Jonathan Rauch On Engaging People Who Won’t Listen

The December 2020 issue of Reason contains a wide-ranging interview of Jonathan Rauch by Nick Gillespie. Part of the interview touches on how and why to engage with people who are not necessarily interested in listening with an open mind.

Gillespie: What’s the appeal to people? Obviously I agree with you when you talk about a liberal society being a good one. The idea of intellectual or ideological pluralism, I’m all in. But people who are saying, “That’s a false front for a system that is rigged against trans people, against black people, and against other types of racial, ethnic, ideological, or sexual minorities”—how do you engage them when they are not interested necessarily in hearing what you have to say?

Rauch: How do you engage with them? The single most common question I get when I talk about free speech and open inquiry on college campuses comes from a student—usually it will be a freshman, sometimes it’s a sophomore—who says, “What do I say, Mr. Rauch, when I try to speak up in a conversation and I’m told, ‘Check your privilege. You can’t say that.’ What do I do when I’m disqualified from the conversation because I don’t have the minority perspective?”

I used to try to say all kinds of things that they could say: “Try this. Try that.” That wasn’t a good answer. Then I began telling them, “Well, you figure it out. You know how to talk to your generation. I don’t.” That wasn’t a good answer.

The answer that I finally settled on—though the first two were also partly true—was: “It doesn’t matter all that much what you say to them, because they’re not listening. That’s what they’re telling you. They’re not listening. What matters is that you not shut up. They do not have the power to silence you if you do not allow yourself to be silenced. Insist on your right to continue the conversation to say what you want to say. Don’t slink away. You won’t necessarily persuade those people, but, as we found in the gay marriage debate, your real target is that third person on the periphery of the circle of the conversation who is seeing one person acting rationally and reasonably and other people acting irrationally and unreasonably. You’re probably winning the heart and mind of that third person, so don’t shut up.”

Ralph Nader’s Censorious View of the State

Ralph Nader thinks the state should punish NPR and other radio stations for interrupting or failing to broadcast Donald Trump’s November 5 election speech. In his speech, Trump repeatedly lied about the election results.

This sort of censorship is the inevitable outcome of the regulatory overreach that Nader has advocated for all his life.

Dumbass Kalamazoo Sheriff Investigates Someone Who Called Him “Fat Ass” On Facebook

The Kalamazoo County Sheriff is apparently a dumbass as well as being a “fat ass.”

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A West Michigan sheriff sent detectives to investigate a Facebook message he received calling him fat.

The incident report obtained by Newschannel 3 through a Freedom of Information Act request, revealed Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller directed his investigators to the home of the man accused of sending the message.

While no crime occurred, the report showed Fuller sent detectives, not deputies, to talk to the man accused of sending the sheriff a Facebook message:

“Your a fat a– who needs to go on a diet. Stop us from living. Come get me if you want me tubby as fat b—-“

The report showed the sheriff took the message as threatening in nature and showed Fuller requested his employees make contact with the sender and warn against any threatening posts in the future.

The report showed on April 6, 2020, two Kalamazoo County detectives questioned a man at his home in Richland. The report said the 48-year-old denied writing the post and claimed his Facebook account had been hacked.

There Is No Threat To Free Speech–It Is Just That Some Debates Shouldn’t Be Allowed

Writing for The Guardian, Martha Gill shows exactly how not to make a convincing case that claims that free speech is endangered on college campuses are overblown.

But is free speech really under threat? The first thing to say is that the scale of the problem in universities has been exaggerated. The practice of denying people speaking slots over their views has rightly caused concern, but every single instance has also attracted vast coverage in national papers, giving the impression of an epidemic. They are not reflective of the feelings of most students.

. . .

Free speech advocates also misunderstand the motivation of those who might want to shut down a debate: they see this as a surefire mark of intolerance. But some debates should be shut down. For public dialogue to make any progress, it is important to recognise when a particular debate has been won and leave it there.

Even the most passionate free speech advocate might not wish to reopen the debate into whether women should be tried for witchcraft, or whether ethnic minorities should be allowed to go to university, or whether the Earth is flat. No-platformers are not scared – they simply think certain debates are over. You may disagree, but it does not mean they are against free speech.

It is not that some people are against free speech, but rather that some people think some speech simply should not be allowed. Got it.