Bastiat Jax tackles civil discourse on social media as debates heat up ahead of election

Bastiat Jax August announcement

Civil discourse is up front and center as debates on social media, and censorship of same, heat up ahead of the US presidential election in November. It’s common for people to praise or criticize candidates, but for many of us, discourse would be beneficial if it delved into matters like philosophy and policy. As someone whose career focuses on the arts, particularly filmmaking, Jared Rush who founded Third Man Entertainment was a perfect choice for speaker at the virtual meeting the Bastiat chapter in Jacksonville held on August 12.

What many of us are now seeing on sites like Facebook doesn’t just have to do with what you post—now criticism is directed at what you don’t post. How do we make sense of all this?

L to R Rebecca Day, Jared Rush Bastiat of Jacksonville
(L to R) Rebecca Day founder of the Jacksonville chapter of The Bastiat Society with Jared Rush of Third Man Entertainment. (Photo: Indie Art South)

Jared—we call him JRush affectionately because he is a family friend—is one of those individuals who doesn’t get mired down in party politics. For him the big debate involves subjects like taxation, personal liberty, and free markets. The bigger debates seem to trouble people as much as the party debates, though.

JRush is known widely for a simple statement he posts frequently—Taxation is theft. Those three words seem to trigger fans of big government more than any others. Jared said he recently had an exchange with a longtime friend about social media posts. What was unusual is that the friend criticized him as much for what he didn’t post as for what he did post.

Jared recalled debates about the administrations of former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Those debates seemed more rational. Then again, social media has grown globally since that time and often, we have no idea about the identity of the keyboard warrior attacking us.

Some of us walk a fine line when it comes to social media. I recall reading a comment by one woman who said she’d be more outspoken but she feared doing so would harm her business. I understand that completely. Those of us who work in the arts are expected to think a certain way, and that way is straight up party politics. Many of us have come to see how unproductive that approach is because few politicians seem to have real answers about sound governance and personal freedom.

Jared said when he saw his friend’s post, “a lot of reason went out the window.” He was upset about it. “Facebook is like my open journal,” he said, “to motivate and encourage.” He thought about it for a week or so, and then posted a response that was a combination of sarcasm and wordplay. “It was kind of like drawing him in and exposing what he was saying to me.“

Many of us have been in that situation if we rely on social media as part of our business endeavors. Sometimes it’s impossible to not get entangled in debates. I often see memes and statements that are absolutely false. Those statements come from all directions. How much good does this do anyone, really? Personally speaking, I think not much.

Missing from so much of today’s civil discourse are subjects that most of us care about. Personal liberty. Personal wealth. The right to live our lives as we see fit as long as we don’t harm another. Free trade—and I’m not talking about state gerrymandered trade.

Yet on social media so much of the discourse is back biting competition to promote one candidate or another. Jared came to a conclusion I agree with.

If you do respond, he said, “Respond in a way that is thought out. Don’t just get emotional. We have enough of that going on.”

Rebecca Day, my daughter who founded the Jax chapter of Bastiat, pointed out something important. So much of what is said on social media where people hide behind a keyboard would never be said to someone in person.

As November nears, it is likely heated rhetoric and partisan politics will dominate most social media sites. Personally speaking, I don’t think a single vote is changed by angry exchanges on social media. I do think votes can be changed by educating people, by sharing ideas, and by not looking at any country’s economic systems with rose colored glasses. As federal powers grow to control more and more of our lives, it’s important to keep our eyes on the big issues. We may think economic systems vesting all powers in government look attractive. But if the day comes when we capitulate to an all-powerful bureaucracy, it won’t matter who’s in the White House. Courtesy of legislation by bureaucratic regulatory fiat, we are almost at that point now.

What will matter is what happens in our own humble dwellings, and the grass on the other side that looked so green will have grown into a charred and devastated mess. 🙂

Learn more about Third Man Entertainment on Facebook.

Learn more about the Bastiat chapter in Jackonville.

(Kay B. Day/Aug. 14, 2020)

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