Spangle: Precarious Public Discourse

If you think public discourse can’t get worse, it can.

One segment of the population that is experiencing the fallout of 22% unemployment. This group is not just the working poor that was laid off. It is and will be the owners of small businesses soon. They’re the ones standing in mile-long food bank lines. As in-artful and un-careful as the protestors are, their pain is real and deserves a voice.

There are also a lot of really scared people concerned about their health. They’re the vulnerable, the front line workers, and “essential” employees. Their life is going to be radically different for a long time.

There’s also a third group of people, and I would place myself in this camp. Financially, I am fine. I am not all that concerned about the virus for myself. I am worried about loved ones and potential economic fallout. I am bored as hell and uncertain about the future. While my situation is better than the other two groups, I am restless and anxious. I am doing my best to keep it together, and every minute I spend on social media, it becomes that much harder.

Across the board, there is a lot of grief. It could be placed on the deserving party: an unseen biological event that really could not have been prevented (while it could have had less impactful economically or biologically.)

Instead, it has the potential to make an enemy of neighbors with fears and anxiety stoked by charlatans and opportunists from all quarters of the society hoping to profit. In the 1920s and 1930s economic upheavals, it wasn’t the lower classes forming radical groups. It was the middle class that had lost something.

What happens when one segment of a population sees the action of another as an existential threat? What happens when one group sees another leaving their homes and view it as an act of aggression? What happens when this hysteria spreads over social networks? What happens when the “health” group weaponizes law enforcement agencies to keep unemployed people unemployed?

Hopefully, nothing happens. Our standard of living is extremely high and there are release valves like spacious homes with heat, food, AC, toilets, internet, television, and a lot of hobbies. I hope that’s enough.

Things shared on social media contribute to an overall stream that feeds public opinion. Hoping one side dies, sharing bad data, going out of the way to be a dick to someone in the comments, and other ill-advised posts do matter in the long run.

I try to remember that every single person I am seeing in the news, online, or in my DMs is someone dealing with some bullshit right now. I have to constantly check my pride and remember that someone was a snarky jerk because they’re hurting or scared about something else. Every single word spoken or typed contributes to the type of society I want to live in.

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Chris Spangle is the publisher and editor of We Are Libertarians, a news site and podcast that covers national and Indiana politics from the libertarian perspective. Spangle previously worked in marketing for the Englehart Group on behalf of the Advocates for Self-Government. He also served as the Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of Indiana and producer of the Abdul in the Morning Show. He now works as the web director of a nationally syndicated morning show.

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