Patterico's Pontifications

3/19/2022

Constitutional Vanguard: What the New York Times Editorial on “Cancel Culture” Gets Right . . . and Wrong

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 4:19 pm



Today’s free newsletter uses yesterday’s New York Times editorial on “cancel culture” as a springboard for a wide-ranging discussion, not just about what the editorial got right and wrong, but about something I consider far more important: the need for a culture of listening:

I think the current debates over “cancel culture” — including the arguments in the New York Times editorial — miss the point to some degree. Yes, people are feeling nervous about uttering some obvious truths, and about even touching on certain hot-button topics. This is, to some extent, a concern about there not being enough freedom to speak. But I think it is also useful to think of nearly any controversial story about “free speech” or “cancel culture” as a failure of the listener rather than a suppression of the ideas of the speaker. In short, I argue that we have what I call a Responsibility to Listen.

Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t say that I have a responsibility to listen to any crackpot who wants to speak to me. I’m certainly not going to waste my time thoughtfully stroking my beard as I carefully consider the arguments of @Groyper1488 that white supremacist Nick Fuentes is a misunderstood genius.

What I am saying is that, in a context where we acknowledge that communication is important, the listener has a responsibility as great as that of the speaker: a responsibility to be charitable and fair to the speaker, to give the speaker a chance to make his or her case, and to respond with honest arguments rather than trollish behavior. I am talking about contexts such as a political debate, or a speech by a speaker at a university, or a jury trial.

I argue that if we view several recent free speech controversies as a failure to listen, rather than simply a denial of the speaker’s chance to speak, we’ll get closer to the heart of the problem. I welcome your feedback.

Read the post here. Subscribe here.

20 Responses to “Constitutional Vanguard: What the New York Times Editorial on “Cancel Culture” Gets Right . . . and Wrong”

  1. You can leave feedback here too.

    Patterico (7e54d1)

  2. Stephen R. Covey’s Highly Effective Habit 5: “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood”

    pouncer (eb8642)

  3. Interesting. It parallels my long-held idea that we should judge presidential candidates more on their ability to listen, than their ability to speak.

    (Yes, I know, lots of practical difficulties in that idea.)

    Jim Miller (406a93)

  4. I argue that if we view several recent free speech controversies as a failure to listen, rather than simply a denial of the speaker’s chance to speak, we’ll get closer to the heart of the problem.

    Folks talking past each other; that’s a ‘sound’ argument.

    Pun intended. 😉

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  5. Attributed to Socrates but not found in any of The Dialogues so it could as easily have been Nasreddin Hodja or Milton Friedman, is the Triple Filter Test:

    First Filter: Is it true?
    Second Filter: Even if it not true, is it kind?
    Third Filter: Even if it neither true nor kind, is it useful to the listener?

    Our alleged “Socrates” would impose a Responsibility to Listen only if the intended speech passed one of the filters. (@Groyper1488 would pass because he is being kind to Nick Fuentes, BTW.)

    Now, I have not verified that it is true, and it is certainly not kind, but you might find it useful: I think that the hecklers and cancelers have their own filter and it goes something like: “Will I like to hear it?”

    Not any different from the music they listen to or the TV shows they watch.And for them, I would paraphrase another quote of dubious origin: If you want people to listen, say what amuses them!

    nk (1d9030)

  6. I disagree with one point. If I go to a place where I know that Nick Fuentes is speaking, I have a duty to listen. But I am not going to do that. What I do not have is the right to interfere with whom consenting adults choose to hear speak. Even if the speaker is Vladimir Putin.

    Kevin M (38e250)

  7. I suspect that if a jury started heckling witnesses or even lawyers, there would be consequences.

    Kevin M (38e250)

  8. Cancel culture is better then a re-education camp. The corporate establishment and democratic party leadership allows the democratic party left to blow off steam in away that doesn’t threaten the deep state. No Bernie Sanders or putting conservatives in re-education camps so you can have this instead. Will let AOC and the squad run around to soothe the lefts rustled feathers.

    asset (f6d11b)

  9. The thing that is being missed is that the editorial was really all about coming after Republicans, because the GOP is against having teacher led convos/indoctrination into the LGBTQ community, especially for young kids. They’re against what are porn books in schools for kids, for parental involvement. Read the end of the 3rd paragraph, then paragraphs down near the end, and you’ll see this. The swipes at the left are small and just made to seem like is about all.

