Letter To The Editor: We Can Censor Tone While Not Censoring Ideas

By KHALIL SPENCER
Los Alamos

I agree with Mr. Nebel (link). Censorship is a bad idea and drives ideas underground rather than testing and dispensing with them out in the open. But that’s not what I was getting at in my letter.

There is a vast difference between attacking someone personally, i.e.,  ad hominem, and blasting their ideas out of the water when their ideas  are, to put it nicely, sitting ducks for rhetorical ammunition. Frankly,  I share some of Mr. Antos’ excruciating disdain for some of the ideas put forth by my fellow liberals but I much prefer to dissect and critique ideas rather than insult individuals because I still think we are all good people who simply disagree on many political issues. We can learn from each other or at minimum, buy each other a beer.

Demonizing each other rather than buying each other a beer brought us this past Presidential election, when my party’s standard bearer called many of the folks I grew up with (and indeed, members of my own family) “baskets of deplorables” rather than sympathizing with their plight in light of the flight of industry from these towns and cities. Small wonder she got clobbered in the Rust Belt.

My mentor for rhetorical exchange was an old friend who departed this world too soon, Professor John Furedy, who was a brain physiologist at the University of Toronto. John and I became good friends when we were both addressing issues of political intolerance at American and Canadian universities back when I was on the U of Hawaii faculty in the 1990’s, as members of the (Canadian) Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship and U.S. based National Association of Scholars. John, quite literally, crawled out under the wire as Soviet tanks were invading his homeland of Hungary in 1956. He had little tolerance for those who confused hurt feelings for the weight of invading tank treads on one’s
back.

John’s rule was this: you could attack ideas and you could attack classes of people such as liberals or conservatives, but directly attacking your rhetorical adversary in a personal manner was off limits. I think that is a good idea. And thankfully, we have a great beer co-op up here that we can meet at to buy each other that beer.

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