One gets the impression from Matt Bai’s article that closed-mindedness is something new.
I think first of a quotation from Jeff Snyder, from 1993:
“‘Dignity’ used to refer to the self-mastery and fortitude with which a person conducted himself in the face of life’s vicissitudes and the boorish behavior of others. Now, judging by campus speech codes, dignity requires that we never encounter a discouraging word and that others be coerced into acting respectfully, evidently on the assumption that we are powerless to prevent our degradation if exposed to the demeaning behavior of others. These are signposts proclaiming the insubstantiality of our character, the hollowness of our souls.”
I think next of Stuart Chase’s “Guides to Straight Thinking,” which I still mean when I can to post as an e-book on my blog. Published in 1956, it includes many, many examples of exactly the sort of problems Matt Bai complains about here; and is corrective of them.
Chase’s book pretty much presumes a college education, so I wrote “Free Speech Handbook” (Google: “Free Speech Handbook William Tell”) to make the same principles accessible to folk who don’t necessarily have that; and as a textbook of critical thinking skills for use on “The William Tell Show.” (The above Google results will take you to my blog, where you can easily enough find “My Resume.”)
Circa 2000, I became alarmed at the Balkanization of the airwaves being carried out at that time by much the same folk and in much the same way as is occurring now; and conceived “The William Tell Show” in response. The ageless conundrum is that listening, really listening, to one’s opponent is less a task of the mind than of the heart, and not too many people have the heart to do it.
Wrote just now in my diary: “It is distressing that so many conservative respondents, like this one, seem to think the very idea of listening to other points of view is a liberal scheme to violate the First Amendment and to force conscience.”
Such is the sturm und drang that first moved me to conceive William Tell the talk show host. It underscores the need for a William Tell Show.
I think he’s right on the money.
I’ve had occasion in “recycling” these now-Thursday-posts to puzzle that very little seems to have changed in my spiritual life in four years. Now we find that not much has changed in the world of public free speech, either: these issues pre-date The Donald, the alt-right, antifa, and on and on.
(Originally posted 05/22/14.)