Sunday Commentary: Freedom of Speech, Just Watch What You Say

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first-amendment

A few weeks ago I published an open letter from the Sacramento Regional Coalition for Palestinian Rights sent to UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi. It was not that I agreed with the content of the letter or the views expressed, but I like to air positions contrary to my own on this site.

Just as the Vanguard has in the last two weeks published several commentaries by Jeff Boone, we allow fairly free rein to various viewpoints in our community and nationally.

Anyway, every article on the Vanguard gets posted on Facebook and tweeted out on Twitter. Not long after I published the article, an old friend of my family, I’ll call him “Ben,” posts, “Did you write this, David? If so, I guess you finally did turn against Israel, eh?”

Sometimes people look at the title on Facebook and don’t hit the link, but the title was ambiguous enough I knew he had to have read the article and would have noted the first line in bold that indicated I had not written that. At the bottom of all guest articles is a disclaimer: “Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.”

The poster continued, “I did read the article, David. I read how they say they applaud the divestment from Israel, and their concern for the swastikas is that it will make Palestinian activists look bad.”

I made the point in response that I didn’t write that and I often publish articles I don’t agree with and sometimes that are critical of me. Then I wrote, “Why? Because I not only believe in free speech, I practice it.”

After showing him that I had stuck a disclaimer into the article he wrote, “Yet you gave them the forum anyway… for free speech? There are no shortage of forums for those who want to spread their anti-Israel venom.”

That is not the point. This was an issue that happened in the Davis community. While it bleeds into national issues, from my perspective this was primarily a local issue and I tried to cover it as such and present all viewpoints.

But the bigger point which I found interesting on this issue is that it reverses a trend. In the case of Israel, it is the right who seem to want to shut down speech on campus, whereas for years, it was the left who often turned against free speech on campus – which is a position I agree with the right on, the lack of tolerance on the left for divergent viewpoints.

When I was a political science major in the early 1990s at Cal Poly, one of my professors assigned us the book, Free Speech for Me – But Not for Thee by Nat Hentoff. Those were the days before Mr. Hentoff became persona non grata in the liberal community, but his message was the same.

This was a man who believed in free speech and, in his younger days, testified on behalf of Lenny Bruce during his obscenity trial, but he was equally critical of anti-porn feminists, blacks who attempt to ban Huckleberry Finn from schools, and political correctness on campus. He is a supporter of flag-burners’ First Amendment rights but opposes anti-bigotry speech codes on campuses, maintaining that “politically correct” students and professors have stifled debate.

The question, I think, we as a society need to ask is what is free speech?

In the same article reference above, the letter states, “We have heard from numerous such targeted students at UCD, as well as some faculty, that they are afraid to speak out and become active in causes dear to them out of fear for their academic standing or future employment possibilities.”

One of our readers responded: “Welcome to the real world.  You live and die by what you say and do.  If you are not willing to take the heat for what you say and do, then stay out of the kitchen.”

The reader went on to say, “It is just dawning on the ASUCD students who voted for the divestiture resolution that there are consequences to taking controversial stands that make people “mad.”  This is going to become a defining moment for them, or not!”

Another reader challenged this view: “Just last week you were lamenting that college campuses were not bastions of free speech.  now you seem alright with that fact when it’s an issue that bumps in your direction.”

The first reader responded, “Two separate issues.  If these students want to be stupid and say and do what they did, I would lay down my life for their right to do so.  That is completely different from the issue of being wise about what you say and do.”

Again, what is free speech? The reader here seems to define it as a negative view of free speech – as long as there are no legal restrictions against free speech, then we have satisfied our free speech requirement. However, I believe in a more positive view of free speech. Freedom of speech is not simply the absence of legal constraints, but rather the ability to actually be able to carry out free discourse without fear of retribution.

A situation where an individual cannot speak out due to fear of social, economic, or other ostracism could be considered just as repressive as the situation in which an individual faces imprisonment or death for speaking out. Any time there are consequences for speech, our freedom is constrained and the free exchange of ideas is thwarted.

