...my bones but [words] will never hurt me.
When I was in my late teens, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement was a big deal. So was Martin Luther King. The folks at Berkeley wanted the freedom to shout obscenities. Martin Luther King wanted the freedom to speak the truth, to address wrongs.
I was wandering about some time ago and came across this review.
What distinguishes Emmanuel Faye’s “Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism Into Philosophy,” which was published to loud controversy in France in 2005, is that it takes these critiques of Heidegger to their logical extreme. Most readers would agree that Heidegger was a Nazi, and that this matters to his philosophy; it has remained for Faye to argue that Heidegger was a Nazi philosopher, which is to say that he was no philosopher at all, and that his books are positively dangerous to read. In fact, he comes very close, on the book’s last page, to saying that Heidegger’s collected works should be banned from libraries: “They are . . . as destructive and dangerous to current thought as the Nazi movement was to the physical existence of the exterminated peoples. . . . Hitlerism and Nazism will continue to germinate through Heidegger’s writings at the risk of spawning new attempts at the complete destruction of thought and the extermination of humankind.”
Are anyone's words too dangerous to read (or hear)?
I don't think so.
We run into problems when we are running public libraries and, especially, school libraries. How do we select books for these institutions with limited (and public) resources? Cost, of cost, should be important. But caution must be taken that ideology does not become the main criteria. At least for public libraries.
But what about school libraries? Who decides what books are appropriate for children and teenagers?
"[If a book were] very innocent, and one which might be confided to the reason of any man; not likely to be much read if let alone, but if persecuted, it will be generally read. Every man in the United States will think it a duty to buy a copy, in vindication of his right to buy and to read what he pleases." --Thomas Jefferson to N. G. Dufief, 1814.
And so, as teens in my day, we all read Peyton Place.
But no one controls what goes over the airwaves to a great degree. Well, the FCC has some say but it is limited to complaints of inappropriate language. Content is not controlled.
There are some who would like to limit that speech, some who would like to see certain talk show hosts be taken off the air. I am not one of them. To me, the First Amendment isn't about being allowed to use profanity in public or dancing nude in the public square. It is about political speech, first and foremost. If you do not like what someone is saying; don't listen. I would, however, encourage others to listen. At least for awhile.
While words matter and who says them can matter. We should all evaluate the meanings for ourselves. We should listen to the side that makes us the most angry. And try to understand why it does. We should examine the arguments against our own positions in an honest fashion. This will either strengthen what you believe or show you the errors of your own argument.
Thomas Jefferson was of mixed sentiment when considering teh virtues and drawbacks of a free press (imagine how he might feel about Talk Radio!).
"Our newspapers, for the most part, present only the caricatures of disaffected minds. Indeed, the abuses of the freedom of the press here have been carried to a length never before known or borne by any civilized nation." --Thomas Jefferson to M. Pictet, 1803.
And, yet, a year later...
"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.
The internet allows us to sample all manner of opinion. It is up to each of us to decide what is right and what is wrong. We may, as Jefferson did, find ourselves of two minds on the subjects at hand.
A Night Unremembered
6 years ago