take things in a way not intended and then attack based on that mistaken perception. There is also a natural calming factor that happens in real life, where people are less likely to be nasty in person.
Online, all of that changes. If you’re discussing something on Facebook with a family member or a IRL friend, you may want to be more restrained in order to preserve the offline relationship. But when debating a hotly contested issue with strangers, it is much easier to see them as pixels instead of as people. Therefore, it is easier to go on the attack, and there is much less social cost to getting nasty.
One thing conservatives love about President Trump is that when someone hits him, he fights back. We have spent too many decades watching Republicans take it on the chin and not defend themselves. But Trump is a hammer, and he thinks everything is a nail that needs to be pounded. This is why he got into a silly Twitter fight with Republican-appointed Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
Now, let’s be clear. On the substance of the argument, Trump is right and Roberts is wrong. Obviously there are “Obama judges” in our federal court system. Roberts is holding to the ideal of what a judge should be – someone who looks at the law and the Constitution and makes decisions based on that, and he does have a vested interest in that image. Trump is saying what everyone knows about human nature. People are biased and carry their bias with them. We should not let idealism blind us to reality.