If you’ve never watched an episode of The Newsroom, you should. If your ideals are more progressive, you’ll find it affirming and inspiring. Even if they’re not, the issues raised in the story will make you think. Even if you don’t want to think, the cast is stellar and Aaron Sorkin’s writing is hard to hate. Just do yourself a favor, and give it a couple episodes.
But regardless, you should follow Will McAvoy on Twitter. In the show, Will McAvoy is the main character – a media stalwart who “goes off the reservation” by refusing to play it safe in his reporting at the encouragement of an old love and colleague. On Twitter, he’s a damn force of nature. He nearly religiously engages in debates with the Twitterverse on important political and social issues, blending snark, facts and argument in a seamless tapestry of awesome. His patience with those who never really wanted to engage to begin with is monumental.
I’ll just point out one example, so you’ve got an idea of what I’m talking about:
So what? You might say. So he picks a fight with a few trolls on Twitter. What does it matter?
That might be a fair observation. Frankly, if you follow him, and you really pay attention to some of the exchanges taking place, it’s hard to deny that the odds of him convincing his sparring partners that they are even 1% incorrect are probably slim to none. But that’s not why the debates are important. What’s important is how he impacts spectators: skeptics and advocates alike.
Maybe he can’t change the minds of those who are set in their ways, but there are others following him, his followers, and his debate partners that are probably not as set in their ways. When McAvoy engages in the debates in a reasonable manner that is measured and respectful (most of the time – when he snaps, it’s with good reason), he DOES have the chance to influence the beliefs of those watching the debate unfold. That doesn’t mean he changes their minds necessarily, and he doesn’t need to do so. All he needs to do is make them start asking questions. Change is a slow process, but conversations like the ones McAvoy participates in can serve as a catalyst in moving that process forward.
He also presents an excellent model of engagement for advocates on the issues. When you’re passionate about something, it can become all consuming. It gets difficult to engage with people who may seem irrational or who refuse to participate in the conversation to a productive end. But it’s important to have those conversations anyway. When you engage rationally and respectfully (again, where merited), you have a better chance of having your message heard, both by the intended recipient and those watching on the sidelines. McAvoy is uniquely skilled in this capacity, and we could all do with taking a page out of his playbook.
It’s sort of unsettling to have such admiration for a fictional character in social media. But fiction, at its best, pushes us to be more than we are. To this end, bravo, Mr. McAvoy. Bravo.