DEVLIN: How Political Social Media Stars Ruin Politics

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Thursday, January 17, 2019


A few months back, Dave Rubin’s break from politics inspired me to take my own hiatus. During my leave, I didn’t block out politics completely; a friend had told me my writing had become angry and partisan, so I spent the intermission rereading my columns. As I spent time reflecting, I wondered what made me give in to such vitriolic politics. As I rummaged through, I tried to find an explanation for where we and, more importantly, I have erred.

Most say the media is culpable for the degradation of our political landscape, but the analysts and anchors you see on primetime are not the only ones to blame. My generation has grown up consuming political journalism and punditry, predominantly via social media, that doesn’t just tolerate polarization and the unraveling of public discourse. It incentivizes it.

The structure works something like this: first social media personalities make an outrageous and polarizing assertion that gets people emotional enough to share it. Next, they demonize everyone that disagrees or points out any lack of nuance and double down on their previous statements. If demonizing isn’t enough, they become offended, and I mean very offended. Once they’ve effectively smeared their opponent, they finish them with a non sequitur argument or an ad-hominem attack.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take Kaitlin Bennett as an example. In an exchange with Kyle Kashuv, she attacked the Second Amendment advocate for supporting a bill that, she claimed, put more restrictions on gun ownership.

Here, she says something outrageous about the FIX NICS Bill, launches an ad hominem attack, and is offended all at the same time.

Kashuv replied with a factual, convincing argument. In response, Bennett threw out claims that were tangentially related to his rebuttal at best.

Whether or not her argument merits it, Kaitlin wins because having the better argument is not what matters. Bennett couldn’t care less if more people hate her by the end of this exchange; she only cares if more people know her name. To do this, she merely has to get enough engagement with her content so, in the absence of scores or debate judges, it appears she won the argument prima facie.

Kaitlin and many others such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, David Hogg, Candace Owens, and Adam Best (even my own articles and Twitter feed to a lesser degree) have employed this ruse to experience the euphoria and notoriety that comes with it. It is a structure that thereby incentivizes emotional assertions and attacks to garner ‘likes’ and shares over proper argumentation.

Of course, there are plenty of exceptions in the industry; Jake Tapper, Guy Benson, Ben Shapiro, and Shepard Smith, among others, instantly come to mind. Unfortunately, my generation has witnessed this strategy catapult young, political commentators to stardom on social media time and time again.

Moving forward, it’s essential that we be more mindful of who we elevate to influential roles in the young, conservative movement because while they line their pockets with media hits and book deals, the rest of us take the brunt of the cost. When we put on a pedestal actors that spew pseudo-intellectual, rancorous politics in pursuit of instant gratification, not only will our principles be intertwined with their toxicity, our generation runs the risk of never being able to shake the entitled, self-centered reputation we’ve been given.

Bradley Devlin is a student at the University of California Berkeley studying Political Economics and serves as the President of the Berkeley College Republicans.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


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About Bradley Devlin

University of California, Berkeley

Bradley Devlin is a student at the University of California Berkeley studying Political Economics and serves as the President of the Berkeley College Republicans.

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