There’s an old saying with multiple variations:
One topic, two Jews, you’ll get three opinions in four minutes.
Now of course this doesn’t just apply to us Jews. I’ve met argumentative people of many flavours – whether different races, male or female, straight or gay or whatever, multiple different religions and national origins. I’ve had rollicking good debates during which I have sometimes been moved to change my views, and I’ve had debates where I’ve changed other people’s views. And, sometimes, nobody’s budged an inch.
But that’s not the point – nobody, in any of the legions of discussions / debates in which I’ve been in or even just witnessed, no matter the topic, has feared entering into the field of verbal combat debate. Nobody has ever feared violence against them or being arrested. The following quote applies not just to courtrooms but any discourse between different viewpoints…
Your honor, a courtroom is a crucible. In it we burn away irrelevancies until we are left with a pure product – the truth, for all time.
— Captain Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation
Through reasoned discourse in those discussions we sought to move closer to truth, insofar as truth can be determined by fallible human beings. We also agreed to disagree peacefully. That was then. Now? Not so much.
As noted here, We Cannot Give Up on Democracy:
Under the Blair government for example, ‘hate speech’ became a reality. People can be prosecuted for expressing an opinion. Even when a person holds what most would consider to be heinous views, in a free country, they must still be free to express them. Free speech is the essence of democracy, and without it, we are not able to hold those in power to account. That’s why its erosion is so important.
Without free speech, we can’t talk openly about problems or solutions. It is utterly vital, but it’s gone. British people, and people across the Western world generally, are terrified of saying the ‘wrong’ thing.
Recently classmate of one of my kids came over for a play date. Their mother came in too (divorced couple; I’ve already met the father) and we had a friendly discussion on multiple things – they wanting to “sound out” our family and vice versa. That’s absolutely reasonable, particularly considering both kids are agitating for a sleep-over play date. I’m not sending either kid to someone’s house – nor should any parent send theirs here – until there’s some level of understanding who the other family is in both directions.
I try to be apolitical with schoolkid parents; oh, I might drop something here or there to see if there’s a reaction because I’m always on the lookout for like-minded people in meatspace, but in general I steer away from explicit statements with such persons. My views should not poison my children’s friendships. But one of the things that came out in the discussion was an agreement that over the last decade or so things in the public sphere have coarsened. It’s all blamed on Trump of course; yes, Trump is caustic (which is one of the reasons I like him though I think a little less could be better on his tweeting – he does not need to weigh in on every single thing, dammit!) but so are politicians and commentators on both sides… and this has been so for years prior to Trump making his famous trip down the escalator. I can be scathing when I choose as well, which is not often. I’d rather have amicable discussions. Vitriol makes people defensive, and I’d rather slip thought-splinters (trade mark me!) into their minds on the QT for them to have to mull over in the wee hours as those thoughts irritate & inflame their barriers to non-Narrative information.
I love discussions. For example, years ago a group of us at work would sit down and have debates over lunch. Religion (recall, at the time, I was an atheist). Abortion. Guns. Gay rights. Evolution / creation. Taxes. Foreign policy. The topics ranged widely. I learned a lot and observed with amusement that the alliances of who agreed or disagreed would shift based on the topic. But one thing was always a given: at the end of the discussion we always got up to go back to our cubicles as friends. And I’ll give those who were “bible thumping fundies” credit – they were often very open-minded about what I said about the Bible, evolution, and much of the time already had ready answers for what I put forth… and sometimes their answers compelled me to go look things up. In that last vein, sometimes what I said would likewise make them go home and investigate what I said and, were I right, concede so the next day. I remember one time, discussing the Old Testament, when I said there were two Noah stories that had contradictions and both could not be literally true. Disbelief… but the next day one of them came to me and said he’d looked, and I was right.
That willingness to admit being wrong takes HUMILITY.
Not much of that around today in almost any debate I have with someone on the Left. Assuming I can debate instead of merely being smeared. One fellow congregant at my Synagogue, a sworn Leftist, called me a climate denier when I voiced scepticism over the Holy Writ of the Eeeeeevil CO2… despite the fact that I used to be a climate alarmist but changed my mind.
Now, of course, if you don’t agree that Bush 2 was BushChimpHitler-whatever, or Orange Man Bad, or Putin evil while Ukraine heaven, or whatever the subject, you’re one step away from evil incarnate. Now let me not absolve the Right; we do this too, though not nearly as much IMHO.
And it comes back to… Satan’s favourite sin (at least, per the movie). Vanity. Nobody wants to admit they could be wrong. IMHO this stems in large part from a widespread problem that people have so incorporated their particular views on X, whatever X is, into their fundamental belief & view of themselves as good people. Once set, nobody is going to voluntarily attack a view that supports their positive self-image. We also have a problem where, because of social class, workplace, etc., we have people in groupthink and not wanting to upset the apple cart of that dominant social group in their lives.
