Sunday, March 06, 2005

The responsibility to listen

The debate about limits to free speech on university campuses seems to leave out an important element. The responsaibility to listen to opposing and divergent views.

My main reason for advocating this is not an abstract ethical argument as much as it is a practical one. If free speech,including argument and vocal protest, is not allowed to flourish, then decision and debate becomes the province of the brownshirt, the secret police and the bully. Protesting is not silencing, and the left should consider the tit-for-tat ramifications of silencing speakers in universities versus the silencing of progressives in other venues.

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"If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country."
-E.M. Forster