What some on the far left (and the far right as well) fail to understand is that the alternative to civil discussion and debate is a descent into uncivilized behavior: shouting slogans, slinging weaponized words, attacking ad hominem, denying a platform to those you disagree with, abandoning the level playing field of ideas in favor of animalistic noise-making and shows of strength. They may not have fully considered where that path leads.
If your ideas are worth considering, then they are worth formulating and presenting with care and civility and arguments to back them up. Let them loose on the level playing field of free speech where they can be tested on their merits. If you arrogate to yourself the right to shut others down, you place yourself in a value system, in an arena, where someone with more brute strength than you can shut you down as well. Two sides engaging on this level set off a cycle of escalating conflict that can only end tragically.
Healthy public debate isn’t a death match between colliding interest groups. It’s the way we reach consensus as a community and more whole understanding as individuals. It is a natural and peaceful mechanism for achieving wisdom, balance, and inclusion in our collective decisions.
We need not fear each others’ voices. In fact, we desperately need to hear each others’ authentic voices so that we can see where we agree and where we don’t and A. build bridges of understanding and acceptance, B. approach the truth together, and C. determine the path that will best serve us going forward. This requires open, free, intellectually honest exchange between individuals based on a shared sense of unity (our common humanity), allowance for diversity (the breathing space for everyone to be, express, and develop uniquely), and a common interest in discovering truth (humility and openness to being corrected as well the integrity to stand up for what we directly perceive as truth).
When we engage in true dialogue, we are tuning the instrument of our mind to resonate with truth. That means changing our ideas when they come into conflict with what is demonstrably true and holding steadily to truth in the face of what is demonstrably untrue. Post-modernism repudiates the very notion of truth and therefore represents anti-logic. It is based on self-referential, circular reasoning that collapses in the face of logic.
In this video, Dr. Jordan B. Peterson calmly explains why we need free speech and why the best thing to do about the anti-free speech activists is to let them play out their tactics while we keep speaking our truth to the best of our ability and defending everyone’s right to be heard.
The activists speak. We let them speak and make their positions known. We weigh their ideas on the impartial scales of truth along with every other idea. We let their behavior speak for itself as all behavior does. As long as they do not engage in debate, they render themselves irrelevant to the debate. You don’t debate a child who’s throwing a tantrum. You can’t. You stand calmly in your truth and don’t budge for any manipulative, bullying tactics. Don’t give them the response they’re trying to provoke. Don’t feed the monster that’s acting out through them by answering in kind. Feed their better angel by setting an example through your own behavior.
As Matt Kahn advises, when faced with the fevered, conflicting energies of a turbulent, fractured mind, we can consciously choose to respond with the opposite vibration. Peterson does an admirable job.
Activists chanting: “You are not a victim!”
Peterson: “That’s true. I'm not a victim.
“Once you start to regard yourself as a victim, you look for a perpetrator. And the thing you look for in a perpetrator, you look for someone that it’s OK to hurt. It’s really not a good thing.”
Activists chanting: “Shut him down!”
. . .
Peterson: “As far as I’ve been able to determine, this kind of protest is an expression of a philosophy that’s grounded partly in post-modernism and partly in Marxism. Now, the post-modern element is basically this: there’s no such thing as genuine individual identity. What there is is group identity. And you, like it or not, only have the interests of your group. And the whole world is nothing but a battleground between groups of different interests. There’s no dialogue. There’s no possibility of talking between the groups. It’s just a power stage where combat has to take place.
“And so the reason that speakers with whom the radical post-modernists and the Marxists don’t agree are denied a platform is because those people do not believe, from a philosophical position, that dialogue can bring consensus. And all that’s left, if you forgo that particular principle, is this. [Indicates the protest.] And this is only where it starts.
“You know, the fact is that you’re all pretty damn civilized. And thank god for that. Because if there were enough fools in the crowd, especially those who are intent on violence, this would turn out very differently. We do not want to go down that pathway! It’s a big mistake. We’ve been down that pathway many, many times.”
. . .
Peterson: “The question was, had we called the police and had them removed, would that have been a failure?”
“I think the answer to that is there’s no point in it. There’s no reason to assume that this [protest] is a bad thing. It’s noisy and it’s annoying, but that’s fine. You gotta let things – you gotta follow what you believe to be true. Right? And don’t worry about it, and let things happen, and see what happens. Because it’s perfectly possible that if you’re trying to do the right thing, you’re trying to speak properly, that whatever happens around you is [partially a] consequence of that and it’s a good thing. So we’ll see. We’ll have weeks after this event to analyze its consequences. And so far, all of you that are there to listen to the talk, you’re peaceful and reasonable, and you got a chance to show that to hundreds of thousands of people. So, good! This is a good thing, not a bad thing.”
. . .
Peterson: [Repeating a question from the audience] “How do we get these people to understand that dialogue leads to consensus?
“You cannot make people who don’t listen, listen. You can’t. They have to decide to listen on their own. But you do that by listening. You show them. You engage in dialogue yourself and [seek] consensus among you. You lead by example. Because there’s no getting through this. [Indicates the protest.] It’s an ideological wall. And the harder you push against it, the larger it’ll become.
“Don’t worry about it. But don’t get pushed around. And don’t let people indoctrinate you.”