Keeping Dissent Alive

By Jedediah Bila

The word “purge” has come up on Twitter, Facebook, and in right-wing media circles quite frequently these past few months. I have seen social conservatives call for purging social moderates from discussions, moderates call for purging conservatives they define as extremists, supporters of gay marriage call for purging traditional marriage proponents from debates, and pro-life advocates insist there should be no room for pro-choice conservatives on the right. The language has sometimes been ugly, and the instinct to shut down healthy debate has emerged from some unexpected voices.

My immediate response: You can’t accuse the Left of having no respect for diversity of thought or healthy debate while calling for a purging of disagreement on the right. You either support a forum where individual opinions will sometimes differ and issues are robustly and respectfully debated, or you don’t.

In late December, I watched an interview CNN’s Piers Morgan conducted with Larry Pratt, the Executive Director of Gun Owners of America, on the topic of gun control. They clearly disagreed–and that’s okay, that’s what these forums are for–but Morgan was nasty, rude, and completely unprofessional. He used the phrase “idiots like you,” and at one point, said the following: “You’re an unbelievably stupid man, aren’t you?” It was appalling. I watched many on the right rush to condemn that horrific behavior–as they should have–but was left bothered by something. For months, I had watched some of those same folks on the right rush to name-call, block those expressing respectful disagreement on Twitter, and shut down debate. It just wasn’t good.

As a libertarian-conservative, I detest political ideologies that strip people’s individuality, freedom of thought, choice, and opportunity. Most of all, though, I detest collectivism. I have worked in academia and witnessed the way some on the left shut down debate. Classrooms that are supposed to be hubs of intellectual diversity and thought-provoking discussions turn into propaganda seminars where dissent is the enemy. It turns my stomach. I take issue with all those who aim to stifle free thinking and rush to purge–rather than discuss–differences.

When it comes to those I disagree with on key points, I don’t need them be silenced in order for me to make my voice heard. Differences of opinion remind us that we’re all still individuals–independent-minded, thinking individuals, not pre-programmed robots.

I understand the frustrations of many on the right with politicians who appear to stand for nothing, who can’t be counted on to keep their word, and who are often big-government, tax-and-spend advocates masquerading as limited-government activists. I get it, and believe me, it makes me mad. However, the answer is to call those particular people out and hold them accountable for their records and deceit, not to stifle debate or mimic the collectivism of some on the left who have no room for intellectual independence.

Every day, we define who we are and what we value through our actions and words. The purging of dissent is something I have seen far too often from the Left. I, for one, hope it becomes less and less common from the Right.

Cross-published in AMAC’s print magazine.

Follow Jedediah on Twitter @JedediahBila

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8 years ago

It stops when middle class America makes a stand for doing the right thing>time for a 3rd party!

Michael Ulrich
8 years ago

Well spoken as always! Always enjoy your columns. I can understand the sentiments of jonolan, but we all risk becoming exactly as those that oppose our own opinions and sentiments if we do so. I will continue to try and be the better person. I cannot control what other individuals think and do, but I refuse to stoop to their supposed level of discourse. Thank you again for another great column. Good book too! :)

Mark Barnack
8 years ago

I agree. To shut down those who disagree with you gives the appearance that your position is wrong, inaccurate, or you yourself are unsure of your own arguements. Better to let the otherside speak, the truth will come out and it will defend itself by its very presence in the discussion. Better to let the otherside speak and show themselves a fool, than to make them appear wise by keeping them silent.

John C. Davidson
8 years ago

I am seeing this more and more on Facebook after enduring it for 6 months on Twitter. The real problem is that both social networks are getting reports behind the scenes about those they disagree with. Right now, I can’t friend anyone for 2 weeks and have no idea who complained. Same thing happened on Twitter. I gave up there when the wanted me to sign a form that I woouldn’t comment on other statements that appeared on my page. How preposturous is that?

Vern S.
8 years ago

Your point is right on. And for myself I hope I remember it in the heat of my disagreement and often total disgust with the left. Thanks.

8 years ago

I firmly disagree. While there’s room for discourse, debate, and argument within the American people on the specifics of various issues, there’s no room for such with the Liberals or Progressives. They need to be silenced utterly, permanently, and with extreme prejudice.

The debate IS settled. It’s over. It’s time passed after it failed to achieve anything of substance beyond framing the conflict. We’re now at war and Americans had better well start acting like it and casting such gentler sensibilities as you endorse aside…unless we’re ready to lose.

Russ Robles
8 years ago

Good points as always, Jedediah, and I totally agree.

8 years ago

Thank you for writing this!

Mike J.
8 years ago

Excellent. I couldn’t agree more.

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