Professional Writing Tip: When You’re Arguing a Political Point, at Least Try to Sound Reasonable
Even though I’ve sworn off reading political news this year due to the very… um… passionate viewpoints everyone seems to have, I still like watching political commentaries on YouTube.
I know that rather defeats the purpose of swearing off the news. But I guess I’m a political junkie when it comes down to it, and I need some kind of fix some kind of way.
Going for another score the other day, I happened upon a burqa debate by two Muslim women. One was wearing a burqa, so naturally she was on the pro-head-scarf side; and the other was modestly dressed but had her hair on full display.
The debate began with a question for the anti-burqa representative (ABR), who responded in a calm, gentle manner that instantly made her seem rational and reasonable – no matter how I thought several of her actual arguments could have been presented better.
When the pro-burqa representative (PBR) then got her chance to speak, she instantly attacked ABR personally instead of ABR’s points. Even worse, PBR did it with tones and gestures and facial expressions that were emotional and excitable.
Despite her attempts to take control of the debate, you could tell she was playing defense from the get-go. So for someone who didn’t instantly and staunchly agree with her, she didn’t come across as impressive or convincing at all.
Believe it or not, this blog post isn’t an attack on her position. My personal feelings aside, I can make a logical argument for why women should be able to wear burqas if they so choose. It’s a form of religious and expressive freedom that isn’t physically hurting anyone. So while I’m not going to go around wearing a headscarf in support of burqas, I’m also not going to go out protesting them.
My one and only point in bringing up this particular debate is that sounding reasonable in your presentation is important.
When it comes to getting clicks, sure, provocative headlines and fiery language are the way to go. It’s sad but true that we humans are drawn to drama of any kind, as our current political coverage increasingly seems to show.
Forget making comprehensive claims. Nobody seems to truly care about supporting his own position anymore; the name of the game is Attack the Opponent.
Yet how many opinions does that kind of I’m-right-you’re-stupid rhetoric change? How many people do you know who alter their opinions because of a nasty political Facebook post?
When do liberals ever switch sides after listening to, let’s say, conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos?
And what conservative ever finds herself reading the equally expressive Huffington Post and going, “You know what? All that name-calling makes me genuinely consider voting on a liberal platform next time.”
I’m sure it happens from time to time, but so do blue moons. Most people who see their perspectives verbally savaged tend to draw their beliefs around themselves more tightly than ever.
If you want to appeal to a broader audience, you have to at least pretend to respect the other side of the debate with a moderate-sounding presentation.
Lord knows I’m not saying to actually be moderate. Too often, that political designation goes along with a snobbish certainty of being able to see both sides… all while having the same unyielding belief system as the left and right do.
So go ahead and keep your opinions, especially if they’re sound and reasonable and help someone in the end, yourself included.
But if you want to build up a steadily increasing audience, you’re going to have to find a way to at least sound reasonable. Otherwise, any influence you have is going to be relegated to the circle that already agrees with you.
Which is exactly why I’m not paying attention to the news anymore. Just YouTube.
P.S. Speaking of YouTube personalities who present their beliefs in overall respectful manners, try checking out Dave Rubin’s The Rubin Report and Roaming Millennial. I can’t say I agree with either of them all the time, and I agree with one far less than the other, but I do find them both thought-provoking to listen to.