The Culture War on Twitter

I’ve been sort of watching the train wreck that is William Shatner’s twitter feed for a while now, and I’m trying to wrap my head around the all out flame-war between Shatner and varied people who want him to take back his opinion on the American Library Association’s removal of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from an award it presents occasionally.

Shatner originally said he thought the removal was bad decision. Later on in the multiple tweets that were exchanged between him and several others, including literary scholars and librarians, he clarified that he appreciated the reasoning behind the decision, but that the execution of it was handled badly. In his words, the ALA could have chosen to simply retire the award, and start a new one under a new name, rather than publicly “shaming” an author whose 19th century perspectives on race didn’t align with 2018 perspectives.

Along the way, he angered more than a few women scholars who were taking him to task.

The whole thing fascinates me because of the convergence of different spheres in my world–the Laura Ingalls Wilder community warring with the Star Trek community warring with the #immodestwomen movement all at once.

I’m fascinated and bothered, because at the core for each group? They’re all saying the same thing.

History shouldn’t be forgotten. The Wilder books should not be read in a vacuum, but with guided discussion on historical context about race and culture. Star Trek did groundbreaking work in countering racism, but didn’t go as far as some in 2018 would prefer. Women scholars deserve their accolades and achievements.

But the sheer inability for any of the parties involved to really “hear” what the others were saying–especially points of agreements–makes me wonder if folks really just like to argue, or if they genuinely don’t understand the commonalities in their arguments.

At any rate, I’m going to continue to watch the train wreck. I’d urge people involved in the culture war to look for commonalities, if they can. But I worry that the sheer cognitive dissonance involved for some may make that impossible.

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