I’ve found that in writing and voicing your opinion on current events, even when just attempting to provide clarification or minor correction, is meet with general hostility and often some choice four letter words. This contrasts well with the discussion of history, specifically the attitudes that historical players have held.
Let’s begin with an example: if I were to see a social media post about the beliefs held by Germans under Adolf Hitler concerning his racist policies, I would take an interest in that particular post. If you were to then rhetorically (which is not what the population of the Internet typically adhere to) ask a question along the lines of, “How could people believe that a race of people were fundamentally inferior to another?”
Suppose I were to weigh in and cite the so-called scientific data that “proved” that the Aryan race had greater intellectual abilities. The study of eugenics was used to support racist policies; that much is fact. Read about that here.
Would you then accuse me of harboring those same views? Of course not! At least I hope not. I mean, I do not know you readers personally so I probably should not speak for you. My apologies.
But suppose the original post was on something a little more current, like gun control, abortion, affirmative action, universal healthcare, war, oil and coal versus green energy, same-sex marriage, religion in government, or global warming? The list goes on and on.
As an aspiring historian, I strive to represent voices from the past in an honest manner. I could completely disagree, but I cannot consider what I write to be fair unless I represent my historical figures truthfully and in context.
So why are people so much more willing to accuse people of fully backing a belief they only wish to clarify?
I blame the Internet culture. Do not get me wrong; I love the Internet. It just is plain to see that while behind a keyboard, people become much more hostile. One of the hardest things for us to do is to use our historical empathy in our personal lives, giving every position and opinion an honest judgment.
In closing, I urge all of you readers to not hastily jump to conclusions and give everyone (no matter how abhorrent you find their opinion) the benefit of the doubt and the chance to explain themselves. After that, feel free to refute with facts.
Just be responsible about it.
~Nick the White