It’s what leads to so much cognitive dissonance and a lack of curiosity when information is presented that threatens their cognitive filters of how they view & process the world.
A QUOTE FROM THE PAST
So who remembers this pearl from Her Heinous the Crone of Chappaqua:
“I’m sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and disagree with this administration, somehow you’re not patriotic. We need to stand up and say we’re Americans, and we have the right to debate and disagree with any administration.”
As loathsome as she was and still is, she’s… she’s… gag-retch, she’s right. And yet, what is the Left doing to people who disagree with, oh, open borders, Covid lockdowns, supporting Ukraine unconditionally / condemning Putin similarly, BLM, CRT, s*x grooming our kids, abortion up to birth… you name the Leftist cause, if you even breathe a word against it, they go insane. (Thank Hashem I have my own business and my customers don’t care as long as I get their work done.) Funny how this whole tolerance thing only goes in one direction – almost like they have double-standards or something.
So now we learn that to even question the official dictum from Washington, that (cue dramatic reverberations) “There are no US funded biolabs in Ukraine”, is verboten. To wit. MSNBC’s Nance: FNC’s Carlson, Tulsi Gabbard Russian ‘Collaborators’ Deliberately Undermining U.S.:
Nance added, “I don’t know if he really loves Vladimir Putin, but I have to clarify one thing. These people are not useful idiots. They are beyond useful idiots. Useful idiots don’t know as a term of art in the intelligence world. I don’t really know what they’re doing. They’re just stupid. These people are almost collaborators to a certain extent. They do know what they’re doing. I would call them an asset, especially Tucker Carlson. Tulsi Gabbard, she’s just a moron. But for these people to come up there, we are now seeing a turn that I never thought I’d see my life, Fifth Columnist, people who are deliberately working to undermine the American structure.”
Leave us not forget that font of wisdom, moderation, and restraint from the Left, Keith Olbermann:
Having the military detaining people who question The State. Fascist much, Keith? But then, as documented in both of these books, Liberal Fascism and The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left, the American Left – and IMHO more broadly the Left globally – has always been fascist at its core, unless they’re full-on Socialist. Kissing cousins, certainly. (Yes, yes, I know – people often argue that Hitler WAS a Socialist but then changed, to which I ask “So where is his speech announcing that change”? Note: I never get an answer.)
NOT JUST SHUNNED
Now, of course, there is a move to investigate, if not outright, criminalize any disagreement with The Narrative. On anything. Bolding in original:
A March 2021 unclassified threat assessment prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), Department of Justice, and DHS, noted that domestic violent extremists “who are motivated by a range of ideologies and galvanized by recent political and societal events in the United States pose an elevated threat to the Homeland in 2021.”3 The assessment pointed to newer “sociopolitical developments such as narratives of fraud in the recent general election, the emboldening impact of the violent breach of the U.S. Capitol, conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and conspiracy theories promoting violence” that “will almost certainly spur some [domestic violent extremists] [sic] to try to engage in violence this year.”
Just who are the Fascists? Project much?
THE CRITICALITY OF SPEECH
I have changed my mind on multiple things over the years. Some of the changes were because I noticed something odd and investigated what others had discussed. Some were changes spurred by – in the case of abortion – a bumper sticker that was the start of my move from pro-choice to pro-life; that bumper sticker became a thought-splinter of irritation, driving me to address it. A few have been changed positions forced on me unwillingly, but the weight of evidence compelled me to re-examine my position and move. Such as this speech, embedded here, which cemented my I really don’t want to believe this view to understand there really is a depopulation agenda.
All of these changes in my views have been because of free speech and, parenthetically, free access to information. For speech and debate and accessing uncensored information are, indeed, the crucible in which we weigh and test ideas against others to attempt to move closer to the truth. Absent that ability to test ideas against facts, against reason, and against other minds in the crucible of debate and presented evidence, well, George Washington says it best:
And this is why the Globalists hate free speech so much. For they understand – and have understood for decades – that when you control the information flow, you control what people believe. And as these want-to-be tyrants plead necessity to combat the crisis de jour by censoring “misinformation” and persecuting any who voice something besides The Narrative, recall:
“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”
― William Pitt the Younger
Circling back to a famous (at least in America) Jew, SCOTUS Justice Louis D. Brandeis (bolding added):
“In the frank expression of conflicting opinion lies the greatest promise of wisdom in governmental action, and in suppression lies ordinarily the greatest peril.”
Though I’d expand that to all venues, not just government action.
As I say in my bio, I am descended on my father’s side from soldiers of the American Revolution. On my mother’s side, from Jews who have been a “stiff-necked people” since forever. The quest for freedom – that most precious gift from Hashem short of life itself – is in my very DNA.
I will not be silenced. I will not be ruled. I will not be a slave.