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Changing minds or useless conversations?

by Nolwenn Bouillé April 3, 2018
Changing minds or useless conversations?

Steven Crowder’s YouTube series falls flat in debating serious issues and sparking real discussions

Set up a table, two chairs and a mic. Finish off the video with a strong statement, and you’ve got yourself the key ingredients Steven Crowder needs to engage in conversations with strangers. In his YouTube series “Real Conversations,” the comedian, actor and political commentator sits in public spaces and invites people to change his mind on “hot-button issues” as he calls them. But, does he really want his mind changed?

Obviously not. Crowder’s “change my mind” statement is just a way to capture an audience’s attention. The goal is clearly to defend his own point of view by confronting people and winning the argument. It seems like a clever way of presenting his ideas. The concept of the videos would be quite impressive if his intent was sincere and fair, but it’s not.

First of all, it’s his own show. Crowder is comfortable in front of the camera and microphone. He is much more relaxed than the people he confronts; he often makes jokes to get the upper hand and mocks the person he is arguing with. As for the content, Crowder obviously knows the topics in advance, since it would be difficult to argue as he does otherwise. He often brings up points that were clearly researched beforehand. He also memorizes statistics and figures. If each person Crowder faced benefitted from the same preparation, it would be fair. But when he is the only one with the chance to prepare, he is simply showing off. Furthermore, Crowder could easily reveal his sources in the description below the video, but they are nowhere to be seen.

In the “Male privilege is a myth” episode, a woman in the crowd claims his numbers are wrong, but she isn’t invited to talk to Crowder. Herein lies another problem. Although the conversations are unedited and uncut, we can presume Crowder chooses which arguments make it online. It’s likely only winning arguments will be posted, not conversations that show him in a bad light. Given Crowder’s obvious intent with these videos, why would he upload one of him losing an argument? As he states in one of his videos: “Sometimes people will not change their mind, and there is nothing you can do.” Crowder seems to be one of these people.

Watching someone who has an opposite point of view to yours win an argument with such obvious advantages is incredibly frustrating. So it must be really satisfying to those who share Crowder’s views. However, I don’t think his videos bring us anything more than this frustration or satisfaction. If you take a look at the comment sections of his videos, many people point out Crowder’s unfair rehearsal and some even take the time to debunk several of his arguments. To me, these videos are not “productive” debates as Crowder describes them. He’s playing a game and merely trying to look smart.

Talking with people who hold different views can be interesting and is necessary to bridge gaps and broaden our understanding of the world. However, to actually be productive, both sides have to be honest about their intentions. Being right should not be the goal of the conversation, because it forces people to adamantly defend their ideas instead of learning and understanding another person’s perspective.

The subjects Crowder tries to cover are complex and involve a broad spectrum of ideas, elements and facts. I don’t think a single one-on-one conversation without sincere intentions and verifiable facts would help in any way. I don’t see Crowder’s series of videos as productive in any way—I see them as useless.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

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