By Nathan Barton
It happens all the time. Only the situation, the name and affiliation of the perpetrator(s) change.
How do lovers of liberty deal with it? Confront it? Overcome it? Here are a few thoughts.
Some scenarios, all too common:
a. instructors attack students, publicly or privately, because the students do not agree with the instructors’ political or moral views.
b. government employees and their supporters attack applicants for government permits AND supporters of those applicants. (Especially when the activity to be permitted is not politically correct and not in line with government policies (either open or hidden).)
c. government employees attack landowners, business people and others. These include enforcement officials and inspectors who see “wrong” activities. Either something is not “government-approved” or do not meet the “correct” government criteria.
d. activists or protesters attack those who are the object of their ire. This can be in a protest or even a formal meeting. The person’s knowledge, honesty, motives, and often their personal attributes, family, friends, and associates are all targets.
e. activists and their groups proclaim that such-and-such a person is so intolerant that they must not be tolerated; so offensive that they must be offended against; so violent that they must be attacked (violently). Often before they really do anything.
f. activists attack peaceful protesters or speakers physically to drive them away, shut them up, and/or scare them enough for them to stop.
Human nature is to respond to these in a like manner. We respond all too often to insults with insults, to accusations with accusations, to bias with reverse bias, to discrimination with discrimination. And even to blows with blows and shots with shots. It is instinctive and natural to do so.
Of course, it doesn’t make it right. And even if it is right, it doesn’t make it wise. Much less, an effective response.
If we aren’t careful, our response can be asymmetrical: not in proportion to the offensive behavior. A vicious circle can ensue. No doubt, that is what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia between alt-right and Antifa groups and individuals. It happens on playgrounds, it happens on battlefields, it happens in factories and tea shops. And especially on school and college campuses. Even those which are supposedly “private.”
The Tranzi and “nanny state” political activists, government-lovers, and government agents themselves are constantly on the outlook for what they consider “offensive” behavior, but somehow that sort of offense is caused only by people who do not accept their Tranzi values, reject the behaviors (most defined by most religious as “immoral”), of modern progressives and sub-cultures and whatever the modern equivalents of beatniks, hippies, and dropouts call themselves.
Stripping and engaging in oral sex on a public street or sidewalk in San Francisco or Manhattan is not considered “offensive” but complaining about it is.
So, what do we do?
- Don’t pay back in the same coin. Speak softly and calmly, without rancor. “I understand what you are saying, but I do not agree with what you said.” “I know you are angry. We all have to look at things carefully. Especially those things that make us angry.” “Let me make sure I have a good grasp of what you think.”
- Don’t “overlook” or ignore what they say, however. Speak up and challenge their accusations and assumptions. Be polite but firm. “That is not what I am saying.” “Did I understand you correctly? Are you sure about that?” “Just because I do not agree with you does not mean that I hate [or disrespect or whatever] you.”
- Try to avoid using their radical, self-defined language in responding. Use plain English and don’t use words and phrases they have claimed for their own.
- Keep your temper. Keep a clear head, think twice before answering, and stay calm.
- Challenge (politely) their claims and facts and assumptions. Be specific. But do so in a way (if possible) that is not confrontational, which does not attack them personally.
- Avoid all ad hominem attacks – personal attacks against them, the group(s) they identify with, and their political, social, and media heroes.
- But above all, do not just ignore their attacks and their claims. They will either assume you agree with them, that you cannot defend against their “truth,” or that you are a pushover and can be ignored.
Hopefully, readers will critic and add to my suggestions.
Although coming from a flawed conservative viewpoint, you might appreciate and gain some insight from this recent presentation at PragerU on free speech offensiveness.