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Belize’s online Israel-Palestine discourse

LettersBelize’s online Israel-Palestine discourse

Wed. Nov. 22, 2023

Dear Editor,

Online American political discourse has been a part of my life since about 2019 when I was sixteen or so, which is why I can say that Belize’s shift to American-style online political debate has been a recent source of anxiety for me. My current worries came to me after an interaction I had on Instagram regarding Belize’s stance on the Israel-Palestine issue; my position was that the decision seems to have been hasty and that those applauding the decision generally do not seem educated on the complexities of geopolitical matters in the Middle East. Upon even a cursory examination of the current issue, one quickly begins to realize that the Israel-Palestine issue is very complicated; my plea in the post ended with an appeal to epistemic humility, since our moral and intellectual superiors are on both sides.

Accusations of fascism and racism very quickly came my way. While none of this was new to me, as I’ve been in the business of novitiate online politics for a while, seeing issues discussed in this manner in Belize was. While sophistry and ad hominem attacks have probably been in Belize’s political discourse from its beginning, the use of obviously leftist online versions of these fallacies presents a unique, albeit expected in hindsight, problem.

These particular leftist attacks are born from a dangerous mixture of proto-authoritarianism and collectivism. Let’s start with the authoritarianism part: I find that most Palestine-supporting Belizeans online, at least those I’ve interacted with, have a strong tendency to disregard the wishes and will of others in the country due to a belief in the supremacy of their ideology. The logical structure of the arguments against their position, and even the composition of their explanations, seem to matter very little; what matters is that the Government and people act as instruments of their will and accept the moral superiority of their arguments.

This previous argument leads perfectly to my second point: the collectivism of all this online discussion. To understand where this collectivism comes from, first, we must analyze a modern intuition that has seemed to infiltrate Belize: if you stand with the victim, you’re morally righteous. So, what this tends to create, which is not exclusive to leftism, is an atmosphere where adherence to the heuristic allows one to receive praise from large swaths of the online left; this causes a sort of groupthink regarding social issues where there is an imbalance of power, so to fit in with the [group] one must observe the previously-mentioned intuition.

And here lies the danger of this recent incident; it points to an authoritarian attitude that will begin to permeate Belize—the belief that one person or group of people can strong-arm the masses because they are morally or intellectually superior to others. This attitude runs sharply counter-intuitive to our country’s sensibilities. Our Government’s corruption, while not the greatest, pales in comparison to the moral danger that is bound to occur if these attitudes begin to permeate the wider Belizean society.

P.D. Herbert

(AMANDALA Ed. Note: Have no fear, brother Herbert, Belizeans’ open-mindedness cannot be easily muzzled or controlled. As we say in Kriol, “bigga circus cohn ya an bruk up”.)

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