My Unpopular Perspective

I disagree vehemently with a lot of people about their beliefs. I detest the repugnant philosophies of the KKK.  I find offensive the claims by some groups of men who insist that equal protection laws target men with the purpose of subjecting men to slavery by radical feminists. I am disgusted with people who insist that the Civil War was not about slavery but about States’ rights. But reacting to those philosophies and the people who hold them by stripping them of their ability to say what they think is contrary to the principles of democracy and the principles upon which the United States was founded. I have mixed feelings about giving a microphone to people whose words could promote or actually incite violence. But I think the excuse of snatching that microphone away to deter violence is too often a cover for silencing unpopular ideas. I loathe the idea that protected speech applies only to speech that espouses ideas with which we agree. That, in my view, is simply an “acceptable” form of forced conformity—mob rule disguised as democracy. It is hypocrisy of the highest order. Unfortunately, anti-democratic actions in the name of protecting human dignity are enjoying a monstrous upsurge. Silencing conservative viewpoints by refusing to allow conservative pundits to speak on liberal collect campuses seems increasingly to be in the news. The way to combat offensive rhetoric is not to silence it. The way to combat it is to forcefully argue against it, using honesty, logic, and an appeal to the deepest parts of humanity.

Whoopi Goldberg’s suspension from co-hosting The View (even after her apology and retraction) bothers me. She was castigated for saying the Holocaust was about man’s inhumanity to man and not about race. Before her censure, she said this:

“But I thought it was a salient discussion because as a Black person, I think of race as being something that I can see. So I see you and know what race you are…I thought it [the Holocaust] was more about man’s inhumanity to man…But people were very angry and said, ‘No, no, we are a race.’ I felt differently. I respect everything everyone is saying to me.”

Whether I buy her philosophy or her apology or not, I think stripping her of her ability to express her views is more offensive than any views she might have expressed.  In my opinion, Kim Godwin’s (president of ABC News) reaction to the controversy was more about bending to slanted public opinion than about “morality.” Godwin took the side of censorship. A principled leader who had the courage of her convictions might have, instead, said, “I find Whoopi Goldberg’s statements deeply offensive, but I find even more offensive the idea of silencing her because she disagrees with me. ” Or something to that effect.

Oh, I have been guilty of wanting to silence people (and calling for them to be silenced). But when I think, deeply, about what that means, I cannot help but be ashamed for behaving in such a brutally anti-democratic fashion. I absolutely abhor philosophies that I find offensive and dangerous and contrary to principles of human decency. But my distaste for those philosophies should not give me the latitude to suppress them. I should have to use my superior powers of logic to defend my position and to overcome the one I find offensive.

I find suppression of Whoopi Goldberg and the refusal to allow speakers (whether progressive or conservative) on college campus fundamentally wrong. It is, in my view, equivalent to book burning. And THAT, I believe, is the definition of evil.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to My Unpopular Perspective

  1. David, my point is not meant to lament the denial of a right so much as it is to show my contempt for the suppression of dissenting opinions. I would certainly agree that outright lies and dangerous ought to be called out and, perhaps, censored. But silencing dissenters by bullying them shows contempt for the concept of democracy, freedom of expression, and the legitimacy of dissenting opinions, in my book.

  2. David says:

    I have to disagree with you on this one. Free speech is not denied to someone who is barred from speaking from a PLATFORM created by others for economic purposes. Twitter and FB did not violate Trump’s freedom of speech…they simply refused to hand him a microphone that THEY HAD PAID FOR. Same with Whoppi. Though I agree with her…Judiasm is NOT A RACE…there is no discrimination or denial of free speech here…she is free to speak. Just not in front of millions of people thar her employer provided.

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