All of this has implications for democracy. While disinformation and polemics may stimulate a broader public conversation about social concerns such as gun violence, the relative incivility of these narratives which included polemics and insults are unlikely to increase users’ tolerance to individuals’ championing opposing perspectives—which is an important precursor to consensus-building . Conversely, fact-based narratives, particularly those discussing May’s mental health, could assist in consensus-building regarding health care in America. Even the personal narratives shared by students may help those holding opposing points of view regarding issues such as gun control better understand one another insofar as these stories can help individuals find areas of unanticipated agreement. Disinformation, in short, is bad for political conversation, political debate and deliberative processes.
The United States has a unique problem with gun violence, but the solutions to this social problem are more complex than curving access to weapons of war. If we are truly committed to building a society free from all forms of violence, we cannot limit ourselves to proximal solutions. We must be honest about a fundamental source from which violence emerges in our culture: the socialization of boys and men.