Back in the summer, actor Mark Duplass got in trouble for a controversial tweet. He didn't use the N-word or joke about pedophilia or accidentally post a link to porn. He encouraged people to follow a conservative pundit.
"Fellow liberals: If you are interested at all in 'crossing the aisle' you should consider following @benshapiro," Duplass wrote. "I don't agree with him on much but he's a genuine person who once helped me for no other reason than to be nice. He doesn't bend the truth. His intentions are good."
His fellow liberals were not convinced: Instead, they swarmed Duplass, pointing out all the genuinely ugly things Shapiro had said about Palestinians and transgender people and Trayvon Martin. In fact, Duplass and his liberal critics were both right. Duplass' belief that we should all try to get out of our ideological bubbles is a good one — especially as the electoral ugliness ramps up.
But if you're a liberal and want to be more open-minded to conservative arguments, you almost certainly shouldn't follow Ben Shapiro. Just like how if you're conservative, don't watch Keith Olbermann.
It's not that they never make good arguments. But they're far enough to the extreme and jerkish enough in their rhetoric that they're more likely to simply piss you off — strengthening your ideological bubble instead of popping it. The biggest danger with Twitter isn't that you don't see the views of the other side. It's that the other side looks like a bunch of assholes.
Want to be persuaded? Don't follow the jerks. Follow people who you'd actually hang out with. Follow people who you agree with on music, art and fashion, but disagree with on politics.
Seek out those who take a softer tone. Read the Washington Post's Elizabeth Bruenig if you want to understand socialists. Read the New York Times' Ross Douthat for a social-conservative perspective. Get the immigration debate by reading National Review's Reihan Salam on the right and Dara Lind. Find people with views just different enough from yours to crack open your Overton window without shattering it.
Twitter threads and op-eds usually don't change minds. It's the softer moments — the respectful coffee shop discussions between friends — that cause our minds to be ever so slightly more open to the opinions of others.
Notice that Duplass didn't say Shapiro persuaded him with one of those "Shapiro DESTROYS Snowflake College Lib" YouTube videos. It's when he was nice to Duplass, personally.
"Owning the libs" rarely persuades them. But being nice to them? That's eerily effective. ♦