Shutting Down Differences — Another Bad Idea

From: L. Michael Hall
2021 Neurons #45
July 23, 2021
How Self-Actualization
Can Save Politics #7

Another Really Bad Idea

Who likes disagreements? Hardly anyone. But it happens and it happens all the time. It is part and parcel of life. It happens also at the highest levels among the most intelligent— after all, that’s how science works. We propose a hypothesis, we design and run tests, we give a detail account of the protocol that we used so others can also test it. If they get similar results, that helps to confirm the hypothesis. If not, it helps us figure out what made the difference so we can tighten up the protocol, change the hypothesis, refine the model, etc. Presenting your idea about how you think it is valid is how knowledge grows.

But today the far left of the Democratic party has become highly authoritarian and have adopted policies that are designed to shut down debate and differences. All around the US, college campuses forbid conservative speakers, boycott them, conduct protests against them. What is this? What is so scary about having an open discussion so people can hear all sides?

Now the social media tech. giants have gotten into the game. Facebook, Google, and Twitter are now monitoring your speech and shutting it down if it disagrees with their opinions. They use so-called fact-checkers, but they are checking if your presentation fits their favored facts. And because they even shut down the former President, nobody is protected from their authoritarian approach.

This past week, current President Biden became the latest person to jump on the bandwagon of killing free speech. He justified it by calling anyone or anything that he disagrees with “misinformation.” Then he condemned it in the strongest language saying “it is killing people.” As if that was not enough exaggeration and awfulizing, he said it was the worst thing since the Civil War. Now, yes, perhaps all of this is dementia eating away at his brain. But if not, then he has become the first President to stand a stand against the First Amendment of the Constitution which protects free speech.

In a democracy where there is free speech and where we trust that in the marketplace of ideas, the best ideas will — over time— win out, we are willing to hear each other out. We are willing to listen to all sides and let critical thinking have its day. But the post-modernists and the socialists have a better idea— Crush those who disagree; Prevent their voices from being heard; and Pass laws to prevent them from having free access to social media.

But that “better idea” is actually a really, really bad idea. It stems, first of all, from the arrogance that they know better. They label anything they disagree with “misinformation” so that they can cut off open debate and conversation. They then over-exaggerate and catastrophize that it is “killing people” and “the worst thing since the Civil War”— Is anyone else hearing a lot of cognitive distortions in any of this?

I have a question: Who is afraid of differences and open debate? Those who have ideas which cannot stand up to scrutiny, that’s who! Those who do not know how to use critical thinking to test the validity of ideas. Those who easily get their feelings hurt and consider disagreement with their precious ideas a form of abuse or attack or insult. They even talk that way. They use such phrases as “verbal abuse.” And many of them actually believe that words can hurt them!

Now if they knew even a tiny bit about NLP, they would know that words are just words, symbols by which we convey meanings, and the each person is the meaning-maker. The meaning that arises is the meaning that any given person creates. So actually, these over-sensitive ones are abusing themselves with the words. But, of course, by projecting this out onto others, they play the victim game (more cognitive distortions).

When you know that “the map is not the territory” then any map — any word, phrase, or idea— is just that. It is someone’s mental map. It may accurately describe things; it may not. But it is just a thought, just an idea. And because we all operate from different maps, there will always be differences — differences you cannot legislate away, try though you may. And that’s why it is a really, really bad idea to try to shut down conversations about differences. For that social media, colleges, universities, and even the president ought to be ashamed.

A really, really good idea, and the one that fits for intelligent people in an open democracy, is to let the differences among us be heard and debated in open forums. Let there be freedom of speech for all.