Maintaining Personal Integrity on the Internet
Daily, I see comments, videos, and articles, where people angrily express their opinions on various issues based on inexplicably shifting values. That behavior is expected from the opposition, but it is disturbing to see a sudden increase of this behavior from people on MY side of the ideological fence. Watching fellow constitutional conservatives make conflicting statements on recent events has become unbearable. Although it is anyone’s constitutionally protected right to speak out in that fashion, I am concerned that they are compromising their integrity. If we are going to claim that we possess a superior ideology, we MUST hold ourselves to a higher standard.
A prime example of this point is the recent ‘flag-stomping challenge’ versus the ‘draw Mohammed contest’. Both actions are offensive by design, and both are protected speech in accordance with our Constitution. Since these coinciding events are both disrespectful treatments of sacred subjects and evoke wildly disparate reactions within some individuals, they have provided a touchstone by which we may examine our core belief systems (specifically regarding religion and Natural Rights.)
If a person calls for violence against the evil flag-stompers, yet cheers the brave Mohammed cartoonists, there is a cognitive dissonance that needs to be sorted out. The same holds true for those who advocate harming the evil Mohammed cartoonists, while praising the brave flag-stompers. That is NOT to say that people should be prohibited from voicing their opinions; that would be counter to my constitutional oath. What I AM saying is that these statements conflict each other, and that publicly holding those conflicting positions undermines personal integrity. Both examples are expressions of free speech, and saying “you can’t” to either expression, while supporting the other, is hypocrisy.
When the need is felt to sound off on a hot topic, one must take a look at their base philosophy. If you consider yourself a Christian or constitutional conservative, you should make sure your rhetoric matches up with biblical and constitutional tenets. Know WHY you believe what you believe, and be able to explain it. If you can’t explain it to yourself, you certainly won’t be able to defend your position in public.
A popular form of publicly compromising one’s integrity is being a “Butter”. “Butter” is a term the pro-liberty community uses to describe gun-owners who believe the Second Amendment only applies to them and the arms THEY approve of. A “Butter” may say, “I support the Second Amendment, but…”, oblivious that they immediately negated their position with one word. Adding “but” means that they do NOT support the Second Amendment; rather, an imaginary version of it that incorporates various infringements based on their individual preference. That is the opposite of the Second Amendment. In the same manner, saying, “I support freedom of speech, but…” means that you support limited and regulated speech. That is the opposite of free speech. The instant we pick and choose what expression of opinion is protected by freedom of speech, is the instant we lose freedom of speech.
As the purpose of this article is to help prevent good people from publicly discrediting themselves by making conflicting position statements, here are a few basic principles to consider when posting on controversial issues:
Make sure your statements are congruent with your beliefs. If you base your opinions on the Bible and the Constitution, you had better read and understand them. You will be easy prey for those who spot your weakness if you skip this important step. Does your position on the issue at hand conflict with any of your prior comments? If so, you can expect to have your own words used against you. By having a solid core belief system, based on facts, you will build a philosophy that will be difficult to assail.
Know why you believe what you believe. Opinions voiced in public will undergo scrutiny from a LARGE audience. If you don’t understand the base concepts behind your opinions, you will be ripped to virtual shreds. Have a battle plan for follow-on posts, consider the typical counters to your opinion, and argue them out in your head. If you don’t have a solid factual base for your opinions, take care not to present them as facts.
Don’t post angry. Think calmly about your whole message before you post and be careful not to stoop to making personal attacks. Personal attacks are a sure sign of a lost argument. If the conversation gets you heated, allow for a cooling off period before posting. A good way to do this is by starting a reply in Notepad, and seeing if you still want to post it a half-hour later. The nature of the internet allows this delayed response, so take advantage of it – don’t ever let yourself feel rushed into making an angry reply. Having to edit hasty posts calls your whole comment into question, so take your time and get it right before you hit ‘post’. Posting mad will inevitably lead to compromising your integrity.
Instead of anger, base your opinions on love. Instead of hating the flag stompers, love liberty. Instead of hating Mohammed cartoonists, love the First Amendment. Instead of hating your political opposition, love God and pray that they may act in accordance with His will. When we hate, we make it easy for others to hate us back. Instead, act out of love. It empowers us with righteous resolve and confuses the hell out of our opposition.
When in doubt, don’t post! I’ll often use Notepad to compose my post, so I don’t accidentally lose my work in a browser crash, or worse, make a partial post before I am ready to commit. This gives me a chance to check it over a few times. There will be occasions where you will decide to NOT post a comment you have been working on. At least 25% of the posts I’ve started writing were never sent. Do a cost/benefit analysis of your comment. Will it likely accomplish your objective? Will there be personal repercussions? Is it worth it to you? If there is any doubt, DON’T post. I am positive this policy has saved me untold grief.
We are in a war of opinions where the nation is divided on every issue at every level. It makes no sense to hand our opposition ammunition to shoot back at us. Always maintain your integrity and live to post another day.