    William Teach (a1c5ca)

  10. Cancel culture is better then a re-education camp.

    Really? That’s like saying “Forcible conversion to Christianity is better than Auschwitz.”

    No Bernie Sanders or putting conservatives in re-education camps so you can have this instead.

    This sounds like you advocate putting conservatives in re-education camps. If so, you should not be posting here.

    Kevin M (38e250)

  11. I think the problem is two-fold. 1st, as long as the speech being cancelled is speech we disagree with, it’s too easy to be OK with that (see comment 9). The second is that we don’t know the difference between our opinions/viewpoint and facts anymore. I don’t have to listen to your disagreement with me if my opinion is a fact and not just my opinion or my viewpoint. However, if my opinion is just my opinion, maybe I’d need to listen because there’s a chance my opinion might be fallible.

    Nic (896fdf)

  12. Excellent piece, Patrick. Becoming a good listener is hard for some people to master. I tend to think that these are very close-minded individuals who refuse to be challenged on their thoughts and ideas. I don’t think it’s always because they just believe themselves to be right, but I think it’s frequently because they are afraid that they will discover that they are wrong and their peers might find out. These are tribal beings, and keeping in lockstep with their fellow tribe members supersedes all else. Except for those few individuals who manage to remain a tad bit open to listening to different ideas or angles of an issue. Fear is just a merciless mistress.

    Dana (5395f9)

  13. It’s not so much that the cancelers don’t want to listen – what really motivates them is that they don’t others to hear because the ideas are so terrible – and they’ll give reasons for saying they are terrible.

    How do they really know they are so bad?

    Because look how hateful other people are claiming the ideas are.

    Sammy Finkelman (46ec7d)

  14. I don’t have to listen to your disagreement with me if my opinion is a fact and not just my opinion or my viewpoint.

    OF course, it may be just your opinion that it’s a fact.

    Kevin M (38e250)

  15. I think that students, in particular, should be exposed to all kinds of nonsense and allowed to sort true for false. I’ve mentioned here before my STEM college inviting a young-earth Creationist to explain his beleifs the freshmen, with the only condition that he remain for a Q&A afterwards.

    There is no reason to heckle inanity — it heckles itself.

    Kevin M (38e250)

  16. Well done, as always. The fly in the ointment is:

    I don’t say that I have a responsibility to listen to any crackpot who wants to speak to me. I’m certainly not going to waste my time thoughtfully stroking my beard as I carefully consider the arguments of @Groyper1488 that white supremacist Nick Fuentes is a misunderstood genius.

    That makes sense. I practice it myself. But the tribalists who are poisoning our discourse define “crackpot” so broadly that your eminently sensible “crackpot” exception swallows your equally sensible “listen more” rule. The people who most need to hear your message think they’re already listening to all who merit it. That just happens to exclude everyone they disagree with.

    lurker (cd7cd4)

  17. You don’t have to go where he crackpot is speaking either. Once you do, you have a responsibility to be civil. You can always leave.

    Kevin M (38e250)

  18. @14 I am explaining what is going on in democratic politics. This is how the deep state establishment (DNC) and the left thinks. The democratic party establishment’s job is to protect republican/conservatives from the left since 1932 when the communist party got over a million votes in the presidential election. Too many conservatives think there is little difference the corporate establishment democrats like the clintons and bidens and the squad.

    asset (ed7707)

  19. Too many conservatives think there is little difference the corporate establishment democrats like the clintons and bidens and the squad.

    This goes right to the problem of asserting that individuals — Clintons, Bidens, whoever might remain of an earlier generation — are synonymous with the policies and goals of moderate, gradualist, literally “progressive” Democrats. And the same, that Bernie or AOC as individuals are inextricably inflexibly radical, revolutionary, opponents of the “tried and true” and personally desire to burn it all down and start over. In short, it’s rare to compromise on any proposal or goal — even those more or less independent of current ideological priorities — because doing so is portrayed as a deal with the devil. I forget the particular example but recently Ted Cruz was dragged for correctly pointing out a common sense assertion from AOC.

    How do we LISTEN without the ad hominem problem?

    pouncer (eac8f3)

  20. I think ad hominem is helpful. I would pay more attention to Ted Cruz than to AOC and more attention to AOC than to Rose McGowan.

    Ad hominem is a fallacy only to logicians who wish to discuss an abstract concept that exists only in words. For things that exist in real life, “Who are you and what’s your angle?” matters.

    nk (1d9030)


Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 1.3291 secs.