The Poison of Silence

In a 1969 speech, Richard Nixon used the existence of a “silent majority” as evidence of support for his Vietnam policies. The silent majority was supposedly a group who were not protesting against the war in Vietnam or openly supporting the counter-culture movement.

History has called Nixon’s contention about these people into question, but that brilliant little piece of marketing propaganda has not been forgotten and the myth of the Silent Majority is still used today as validation by proponents of objectionable, unpopular and dangerous views.

Anyone brave or unlucky enough to venture into the uglier corners of the Internet will easily find assertions from extremists of every stripe that the majority of people agree with them, but are afraid to come forward for fear of their lives and livelihoods.  They consider a lack of open opposition to their positions as tacit approval.  This is, absurd, but you will never dissuade such minds of their logic.

This creates two major problems; the lack of support for these people, to them, translates to a huge underground nascent movement. They also take any expression of like attitudes as validation for, what are in many cases, violent beliefs.

We created this situation and we can resolve it.

At some point in the recent past we forgot how to debate. Not shouting and name calling, but civil discourse, reasoned disagreement and considered oration – they seem a rare and endangered form of communication. Even in the places they do exist, attempts are made to disrupt and destabilize this type of exchange as if attempted rationality was a dangerous thing to be prevented at all costs.

In 1969 and other times, it was not a simple matter for the majority to make themselves heard coherently on difficult subjects. We have no such excuse today. So why when a TV  panel talk show’s hosts make shallow statements about nurses does the Internet flare-up righteously, yet when presidential candidates say obviously misleading and untrue things does the net merely smolder? Simple – the Nursing community used its voice loudly, clearly, relentlessly and unflinchingly. 

The unfortunate time has come when we can no longer just shake our heads and click-away to someplace else. Thumbs down, star ratings and dislike buttons produce numbers, not views, rebuttal or outrage.  Digitally turning our backs is perceived as validation by desperately unsocialized or manipulative people of our world. Silence is food for the worst voices of our world and it is potentially poisonous for the rest of us.


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