How do you resolve the tension between falling into a filter bubble on one hand, and having your media be an abyss of stupidity and hostility on the other?
I have opinions on things, and like everyone else, I like being told I’m right. I’ve also seen what happens when people don’t have their opinions challenged often enough, and it’s not pretty. I’ve changed my mind about things in the past, and I’ll do it again. I have wrong opinions right now, and if they’re not challenged, I may never identify them. Filter bubbles will not help me to have correct views.
It’s also true that we read difference as insult, that unnecessarily hostile interactions cause me stress, and that Twitter in particular (“the hellsite“, at least following Tumblr’s slide out of relevance) has a structure that can spark hostile interactions at a high rate.
So this is what I do: I try to look for the people I disagree with, who are interesting, who can ground their claims, and who engage with disagreement rather than ignoring or abusing people. I’m not perfect at this, but it’s working for me right now.
With that in mind, these are some accounts of people or groups I disagree with, mostly on Twitter, and why. Roughly in order of most recommended follow to most recommended block:
Miss Snuffy: Enthusiastically followed. Katharine Birbalsingh is a bit of a hate figure for some people, and while I certainly don’t agree with her about everything, she doesn’t deserve that. I don’t share all of her values, but I do agree with her that education is incredibly important, and the UK does not do it well. My ideal school and hers may not look the same, but she has an actual school, and impressive results, so I think she has earned her soapbox.
Eric Raymond: Blog read regularly. Probably the most controversial placing here. He’s openly libertarian and pro-gun, which I’m not, but for me falls within the bounds of respectable. I believe him when he says he’s not a Republican, but he certainly seems to spend more time attacking Democrats. Still, being a Republican is respectable too. The killer for a lot of people, I think, would be his views on racial differences in average IQ; that is beyond the pale. On the flip side, he writes well: he writes about software from a place of expertise, and he writes about politics and society with an impressive breadth of reference. Some of his opinions and conclusions I find appalling, and I don’t share his values, but he holds his opinions for reasons, and he doesn’t make poor arguments.
Peter Hitchens: I wish I could selectively mute him. He’s bad at justifying his theism, and some of his takes on the law are not good. However, he will engage people who disagree with him, I sympathise with his less interventionist stance on foreign policy, and I think he makes an interesting point about policing. I don’t share his values, of course, but he can clearly link his policy prescriptions to his values.
Toby Young: I agree with him about the importance of free speech, and I wish the left had not given up so much of this ground. If he ever manages to get his free speech union into a worthwhile legal fight, I may even chip in. Most of what he writes is just tosh though. Muted for this recent classic: