Instead of focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of a position, we often (as a society and individuals) try to shut people up by demonizing or dehumanizing them into submission.
While you can argue that this has always taken place, it seems to be a growing trend lately and one that hurts us in the long run. Such tactics help ensure that we don’t get to hear alternative viewpoints, and in the end, it shuts down the free marketplace of ideas that we so desperately need in order to assess the real strengths and weaknesses of any given position – whether they be personal, political or religious.
Don’t worry, I’ll provide some examples. Consider this a crash course in ‘how to demonize and dehumanize your opponent’.
Compare it to Hitler: In some circumstances there might be legitimate comparisons to be made to Hitler, but usually this is a card that is best not played. Usually the person making this comparison isn’t doing so honestly, but trying to shut the other person up by saying they’re acting in a Hitler-like way, or supporting a position that is Nazi-like (or worse) which no one in their right mind wants to do.
Literally demonize them: Tell people that anyone who doesn’t think, behave, believe the way you do is literally acting under the direction of a demon. If that doesn’t work, go straight to saying they’re pawns of a demon lord.
Make them out to be monsters: Tell people your opponent has no reason to behave morally or has no basis for moral action. If you can convince enough people that a group is morally or ethically bankrupt, you can easily shut them up or have them declared terrorists, like they do In Saudi Arabia.
Less than human: Compare them to animals, so that you can make them out to be less than human, like this person tried to do to me on Twitter yesterday.
Tell anyone who disagrees that they support X: Islamophobia is a good example of this one. Even though a religion has nothing to do with race, sex or creed, you can beat down dissenting opinions about what that religion teaches by pretending that anyone who questions you is a racist. You don’t even have to establish that they are indeed racist, because no one wants to be labeled a racist so they’ll shut up rather than accept that label.
You can use this tactic all over the place. Politicians do it all the time. Think about the attack ads where the scary-voice-guy tells you that because a politician voted a certain way 15 years ago, that means they hate all children and want to eat yours for lunch.
Unpatriotic scum: Pretend that if someone doesn’t support the troops or agree with a war, they’re automatically unpatriotic.
Hell, you can even throw a whole segment of the population under the bus, by saying they’re not real citizens or patriots, because they don’t believe in a deity.
Right, Mr. Bush?
Keep the fear alive: Governments like to practice this one – keep the populace scared and they’ll do almost anything for ‘safety’, even give away their rights.
There are just a few ways you can shut people up and squash any opinion that doesn’t agree with your own.
Can you think of any more? Have any examples?
If so, please leave them in the comment section. As always, thanks for reading.