Sunday on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” host Fareed Zakaria used his “What in the World” segment to caution liberals on college campuses against attempting to silence conservative voices.
Transcript as follows:
Now for our “What in the World” segment. We’re at the height of commencement season and across the nation people are imparting their words of wisdom to newly minted graduates. To name just a few, Joe Biden was at Harvard and Cornell, Oprah spoke at Skidmore and I was honored to give the commencement speech at Bucknell this year.
But at Notre Dame, where Vice President Mike Pence was giving the commencement address, the ceremonies were interrupted when about 100 students turned their backs on Pence and walked out in protest. A few weeks earlier, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was booed while giving the commencement address at Bethune-Cookman University.
I talked about this issue at Bucknell and I wanted to share those thoughts here. American universities these days seem committed to every kind of diversity except intellectual diversity. Conservative voices and views, already a besieged minority, are being silenced entirely.
The campus talk police have gone after serious conservative thinkers like Heather McDonald and Charles Murray, as well as firebrands like Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter. Some were disinvited, others booed, interrupted and intimidated. It’s strange that this is happening on college campuses that promise to give their undergraduates a liberal education.
The world liberal in this context has nothing to do with partisan language but refers instead to the Latin root pertaining to liberty. And at the heart of the liberal tradition in the Western world has been freedom of speech.
From the beginning, people understood that this meant protecting and listening to speech with which you disagreed. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that when we protect freedom of thought, we are protecting freedom for the thought that we hate. Freedom of speech and thought is not just for warm, fuzzy ideas that we find comfortable. It’s for ideas that we find offensive.
There is, as we all know, a kind of anti-intellectualism on the right these days, the denial of facts, of reason, of science. But there is also an anti-intellectualism on the left. An attitude of self- righteousness that says we are so pure, we are so morally superior, we cannot bear to hear an idea with which we disagree.
Liberals think they are tolerant but often they aren’t. In 2016, a Pew study found that Democrats were more likely to view Republicans as close-minded. But each side scores about the same in terms of close mindedness and hostility to hearing contrarian views. And large segments on both sides consider the other to be immoral, lazy, dishonest and unintelligent.
This is not just about tolerance for its own sake. The truth is, no one has a monopoly on right or virtue. Listening to other contradictory views will teach us all something and sharpen our own views. One of the greatest dangers in life whether it be in business or government, is to get trapped in a bubble of groupthink and never ask, what if I’m wrong? What is the best argument on the other side?
As I said at Bucknell, there is also a broader benefit to society. Technology, capitalism and globalization are strong forces pulling us apart as a society. By talking to each other seriously and respectfully about agreements and disagreements, we can come together in a common conversation, recognizing that while we seem so far apart, we do actually have a common destiny.
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