When people flatly contradict themselves, it’s worth a moment to try to understand why.
Not long ago, “Intelligent” (a site unfamiliar to me) reported on a poll of a thousand university students regarding freedom of speech. The results showed that the vast majority affirmed free speech (98%) while a majority also wanted it curbed on campus.
Left and right, Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative: Free speech is terrific—and we also support restraints on views contrary to our own.
It is easy to chide these students for a clueless hypocrisy. But let’s consider why they might have offered such transparently contradictory views in a single poll.
Not many of us enjoy confronting opinions directly contrary to our own. Not about sports teams, not about restaurants, not about music styles, let alone about matters of greater moment. No wonder these students affirmed free speech in theory—who wants constraints on one’s own speech?—but also wanted censorship of ideas they judged to be wrong and harmful.
That’s a natural enough reaction. Most people don’t seem to enjoy, or even easily endure, significant differences of opinion. Not at Thanksgiving dinner, not in the bar, and not in the workplace.
And not on campus—no matter how many lofty speeches are given there about the noble contest of ideas in the bracing freedom of the intellectual marketplace. Wrong ideas about important things such as politics (or religion, for that matter) are not just wrong—like getting a mathematical calculation wrong—but evil and damaging. Harm becomes the great threat to be avoided, and bad views articulated in bad ways harm people.
As I have written elsewhere, we live in the age of The New Moralism, an era of finger-pointing and finger-wagging, with condemnations and silencing left and right. Our societies are rapidly polarizing as binary, intolerant polemics push us further and further apart.
The rest of the article can be read HERE.