As I stated yesterday, rather than shut down debate when we disagree, we should have open dialogue and discussion. Hatred should not be silenced, but confronted with love, compassion and truth.

The most powerful part of the civil rights movement was that hatred was not responded to with force or violence, but rather a conception of love where the enemy is loved and embraced rather than scorned.

We live in a society where, increasingly, we have free speech in name only.

This is a point that Glenn Greenwald made with respect to surveillance. In his TED talk from last fall, “Why Privacy Matters,” Mr. Greenwald (no relation) argues in effect that “when we’re in a state where we can be monitored, where we can be watched, our behavior changes dramatically. The range of behavioral options that we consider when we think we’re being watched severely reduces. This is just a fact of human nature that has been recognized in social science and in literature and in religion and in virtually every field of discipline.”

In a social situation, when you know you are being watched, most people become conscious of their every action and movement. As Mr. Greenwald puts it, they “make decisions not that are the byproduct of their own agency but that are about the expectations that others have of them or the mandates of societal orthodoxy.”

Extending this to free speech – any time we know that our speech can be turned against us, we alter it, we conform, we keep quiet.

This has profound consequences for our society. The political arena has become bloodsport where it is not necessarily the marketplace of ideas that wins out at the end of the day, but rather who makes a mistake, who says something that can be manipulated or twisted.

There are profound consequences for public policy, because people are afraid in the political arena to speak out against a policy that is problematic if they believe that they will be politically damaged.

We have the extreme example of the of the McCarthy era where there were virtual witch hunts for people who might be associated with Communists or left-thinking.

More recently, we saw in the days post-911 the willingness for many to support draconian curtailments of liberty such as the Patriot Act, the insidiousness of the act to create a national security state, and the unwillingness of either political party to undo it.

For years, the capital punishment issue killed Democratic candidates. 1988 marked the end of challenges to the death penalty effectively for the next 20 years, when Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis failed to articulate his opposition to the death penalty and fumbled a debate question.

The result was that, in 1992, Democrats ran toward the death penalty to the point where Bill Clinton actually rushed back to Arkansas to oversee the execution of one individual. Problems with the death penalty would be ignored for a long time, and only in the last five to ten years have criticisms about fairness, effectiveness, and, of course, the problem of wrongful convictions crept back into political discourse.

Yes. we have the real world lessons of free speech turning against the speaker, but that is far from a good state of affairs.

We need a society where we can have free and open dialogue, and any time fear is introduced, we lose out and there are profound policy implications to that loss as people are not willing to speak against popular policies or speak for unpopular ones.

The debate over anonymity has long existed on these spaces. But one reason the Vanguard has always allowed anonymous posters has been to allow for speech without fear of retribution.

It was an interesting exchange the other week.

Again, one poster stated: “Welcome to the real world.  You live and die by what you say and do.  If you are not willing to take the heat for what you say and do, then stay out of the kitchen.”

Another responded, “Ironically stated by an anonymous poster.”

The point is a powerful one – the need to be able to speak one’s mind without fear of retribution. Staying out of the kitchen means not engaging in the public debate, and that cannot be a good thing for a free and open society.

The Vanguard, of course, seeks to carve out public space for these dialogues, but free speech must go further. We should not fear people who have a divergent opinion, rather we should embrace that opinion as a chance to learn something new about the world and a chance to correct others if they are mistaken.

To me, that is the hallmark of free speech.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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35 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: Freedom of Speech, Just Watch What You Say”

  1. sisterhood

    “We need a society where we can have free and open dialogue, and any time fear is introduced, we lose out and there are profound policy implications to that loss as people are not willing to speak against popular policies or speak for unpopular ones.”

    Agreed. I hope you continue your policy of printing opinions that are different from yours.

  2. Anon

    Sorry, but this article is a complete distortion of the constitutional right to freedom of speech, and here is why I say this:

    the ability to actually be able to carry out free discourse without fear of retribution.”

    A situation where an individual cannot speak out due to fear of social, economic, or other ostracism could be considered just as repressive as the situation in which an individual faces imprisonment or death for speaking out.”

