Rebecca Roache, lecturer in Philosophy at Royal Holloway, caused controversy the day after the General Election. In her post, “If you’re a Conservative, I’m not your friend”, on the University of Oxford’s Practical Ethics blog, she writes that she unfriended those on Facebook who had liked the pages of the Conservatives or of David Cameron.
She writes that “life is too short, I thought, to hang out with people who hold abhorrent political views, even if it’s just online” comparing Conservatives views with racism, sexism, and homophobia.
In spite of this, contextually, the General Election was an emotionally charged evening. Roache recognises this, and states that although she values political debate, at the moment she is “tired of reasoned debate about politics—at least for a day or two.” Yet this politically charged post is a philosophical underpinning that needs to be unpicked.
Roache writes, “‘engaging in political debate’ and ‘revising one’s political views in the light of rational argument’ are themselves hallmarks of liberal thinking, but not of conservative thinking. Conservatives, traditionally, base much of their politics on gut feelings or intuitions.” For Roache, this logically leads to the conclusion that “the hope—expressed by some liberals—that political change can happen by keeping debate open is somewhat optimistic, and perhaps even deluded.”
Roache makes a distinction between Conservatives (or supporters of the Conservative Party, who according to Roache tend also to be Conservatives), Conservatives who may or may not be Conservatives, and liberals. For Roache, engaging in political debate with Conservatives with the intention to persuade them to revise their political views in light of rational argument will not be effective since Conservatives base their politics on intuition rather than reason. To clarify this point, in her response, Roache postulates that disengaging with conservatives is “a way of continuing the political argument, rather than as a way of ending it.”
For this reason, Roache unfriended her Tory contacts on Facebook. Instead of appealing to their senses of reason, she aims their emotions. Roache hopes to make Conservatives feel socially isolated by likening their views to racism, sexism, homophobia, and other views that make one lose friends and respect. The purpose of disengagement is to socially discourage people from holding or expressing Conservative views.
What are your thoughts about the article? Is it acceptable to ‘unfriend’ and distance yourself from people who have opposing political views to yours? Are Roache’s opinions agreeable or not? We’d love to hear your opinion on this at theorbital.co.uk/
Roache’s original post can be found at: http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2015/05/if-youre-a-conservative-im-not-your-friend/