It has long been my position that freedom of speech trumps everything. That negative and harmful speech should be countered with positive speech of our own, with arguments and rebuttal, rather than with censorship. Because censorship can backfire. It can lead to feelings of persecution complex and martyrdom, and that in turn could further radicalize the very people we’re trying to protect ourselves from.
On the other hand, that perspective has always assumed a certain reasonableness on both sides, a willingness to hear each other out and respond civilly, to engage with one another in an intellectually honest way.
The past year or so has taught me that this is not the case. The other side is not arguing in good faith. They have no desire to entertain our arguments or to listen to our reasoning. They have no interest in a meeting of the minds. They want only to win at all costs, to trample the freedoms of those not like them.
My old tactic of challenging bigotry with logic and reason, I’ve found that it just doesn’t work. We need to try a new avenue of attack.
And I think Joe might be slightly on to something.
You do raise a perfectly valid objection, of course. I don’t think it’s something we can legislate or criminalize. I won’t go so far as to agree with Joe on that point.
But early in his article, there’s a line that I might agree with: “We should absolutely disassociate with [bigotry] on the personal level, disowning intolerant extremists as people who are no friends of ours.”
And maybe that’s what it’s going to take. Disowning friends and family members who express these views. Maybe we need to stop tolerating this bullshit just for the sake of getting along at Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe it’s time we start doing more to call these people out. Maybe it’s time we start cutting these people out of our lives, and show them that their bigotry comes at a price.