Milo Yiannopoulos‘s rise and flameout remind me of people who justify saying deliberately provocative and even outrageous calumnies with an excuse like “I’m just trying to make you think by shocking you out of your old, hidebound habits of mind.”
But for a lot of people, including me, shock and outrage usually don’t lead to thinking — at least not sensible, smart, clear or rational thinking.
I rarely respond to vicious, monstrous slurs by saying, “Golly, I never thought of it that way. Let me reconsider my ideas in the fresh light of your point of view.” Usually, outrage leads to defensiveness and counter-attack: “You said WHAT about something I like? Well, you’re a SHIT!”
Even when outrage does trigger people to think, they usually look for thoughts that justify and rationalize their own viewpoint. The provocateur’s ugliness brings no one to his side.
In addition, “I’m just trying to make you think” is insulting. It implies that the provocateur’s audience isn’t thinking already — that the audience is so dull-minded that only the provocateur’s verbal violence can wake it.
You want to shake someone out of an old viewpoint? Use kindness and fondness. People who’ve dropped their prejudices against races, religions, and sexual lives often did it by getting to know and like people of other races, religions, and sex lives.
It beats the hell out of tweeting smears and insults.