People are becoming familiar with identity politics but its faulty principles goes very much further than politics. It has demeaned debate itself. Identity politics, identity media and identity debate is interfering with critical thinking and reasoned debate.
Identity debate amounts to identifying an opinion or position with an obnoxious person and thereby concluding that the opinion, idea or position must be as obnoxious as the person. It is rife in public debate.
The obvious example in current times is Donald Trump but it permeates much of current debate and it is found in mainstream media where the main aim is to sell newspapers, win readership and maintain or improve market share.
Even respected papers like The Times can be guilty of a hatchet job such as its recent interview with Jordan Peterson. The question arises why such a prestigious newspaper would wish to produce and publish such an interview. Could it be a desire to discredit his opinions by discrediting the person? Jordan Peterson can speak for himself here. This interview is identity media at work. Is this prestigious newspaper moving towards the ‘standards’ of tabloid journalism or ‘the gutter press’? For some people, it is enough to know that such and such an opinion is promoted by such and such a newspaper or television network. Is it CNN or Fox news? is enough to decide the matter, or the Guardian, The Spectator, the BBC or RT (Russia Today). Even our university students are taught to screen out opposing opinions in the no platforming to which Peterson has already been subjected.
Only “speaking the truth in love” (Eph 4:15) can rescue society from this insidious corruption of speech and thinking. If not, the individual must seek the truth for themselves, and should refrain from repeating memes that they cannot verify or at least attribute their source. This is why social media has corrupted so much of modern debate, but this will improve, slowly, with time.
It is a basic principle of Christianity to teach critical thinking by promoting the truth and belief of the truth. Christians learn to distinguish truth from error. Further, it teaches the courage to stand against peer-group pressure.
13 Dec 2021: there is a long list of topics used in identity debate – deniers, conspiracy theory, fascist, left or right, racist – to such an extent that Godwin’s law was coined for those who introduce the Nazis or Hitler into a debate. Christians are quite familiar with the use of pejorative terms to describe them and their beliefs. I notice that the Wikipedia article on superstition states that “identifying something as superstition is generally pejorative“. The topic is very much wider than superstition. Identity debate tends to be pejorative per se.
Although Christians are often at the receiving end of identity debate, they are not alone because it is native to the human condition. This civilised debate nevertheless proceeds with one contributer continually calling the other one ‘a lockdown denier’, which is a deliberate label, consciously repeated, but it is quite ambiguous and therefore duplicitous. Denying what? A host of unspecified objects could be added to the verb. In the context of the debate, it does not mean ‘denying lockdown’. What role is the ambiguity playing? It does not clarify the debate but it uses a label ‘denier’ to create an impression associated with that label. “When the debate is over, slander becomes the tool of the loser”, said Socrates who died because he was accused of corrupting the youth of Athens with his teaching. Besides, unbelief is the default position for many human beings; denial of various facts should not surprise us. It happens all the time and Christians are quite familiar with the feature.
Identity debate has many forms and names – ad hominem, going for the man and not for the ball, etc. , because it is not new. The redefining of words as a language tool to effect change was identified by Friedrich Nietzsche and it has been going on ever since. Many people mistake this for the natural development of language through time. It is not – it is a tool to create confusion and it debases debate. If we cannot have a commonly agreed vocabulary we have confusion and ‘God is not the author of confusion, but of peace’ 1Cor 14:33. ‘O Lord, to us belongs confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against Thee’ Dan 9:8. ‘For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work’ James 3:16.
12 Feb 2020: the poverty of modern debate.