Sean MacEntee, Flickr
“Healthcare is a human right.”*
It was a common refrain for Senator Bernie Sanders and his progressive supporters during his ill-fated presidential campaign last year. Like his progressive base, Sanders advocates for a single-payer government-run healthcare system as the best way to secure this right.
Seattle resident Ben Foster used to share Sanders’s vision for improving the American healthcare system. But he changed his mind after he encountered a “particularly witty” comment on Facebook mocking the idea of positive rights from his acquaintance Annie Kist.
According to Mr. Foster’s account of the extents, he had just shared an insightful analysis on the healthcare debate from Think Progress, which modestly argued, amongst other things, that healthcare is in fact a basic human right and that Republicans may consume the hearts of the uninsured as a delicacy at private events.
Ms. Kist was one of the first to comment on the post writing:
TFW someone says a positive right exists #amirite lol
Mr. Foster, who had never heard this line of argument, thought she might indeed be “rite” and replied. What followed was a long thread of inquiry and discussion on the libertarian theory of positive and negative rights, a discussion that frequently tested Facebook’s austere 3,000 character limit on individual posts.
Mr. Foster told The DFP that he was surprised that the conversation never degenerated into vicious and pointless cacophony of name-calling and spite that results in one party unfollowing or unfriending the other. “After the first joke in good faith, it evolved into a really productive and civil exchange of ideas,” Foster said, adding that it was “totally worth it” to stay up until 2 AM PST to finish hashing things out.
Social media researchers who spoke to The DFP on the condition of anonymity for no obvious reason, said Mr. Foster was right to be surprised about the productive nature of the discussion. They estimate that this may be only the second documented case of a fruitful political conversation occurring on Facebook among people with different ideological perspectives.
“I used to think my political opponents were greedy monsters that were intent on literally killing poor people so that millionaires could have a small tax break,” Mr. Foster told The DFP, expressing a view similar to that held by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and other leading progressives.
“But now I know some people just view politics primarily through a deontological lens and are trying to uphold consistent principles.”
*This is a satirical post. With the exception of the general slogan attributed to Bernie Sanders, which is real, the remaining quotations and events described are fictional.