There is a relatively new social phenomenon that has appeared in recent years, fueled in particular by social media and online video platforms: “debate me” culture.
Also known as “debate me bros,” there are various online figures who — often with nefarious intentions — seek out “debate,” both online and in the real world.
The strategy itself is ingenious. If the target of “debate” accepts, then a low-risk opportunity for notoriety is provided with which the “debate me bro” can promote their own ideologies, usually in front of an audience much larger than their own. If the target of “debate” declines, then the “debate me bro” can claim hypothetical victory by repacking such refusal as ideological cowardice on the part of their opponent.
Of course, this tactic ignores the obvious reality that every individual has the right to freedom of association, and there is no God-given right to social interaction — or the platform which someone else has built.
However, its application is hugely effective for those who exist in the arena of attention-seeking stunts. For them, debate is not the goal. It is simply the artificial veil used to hide their hungry desire for notoriety at any cost.
Such an attempt was on full display as H3H3’s Ethan Klein labeled conservative commentator Steven Crowder a “coward” after Sam Seder crashed Klein’s “debate,” with the host of “Louder with Crowder” understandably refusing to engage in a debate following the “bait and switch.” After all, would you be expected to continue a date if your partner was replaced half way through the evening?
This obvious — and arguably pathetic — desperation for attention is, unfortunately, an extreme example of what debates have become. Long gone are the days of substantive discussions on actual issues. Instead, a debate is now little more than an opportunity to gain attention for oneself by any means necessary. If this can be achieved without even discussing the supposed “debate issues,” all the better.
This isn’t to say that true debates are now impossible. Long-form discussions between two honest parties acting in good-faith can still happen. However, such events don’t achieve the necessary outcomes for many who exist in the short-term and reactionary world we now occupy.
To understand this reality, we must ask how debates are now judged. For the vast majority of mainstream public debates in recent history, what were the metrics we used to determine the victor? Rather than being a measured assessment of which participant put forward the clearest and most convincing formulation of their ideological position, we view debate “winners” as the person who achieved their “viral” moment, as the person who “owned” their opponent. In other words, the “winner” is the person who was able to make their opponent look like the biggest jackass.
While this may seem advantageous for those who seek to climb the ladder of fame through such actions, the inevitable losers are those who still look to the debate platform as a way of allowing “correct” viewpoints to rise above “incorrect” viewpoints.
Until the metrics of our public debates encourage objective and good-faith conversation, as opposed to standing as opportunities for snide and insidious “gotcha” moments, I for one will not be participating.
Ian Haworth is an Editor and Writer for The Daily Wire. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.