    Any time there are consequences for speech, our freedom is constrained and the free exchange of ideas is thwarted.

    1.  The constitution guarantees that Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech.  It says absolutely nothing about private citizens not being permitted to abridge freedom of speech.  In fact, in homeowner associations, homeowners have been fined for speaking out against the homeowner association board – and had it labeled “noxious behavior”.  Stores have made decisions that employees may not say “Merry Christmas”.  Employees have to sign non-dislosure agreements limiting what they can or cannot say about their employer.  And the list goes on.

    2. Case law and subsequent legislation have put further parameters around the notion of freedom of speech – private citizens cannot yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater, nor can citizens incite violence.  Child pornography cannot be in the possession of citizens.  In other words, freedom of speech comes with responsibility.

    3. It is not fair to say on the one hand an individual has the right to speak out, then turn around and say others cannot ostracize that speech, or choose not to socialize with that individual who spoke out, or not purchase goods from that individual’s store.  To do so would interfere with others right to freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom to take their dollars and spend them where they choose.

    You may not like the concept of freedom of speech, because it does have consequences, and those consequences can be severe.  Just as the ACLU defended the right of the KKK to march down the street of Skokie, and just as Montgomery bus boycotts were used to address those who advocated apartheid on buses in the South, the consequences of free speech can be uncomfortable, devastating, ugly, but a necessary part of true freedom of speech.

    I think what you are asking for is “civility” in speaking, which is NOT a constitutional right.  However, Fayyez certainly was not “civil” in her discourse.  But to ask that Fayyez have no social, economic or other ostracism is to strangle others right to speak out.  The Charlie Hebdo controversy is a perfect example of this.  Just because radical Islamics don’t like their religion being lampooned doesn’t give them the right to kill the author of speech they don’t like.  Interestingly, 1) younger French citizens think the Charlie Hebdo publication is sophomoric; 2) there has been an attempt to pass anti-blasphemy laws in democratic countries as a result.  I consider anti-blasphemy laws a dangerous precedent that suffocates free speech.

    I will say it again: I did not like what Ms. Fayyez said, but I would die for her right to say it.  But that is a separate issue from whether she should suffer consequences of her speech, e.g.  should she remain as an ASUCD representative.  IMO, if an ASUCD senator said “The KKK rules UCD; and civil rights will fall, God willing”, I would feel the ASUCD senator should be removed.  The remarks do not follow the Principles of Community, which students are supposed to abide by.  Such individuals who speak such vile trash do not deserve to be an ASUCD representative.  But ultimately that is a decision for the ASUCD and who they want to represent them.

    But I have every right to give my opinion, just as you have a right to say Fayyez should not suffer any consequences for her words.  But it would be an awful world if what people said had no consequences.  If a store owner spewed hate for gays, are you trying to tell me I have to continue shopping at his store because there should be no consequences for his speech?

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      “this article is a complete distortion of the constitutional right to freedom of speech”

      This article wasn’t about the constitutional right to freedom of speech. In fact, I explicitly moved past the constitutional right to free speech when I differentiated negative right to speech (freedom from government prohibition) to the positive right to speech – the actual ability to speak freely without other forms of retribution.

      1. Anon

        If this article is not about the constitutional right to freedom of speech, then why:

        1. Post a picture of a stone engraved with the constitutional right to freedom of speech?

        2. Refer to “free speech” numerous times in your article.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          Good questions.

          1. I used that picture as a juxtaposition of the legal right versus the more expansive view of free speech I was introducing.

          2. Free speech does not just refer to the First Amendment right to speech.

        2. David Greenwald Post author

          This is from the middle of the article:

          Again, what is free speech? The reader here seems to define it as a negative view of free speech – as long as there are no legal restrictions against free speech, then we have satisfied our free speech requirement. However, I believe in a more positive view of free speech. Freedom of speech is not simply the absence of legal constraints, but rather the ability to actually be able to carry out free discourse without fear of retribution.

