Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Closing of the Liberal Mind

Another day, another denunciation of campus radicalism. This time, liberal commentator Fareed Zakaria takes college students and the universities that bred them to task—for their gross illiberality.

Whereas liberalism used to refer to freedom, especially freedom of thought and expression, today’s radicals refuse to tolerate any ideas that do not fit their belief system.

Obviously, these students are not liberal, in any sense of the word. They are radicals who want to impose their view on the world… and who refuse to hear any dissent or disagreement. One often suggests that submit their ideas to the verdict of the marketplace of ideas, but one knows that they are incapable of discussion and debate. They protest, they rant and rave because that is all they know how to do.

They ought not, Zakaria suggests, preach the gospel of tolerance when they are grossly intolerant of opposing views. One should add that their antics bespeak some very bad manners. Dispensing with decorum to score a political point makes them look like true believing cult followers. Why would any want to hire them:

Here are Zakaria’s thoughts, via Maggie’s Farm:

Fareed Zakaria said Saturday that though many liberals think they are tolerant, often they aren't.

Zakaria noted that "at the height of commencement season," many new graduates across the country had made their political views apparent, from the Notre Dame students who walked out as Vice President Mike Pence gave his commencement address to the crowd members who booed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos during a speech at Bethune-Cookman University.

"American universities seem committed to every kind of diversity except intellectual diversity. Conservative voices and views are being silenced entirely," Zakaria said.

The CNN host said he found this attitude strange, especially given that these incidents occurred on college campuses that "promised to give their undergraduates a liberal education."

"The word liberal in this context has nothing to do with today's partisan language, but refers instead to the Latin root, pertaining to liberty. And at the heart of liberty in the Western world has been freedom of speech. From the beginning, people understood that this meant protecting and listening to speech with which you disagreed," Zakaria argued.

That means, he said, not drowning out "the ideas that we find offensive."

In addition, Zakaria noted what he called "an anti-intellectualism" on the left.

"It's an attitude of self-righteousness that says we are so pure, we're so morally superior, we cannot bear to hear an idea with which we disagree," he said.

"Liberals think they are tolerant but often they aren't," he added.

No one, he continued, "has a monopoly on right or virtue."

In fact, it is only by being open to hearing opposing views that people on both sides of the political spectrum can learn something, Zakaria said.

"By talking seriously and respectfully about agreements and disagreements, we can come together in a common conversation," he said.

"Recognizing that while we seem so far apart, we do actually have a common destiny."


Ares Olympus said...

A good callout, if the illiberal left is listening.

I've heard it suggested that we should stop talking about conseratives and liberals, but rather say Right-wing and Left-wing. So we could name this topic "The closing of the Left Mind."

Bernie Sanders is Left populist voice, while he also has repeatedly tried calling out the weak minds on the left who seem to think shutting free speech of the opposition is progressive. Sanders well knows that the more you try to silence any side, you're actually giving them more attention, and risk making them appears as victims of your efforts.

It seems reasonable for individuals to boycott listening speakers they dislike, but its much harder to defend positions that say speakers should be banned from speaking, or drowned out with noisy protests.

The only clear limit to free speech I see is speech that advocates violence against a person or group. Or even if you call an abortion doctor a murder, you may be encouraging vigilante or mob "justice". Or even doing things like sharing someone's address or phone number to encourage others to harrass them.

But those are more liability arguments - you're free to condemn, as long as your conscience is ready to carry responsibility for the consequences, and possible criminal charges for inciting violence.

The chaos in Trump's campaign rallies shows problems in both directions, both sides trying to provoke the other side to act badly. But it's most dangerous (in legal liability) for people in positions of authority to encourage assault against protestors.

The whole problem is we're all "weak" when we take something personally, so even holding up a sign or an obcene hand gesture can provoke emotionally unstable people to strike out, while 99% of others on that side can remain calm and peaceful, they can all be judged by their weakest members.

I don't know if we can separate "Freedom of speech" from "Freedom to troll weak people." It seems better to teach self-control than to imagine we can control the trolls without doing more harm than good.

Sam L. said...

I am amazed; I did not expect this from Zacharia.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

None of us did... I take as a sign that the new Red Guards have gotten completely out of control.

James said...

He's trying to get out ahead of the hammer that's coming.

Sam L. said...

The Left will turn on Zacharia.

Ares Olympus said...

Sam L. said... The Left will turn on Zacharia.

Most of the repostings are from gleeful right-wingers, having validation for their pity party. Now that they control all levels of government, self-pity is important.

I saw one lefty reposted this in a comment.
Public service announcement: The right to free speech means the government can't arrest you for what you say.

It doesn't mean than anyone else has to listen to your BS, or host it while you share it.

The first amendment doesn't shield you from criticism or consequences.

If you're yelled at, boycotted, have your show canceled, or get banned from an internet community, your free speech rights aren't being violated.

It's just that the people listening think you're an asshole, and they're showing you the door.

Case in point, Kathy Griffin:
CNN is cutting ties with comedian Kathy Griffin after she was photographed posing with a model of President Trump's head covered in blood.

You can protest, and you can lose your social standing. So make sure you choose your protests wisely.

Anonymous said...

The Left - Right distinction is from the French Revolution. Pedantically - Rich Lara