This article appeared in the April 24, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Overcoming outrage: surprising lessons from a Twitter war

Elise Amendola/AP/File
Social media can be an incubator for outrage and fractious debate. But it can open eyes too.

Very quickly, Justin Wolfers realized that his tweet had not gone according to plan. Earlier this month, the economist had meant to say that good sociologists are needed to better shape vital policy discussions. Instead, he’d basically called them all lazy.

It’s what happened next, however, that makes this a story worth sharing.

Some people responded with “gleeful outrage.” This had the effect of hardening his resolve and didn’t persuade him, Mr. Wolfers added in a later tweet. Some, however, pushed him to do better, asking if he understood how his words hurt causes and people he cared about. It was the latter group, he said, who convinced him he was wrong.

Not only that, they changed him more deeply. “It’ll shape how I try to win arguments,” he said, adding that a friend “says to treat people with love, even when they’re wrong.”

One of the most momentous and overlooked findings of the 20th century is that nonviolence works far better than violence. Mr. Wolfers’ aborted Twitter war suggests we can marinate in that lesson even more deeply. Democratic institutions the world over are doing an admirable job of driving down levels of physical violence. But toxic discourse on social media and in politics suggests a next frontier for progress might be in finding ways to practice nonviolence not only in action, but in thought and speech.

Now, here are our five stories for today. We examine why politics struggles to deal with the gray areas of ethics, how the Texas Legislature is debating conservatism’s course ahead, and whether it’s right to save an iconic tree from extinction.

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This article appeared in the April 24, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 04/24 edition