Social media is about as powerful a platform as one could ever imagine. It bridges ideas to audiences at an unprecedented speed and distance. Not many can escape it. The use of social media for spreading ideologies seems to be one of its primary uses at this point in time. It has given birth to the Social Justice Warrior (SJW); the individual passionate about social issues, using social media as their weapon. With all the potential good in social media’s ability to transmit information to global audiences, it has sadly been used in what can only be described as inappropriate ways. Not immoral, just illogical.
Whether social media is the cause or the effect, the way in which the SJW communicates and argues on it are often rhetorically shallow and logically unsubstantial. Dare I say that squeezing an argument about an important topic like abortion into a meme is doomed from the get go. But isn’t this obvious? Or do we think that our meme-creating abilities are so advanced that real moral truths about complicated issues can be communicated in a form with so many limitations?
But it does seem to have some success. Why else would these mini-philosophy-essays be so popular on the internet? I think it is because the SJW has one thing on his or her side in the use of shallow arguments. Emotivism.
Emotivism is what philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre calls
“the doctrine that all evaluative judgments and more specifically all moral judgments are nothing but expressions of preference, expressions of attitude or feeling”.
His view is that the world today subscribes to moral judgments, not because of a persuasive logical argument, but a compelling emotional one. These days, one doesn’t come to a conclusion after deeply considering various views on an issue in light of convictions about the way the world works through the aid of religion, philosophies, history, and sciences. Today, most have one truth: what feels good to me is what is right and true.
What’s even worse is that what often “feels good” is simply agreeing with the majority. No one likes to be a dissident; a stick in the moral mud. It feels better to be agreeable and socially acceptable. Therefore, if enough people project their voices about right and wrong, wrong can start to seem right.
This false doctrine is very pervasive in our culture and is unfortunately not just used in benign issues, like whether I should buy a new car or a used car (always buy the used car, by the way). The philosophy of Emotivism is used in moral and political issues.
Let’s consider the following examples:When one reads this “argument”, one is left feeling the strong sense of personal accountability with respects to the governance of our weapons and our bodies. Someone might read this and think, “I guess if I don’t want government controlling my guns, I shouldn’t let them control a woman’s right to an abortion” or “government should stop controlling our lives and give us the freedom we deserve!!”. No doubt we all want a level of freedom, but the above argument does nothing to look critically at the differences between the gun and abortion debate. It simply uses one passionate belief to drive the argument for another.
Once the emotional connection between citizen’s “rights” is made, the arguments for banning certain weapon types and modification or that a fetus is a human being are non-factors.
Again, a reader may be left thinking, “wow, how can America allow horrible Nazis to have freedoms that innocent NFL players don’t have?” I’m sure a common sense individual sees that the two cases presented in the above argument are not good analogs. But the bad analogy doesn’t stop the emotional effect….”Gosh, America does suck!” The more emotion that an argument can conjure up, the more persuasive power the argument will have. The use of Nazis for the purposes of argumentation is almost always an emotional ploy.
The emotions of allowing evil racists to march and not allowing NFL players to kneel clouds the arguments for the free speech and an NFL team’s request to stand during the national anthem.
One more:The reader of this tweet, who no doubt cares deeply about children (who doesn’t, right), is left wondering if defending our borders is equal to killing children. “What does it mean” is probably supposed to read “how could you?!!”, for if you care about children in a mother’s womb who are in danger of being aborted, but support defending the border, where children are suffering, you are obviously some logically inconsistent monster. Even if you have good reasons to defend the border, your reasons are twisted up in the abortion debate.
The emotional roller coaster that these arguments put their readers through is enough to leave them befuddled; that is, unable to think clearly. It may be too much for even the most faithful Christians to handle, and we might end up doubting our beliefs and traditions. We must realize the power of emotional arguments in our day and be able to keep our emotions in their appropriate place with regards to important judgments.
So what is a Christian who is thoughtfully considering these important issues to do?
First, simply know that Emotivism is as real a philosophy as any other. I don’t mean to say that it is true or the correct philosophy; I mean that people really do make moral judgments based on their feelings and emotions, rather than logic or even aligning to foundational belief system (i.e. religion). We may even be surprised by how much our own thinking is emotionally-led. We must know that God’s revealed truth surpasses emotions and that He has granted us the faculties to think critically through complex issues. We must be willing and able to use them to pursue truth and wisdom.
Second, when you see an argument presented in a 1 x 1 picture or 140 character essay, simply laugh it off as ridiculous. I mean, honestly, how can we expect to come away with real truths from arguments that are so limited and, frankly, juvenile.
Lastly, dig deep into these issues. There are many excellent sources of thoughtful discussions of the issues of the day that will equip you to approach them with the tact and truthfulness they deserve. Don’t let these cheap imitations deprive you of deep consideration and real apprehension of truth.