    2. David Greenwald Post author

      “It is not fair to say on the one hand an individual has the right to speak out, then turn around and say others cannot ostracize that speech, or choose not to socialize with that individual who spoke out, or not purchase goods from that individual’s store. To do so would interfere with others right to freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom to take their dollars and spend them where they choose.”

      Actually it is. In fact, we have created such a space here on the Vanguard, that’s why you are free to state your mind without fear that someone will sanction you or ostracize you for that speech.

      1. Anon

        How the heck is it fair to say on the one hand an individual has the right to speak, but no one has the right to ostracize that speech?   One has the right to both freedom of speech and freedom of association.  Secondly, I know at least one commenter on the Vanguard felt compelled to leave this blog because his comments on an issue were effecting his business.  Nor can the Vanguard  control freedom of association, if someone decides not to have anything to do with so-and-so who made certain comments on the Vanguard.  Whether you like it or not, freedom of speech comes with consequences.  And because it does come with consequences, those who speak should choose their words carefully, and be prepared to take the consequences if another doesn’t like those words.  It is part and parcel of living in a free society.

        Now if you are advocating for more civil speech, I’m all for that!  And that would start with asking Ms. Fayyez to make an apology for her impolitic words.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          “How the heck is it fair to say on the one hand an individual has the right to speak, but no one has the right to ostracize that speech? ”

          Ostracize means a form of social sanction – I don’t think that’s congruent with a free and open society. Criticize, debate, refute, rebut, are all fair. But you seem to want to take it to another level.

          “Secondly, I know at least one commenter on the Vanguard felt compelled to leave this blog because his comments on an issue were effecting his business. ”

          I don’t recall that being the case, though I do know that one individual who went from posting under their own name to posting under a pseudonym for that reason.

          “Nor can the Vanguard control freedom of association, if someone decides not to have anything to do with so-and-so who made certain comments on the Vanguard. Whether you like it or not, freedom of speech comes with consequences”

          I don’t disagree with that, but that wasn’t really the point of this commentary. The point of this commentary is to lament it and to argue that it harms our society and our democracy.

    3. Tia Will

      If a store owner spewed hate for gays, are you trying to tell me I have to continue shopping at his store because there should be no consequences for his speech?”

      For me this is an interesting point because of the criticism I took on this blog for my statement that I did not intend to shop at a local store because of a particular political action of the owner. I was criticized by those who supported the positions of this shop owner for precisely this with the implication being that I should continue to shop there, or at least keep my position private because it would harm this shopkeeper. Hmmmm….do I sense an inconsistency of thought here ?

      1. Anon

        LOL  Yes, life is often not black and white, and sometimes the world is not ideal nor are solutions to problems cut and dried.  The fact of the matter is, you and I are free to spend our dollars where we choose, because this is a free society.  If I get poor service, if the store owner is an ethnic minority I don’t like or has different political views than mine, I get to choose where to spend my dollars.  This method was very effectively used in the South – the Montgomery bus boycott.

        1. Frankly

          http://gawker.com/gay-couple-files-discrimination-complaint-against-color-511814443

          I guess just not giving the store their money is not enough.

          And that, my friends, is the entire problem in a nutshell.

          It isn’t a problem that Tia the shopper let’s her politics influence her shopping.  I would not do that (for only political reasons), but she and I both have the freedom of association.

          The problem is the ham hand of government being used to try and force association.  Saw this coming from a mile away.  It was clear from the beginning that gay marriage wasn’t a movement to provide equal rights, it was one of many ongoing steps planned to mainstream homosexuality into society and use the power of government to force it on people that have moral disagreements with it.

          So it is not even free speech that is threatened.  This is much more sinister.

          How about that atheist baker that refuses to include any Christian symbols on the cakes she makes?  Now I suppose in consideration of the current victim firewall, that would be fine.  Because that cake buyer can always go to another bakery to get the cake he wants.

          1. justme

            I am 100% for gay marriage..  I do not care nor is it any of my business who anyone else marries…  I had someone ask me once “wouldnt it bother you to walk through the park and see two gay guys making out?”  Yes, it would…  The same way it  bothers me to see a straight couple in the park making out….

