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The Internet and Righteous Anger

Alan Jacobs's The Online State of Nature: Why has Internet discourse devolved into a "war of every man against every man" The Online State of Nature
The Internet and Righteous Anger

Alan Jacobs, Wheaton College professor of English and prolific author, has given us a short, stellar discussion of why people get so hostile online, caring less about making reasonable arguments than they do about shouting more engagingly. He thinks it is “primarily because we live in a society with a hypertrophied sense of justice and an atrophied sense of humility and charity, to put the matter in terms of the classic virtues.” Jacobs discusses the tendency of the Internet to appeal to our unfortunate growing sense that all meaningful victories in life are political ones—politics is the realm of justice after all—while other people in other ages held that the victories of love, of self-giving, or humility were the primary ones, even—perhaps especially—in public discourse. Quoting great thinkers from Samuel Johnson to Wendell Berry, Jacobs makes a magnificent case.

View the article at Big Questions Online

Discussion questions for “Why has Internet discourse…”

  1. What do you think of Jacobs’ conclusion, quoted in the paragraph above?
  2. Do you think the Internet inherently moves us to the sense of self-righteousness described in Jacobs’ article? If not, why is so much discussion there so heated and so personally centered? If so, why do you think that is so?
  3. Discuss the cartoon referred to in Jacobs’ article (and reproduced alongside it). What are its implications?
  4. What are other examples of truth being compromised by too high an elevation of justice over love in our social dialogue?

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