We must listen to people we disagree with

Sometimes people we find toxic have important insights that we ignore at our own peril. Social media amplifies the obnoxiousness and the opportunity. Ryan Holiday says “I Tried to Expose Russia’s Media Manipulation Playbook in 2012 and Nobody Listened.”

“You don’t get infected when you interact with someone you disagree with—or have at times found obnoxious or offensive. In fact, you can usually learn something. Specifically: what makes them tick and how they do what they do (the latter being the most important).”

Author Ryan Holiday wrote that in an interview he did with right wing troll Mike Cernovich a year ago last month. He says he was criticized for interviewing people like Cernovich, but he even started that article out by saying he doesn’t agree with Cernovich and had forgotten that he’d blocked him on Twitter.

I’ll follow Holiday’s lead and say I don’t particularly care for Holiday, either. But he’s got some important things to say and we should listen to him. He had a long post on the Observer today titled I Tried to Expose Russia’s Media Manipulation Playbook in 2012 and Nobody Listened.

It’s all about how he’d been interviewing people gaming the internet and contemporary cultural tastes for years and had written a book about it and had faced wide criticism. People saying he was trying to ruin the internet for everyone.

“I was trying to ruin it for everyone! Because the system had become a rotting, stinking mess—one worse than anyone wanted to admit—and I wanted to put some sunshine on it.”

But we didn’t listen. The whole post is a good read.

I’ll admit I didn’t listen. I enjoyed part of Holiday’s book The Obstacle is the Way, but I’m reading his compatriot Mark Manson’s book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. And when Holiday says in the Observer today that people have called him “a douchebag” and that his consulting clients are “mostly harmless”…uh yeah, he’s a part of a bro-tastic clique like that who are hot right now. But do they have valuable things to say? Yes. Should we sometimes hold our noses and listen? Yes. Are they “mostly harmless?” No, I don’t think that’s the case. But that’s not the whole story, either.

In this same spirit, I just took my dog for a walk and listened to Gerry Gould of the Summit Community Church in Ontario, Canada give a powerful sermon on apocalyptic literature and the spiritual meaning of the book of Revelations. It’s something I’d never have chosen to listen to, I’ve got a pretty deep aversion to such things to tell the truth – but you know what? It was fascinating! It was interesting to learn how those Christians think about some things and it was just an interesting meditation on spiritual life. I went out of my way to listen through to the end.

You know how I found it? Through the very cool “random podcast episode” button on the podcast search engine Listen Notes. Check it out! Give it a click or two and find something you’d never have listened to otherwise. Your dog will appreciate it and you’ll be a better, more informed person for it. The internet is great like that. Arguably, new media’s always like that: check out these great excerpts from an analysis of the newspaper explosion around the American revolution.