Consider the notion that shutting down someone else’s words with violence or the threat thereof is acceptable behavior. As in “if you speak, I/we will assault you or riot, and either you or people you care about may be harmed.” This idea goes well beyond drowning out another’s voice via the bleating of Orwellian sheep and into the realm of violating that other’s sense of safety and liberty, simply so that what might be said doesn’t get heard.

Does this offend you? It should. But, it’s what’s happening on college campuses nowadays, with administrators kowtowing to protestors who claim they’re doing so to protect the oppressed.

Who, exactly, is being protected, in these instances? Is it the person threatening the violence? Is it that person’s like-minded cohorts? Or is it third parties, whom the protector fears might hear some contrary arguments or points of view?

What, in each of these cases, is the violent one afraid of?

Two possibilities come to mind. The first, that “words hurt,” that there is such discomfort in hearing words or phrases or ideas that treating them as an assault is warranted. The second, that some ideas and opinions are too dangerous to be permitted to propagate.

I accept neither of these, and denounce them both.

Even if we accept the idea that words hurt (while I’ve seen that there is scholarship to that effect, considering the sorry state of scholarship nowadays, I remain skeptical) and that hate speech is an actionable thing, and even if we allow for in-kind responses to slurs and incendiary language, we still cannot accept pre-emptive violence as a remedy. There is no moral high ground when someone threatens violence against words that haven’t even been uttered. Moreso, I consider this belief to be an excuse or deflection for the second possibility.

It is that second possibility – that those who would defend with violence against speech they wish un-uttered, that exposes a hollowness in the defenders.

Is it not true that, if you are secure and comfortable in your ideas and beliefs, you should be able to withstand and rebut anyone that tries to refute them? Is it not true that, if you know your ideas and beliefs are the correct and superior ones, you and they should easily stand against incorrect and inferior ideas?

Why, then, would you worry so much about what someone else might say that you feel violence is both justified and necessary?

I can understand (denounce, but understand) when politicians, rabble-rousers, community organizers, and others whose self-interests are advanced by this sort of thing. They’re dishonest people, not interested in ideas as much as in the trappings of power and success that are advanced by chumming the seas and rousing the rabble. It’s the true believers that don’t compute. If you’re confident that you’re right, you should relish the opportunity to tear down the words of those who are wrong. You should welcome debate, because you’d expect to win. You should give even the vilest of hate-spewers free rein, so that their language can be used to tear them down. You should relish every opportunity to reinforce your views, to test them against challenges, to show to those who may not be with you that you are correct and that your ideological opponents are wrong.

So, what do we make of the modern Left’s embrace of violence as a means to stifling dissent and contrary opinions?

the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market. — Oliver Wendell Holmes

Perhaps, their ideas ring as hollow to them as they do to the rest of us. Perhaps, deep down inside, they don’t trust their beliefs all that much, and fear that their friends might abandon them should competing ideas be allowed into their echo chambers, safe spaces, and comfort zones.

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent. — Isaac Asimov

Perhaps they don’t trust their ability to advance and defend their ideas successfully in a marketplace of competing ideas. Perhaps they’re scared of having to compete fairly and honestly for people who haven’t made up their minds yet, because they’re under-informed or under-prepared.

To the immature, other people are not real. — Harry Overstreet

Perhaps, this behavior is nothing more than the self-centeredness of intellectual toddlers, who give no real thought to the fact that those who they protest are, in fact, human beings just like they are. In a way, this mirrors the progressive’s tendency to see the world as being comprised of identity groups, rather than individuals, and his tendency to ignore the fact that others aren’t obligated to behave as they expect or demand.

Perhaps it’s a combination of all of these. Perhaps the premise that it’s OK to violently shut down another’s dissenting opinion is the result of a child’s stubborn adherence to an opinion that he or she knows is hollow, but refuses to concede out loud.

Or, perhaps it’s simple condescension on their part. Perhaps they believe that the unwashed masses are too easily lured by the siren song of ideas they consider wrong or offensive. Perhaps they don’t trust the teeming hordes to make up their own minds. Given the political leanings of many to most of the aforementioned college campus shut-downers, it’s not hard to come to this conclusion. After all, leftism today really is all about controlling others and denying them of life’s liberties. Such people, though, are truly contemptible. Anyone who’d deny another information because he doesn’t trust that person to think for him or her self is a thug, and no better than the Third Reich’s brownshirts.

Perhaps you disagree. If so, prove it. Prove to the rest of us that your beliefs are correct. Engage our dissent, listen to our arguments, consider our points, then rebut them. If you have conviction that you are right, if you trust your beliefs, you should have absolutely no fear of hearing dissent.

If not, you tell us that you don’t really believe that which you proclaim.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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