If you want to know how this happens—how the most engaged people can not only hate their opponents with white-hot hatred and also be fundamentally wrong about their beliefs and character—look no further than the tempest in a teacup about Mike Pence’s prayer…

Is a person with 20,000 Twitter followers representative of a large cultural groundswell? (That might sound like a lot but the most influential media figures and politicians have followers numbering in the hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions.) If so, then where are the other, more powerful voices making the same statements? Why not take on those with followings so large that their influence is undeniable?

And if we choose to use our own voice to elevate and critique Williams, can we do the due diligence to place his thoughts in context and provide our readers with a more-complete picture of the man? Can’t we humanize him rather than merely toss him to the online wolves?

Our public discourse is trapped in an outrage cycle. We look for tweets and comments that appear to confirm our worst fears about our opponents, and when we find an outrageous comment, we retweet it, quote it, and repeat it as “proof” that our fears were true. Here is the person who “said the quiet part out loud” or turned “subtext into text.” He’s “the left.” She’s “the right,” and with each salvo in the endless war we retreat farther and farther from the perspective we truly need.