This Society Has Gone Stark, Raving Mad

I made a relatively simple Facebook post about Ann Coulter and the issues of free speech her recent invitation gave rise to, arguing essentially neither a liberal nor a conservative view, but I believe a human rights one that relates to the right, not of “free” speech (which I think is a liberal misnomer as if speech does not have a cost or a social context that renders it meaningful and possible) but rather the necessity for the university to be a space for the free exchange of ideas and subsequent debate over those ideas. My notion is that if the educational institutions of a society fail in their necessity to facilitate such spaces, the society is ultimately going to lose all potential for critiquing ideas and selecting the best, while discarding or pointing out the flaws of the worst. It’s not about Coulter herself, her personal ideas, nor a liberal or conservative agenda, and my sense is that if one makes that what it is about, one is truly fascist, saying in effect, that the ideas which I would like freely exchange are those I define as consistent with my ideological perspective and therefore, acceptable. I am an educator and while that narrow, and I think wrongheaded, ground is great for political winnowing and imposing ideological conformity, it is anathema to those of us who seek truth and scholarly interchange and intellectual growth. One of the basic parameters is civility and respect for the parameters of managed speech (as opposed to free, anything goes). I post this and I get a replication of exactly what was so offensive about this whole episode. People come attacking Coulter as if that is even relevant to the point, or they attack conservatives or liberals, or hurl random insults. None of this was the point or is the point and it is the realm of fools to think that you will get rid of ideas you find personally socially reprehensible by such rhetoric. Eurocentric conservatives are not going to disappear or be defeated in the US via some final solution. Neither are Eurocentric liberals and I thank God because there is enough rubbish and intellectual nonsense in and between both of those camps that would be a threat to the survival of all humanity. But perhaps amidst them and ideas that don’t fall into either rubric, there is a room for debate that can lead to some common ground. This civilization is not immune to death and it will generate its own assisted suicide if it cannot assert in all disagreement, a path to mutual respect and civility. And I for one, if only one, refuse to allow anything I am involved in to devolve in the senseless, juvenile, non-scholarly diatribe and vitriol that is the mainstay of so much of what is not only on Facebook but in much of the media as a whole. I critique, but ideas and actions. I don’t attack people personally or hate them or seek prejudice or bias against them and I don’t make friends of people who do that or think that that is what they must do to win the ideological day, even if I agree with them otherwise.


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