I naturally take a moderate stance on pretty much everything, unless of course, you want to argue about something. What this means is I become more extreme when I’m challenged because I tend to defend the side I identify with most even though my true belief usually sits somewhere near the middle.
I remember walking along the boardwalk in Ocean City, MD a number of years back when I was approached by a PETA representative who wanted to talk about the abhorrent conditions of chickens kept in captivity before they are slaughtered and sold in restaurants and stores.
His proposed solution to the chicken captivity problem, which seemed entirely reasonable to him, was for society as a whole to completely stop eating chickens and he got defensive when I chuckled at that suggestion. I told him that I agreed with him the conditions, which I was able to observe from the large pictures on the signs they had everywhere, did look horrible, and I felt chickens should probably be taken care of better before, you know, they’re slaughtered and eaten.
Where we diverged was I felt it might be unreasonable to expect everyone in the world to stop eating chickens entirely since they are a delicious bird that people love to eat. I also suggested his time would be better spent trying to find ways to improve the living conditions of the chickens rather than trying to set all the chickens free. Soon after we parted ways, ultimately agreeing to disagree on how to solve the chicken problem.
While I think, traditionally, there were lots of inhabitants in the land of moderation at the middle of the line, it seems that people just don’t want to compromise on anything anymore, and it seems to be getting worse and worse with each and every year, people are clustering to their respective side and refusing to venture towards the middle for any reason.
Something Awful, talking about groups like Furries, blamed the internet for this trend:
In the endless expanse of communications the Internet is, probably the greatest and most terrible gift it offers to furries, pedophiles, and others, is the ability to shut themselves off from the mainstream. They huddle in cloisters that are virtually unassailable by the outside world and whisper encouraging things to one another that would be nearly impossible to say in real life. Free from the pressures of society to conform to a boring standard they go in the exact opposite direction, externalizing things that are roughly as far from "normal" as can be expected. Then, within their protected virtual enclaves, they declare these things to be the norm. By declaring their perversions, mores, and general imbecility to be their own status quo they have simultaneously validated their own existence and demonstrated the inferiority of outsiders.
When you can surround yourself with a community that only shares your beliefs, you have a recipe for killing any and all compromise, why should I ever try and see your point of view when all my peeps over here are yelling and screaming that you suck? Add on top of that the ease at which you can hurl insults with relative anonymity and little repercussions means it’s much easier for any discourse to fall victim to Godwin’s law than for anyone to ever change their mind.
No one has ever truly changed their position under force. Publicly shaming someone might get them to quiet down, but I guarantee it won’t get them to change their mind, as observed by this comment on Hacker news by Joel Runyon:
It's ironic that people are intolerant of intolerance.
I get the 'tit for tat' argument, but if you're trying to get rid of an oppressive opinion by being oppressive, you're not really getting anywhere.
You can't really "force" anyone to believe anything. If you have to "make" someone believe something by force, then it doesn't seem like your argument is strong enough to stand on your own (a statement that's applicable to both sides of this debate).
While I don’t have any concrete suggestions for how to persuade someone to your side, I do offer this thought experiment that I’ve noodled on every now and again since the tragic events of September 11th, 2001. What if George Bush, instead of declaring war with these words:
And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.
From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.
Had instead said something like this:
We don’t condone what you have done, but we forgive you!
Do you think the last 13 years would’ve been any different?