        2. Frankly

          I don’t care so much about gays marrying, I care about government eroding freedoms and causing material harm to some groups over other groups.  Gays are behind the politically correct victim firewall.  Christians are not.

          But the point was/is freedom of association.  And freedom of religion.

          Let me ask you this.. why would you want a wedding cake made by a baker that did not want to make it for you?  Answer, you don’t.  You just want to punish the baker for rejecting your lifestyle choice.

          1. Don Shor

            Using your previous terminology, I find it “sinister” that people would use their religion to discriminate in the provision of goods and services. I do think this needs to be tested in court. You are deeply concerned about the rights of some Christians to discriminate because of their religious beliefs. But you seem unconcerned about how far that is going in state legislatures across the country. The ACLU is intervening in cases including:

            Religiously affiliated schools firing women because they became pregnant while not married;
            Business owners refusing to provide insurance coverage for contraception for their employees;
            Graduate students, training to be social workers, refusing to counsel gay people;
            Pharmacies turning away women seeking to fill birth control prescriptions;
            Bridal salons, photo studios, and reception halls closing their doors to same-sex couples planning their weddings.

            https://www.aclu.org/using-religion-discriminate
            So yes, this needs to go to court. Because allowing discrimination in any sense allows it in many broader instances. Courts may need to parse this carefully. If the baker has rights, how about the privately owned pharmacy?
            And it doesn’t really help that all of the arguments you are using now against gay citizens were used in the past on behalf of racial discrimination.

    4. Napoleon Pig IV

      ” I consider anti-blasphemy laws a dangerous precedent that suffocates free speech.”

      This is an excellent point and one that addresses a danger that is not as far fetched as it might seem to the more enlightened denizens of the barnyard. The god of person A is nothing but a delusional vision of a sky wizard to person B. In the absence of a validated instrument for the objective and reproducible differentiation of gods from sky wizards, how we are to define blasphemy except as something that someone with an invisible friend really, really doesn’t like to hear said or see written?

      I applaud David’s commitment to freedom of speech, whatever its definition might be, and to the public service he provides via this e-newspaper, blog, or whatever the right word for it is, BUT I’ll continue to avoid associating with critters I consider to be idiots by choice, whose odors I dislike, and whose opinions are reflective of lower levels of evolution. Oink!

      1. Frankly

        There is freedom of speech and there is freedom of association.  Both must be protected at almost all costs, else we cease to be free.

        The problem we run into is when the critters occupy seats of government and have power to make you bend to their choice of idiocy.

  3. Anon

    Ostracize means a form of social sanction – I don’t think that’s congruent with a free and open society. “

    The point of this commentary is to lament …[freedom of association] and to argue that it harms our society and our democracy.”

    Freedom of association is to be lamented and harms our society?  Really?

     

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      It referred to this part of your comment: “Whether you like it or not, freedom of speech comes with consequences” – The point of the column was to lament the ways in which society suppresses freedom of speech to its detriment.

      1. Anon

        How does society suppress free speech to its detriment?  You seem to be complaining that Fayyez got a lot of negative feedback for her comments on Facebook.  Are you trying to say no one should have called for Fayyez to resign her position as ASUCD rep?  I am really not understanding your position at all.  It is completely inconsistent with our constitutional right to freedom of speech.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          I don’t have a problem with her getting a negative response.  I have a problem if that response convinces her and people who think like her not to speak.  It is a fine line here admittedly but it is an importat distinction.

    2. Tia Will

      Freedom of association is to be lamented and harms our society?  Really?

      For me, this is another of life’s “not so black and white” areas.

      When “freedom of association” is taken to its extreme, namely ostracism, I do believe that it is harmful to society. Let’s leave race and religion aside for the moment and consider an issue that is no longer quite such a hot button.

      When I entered medicine 30 years ago, it was very hard for a woman to advance in a career in a surgical subspecialty. Not because we were not being admitted to medical school in slowly increasing numbers, and not because of our technical skills, but because of the “old boys” network. Of course, who you choose to play golf with on the weekends influences who gets the most attention, the most teaching and the best surgical experience leading ultimately to the best job opportunities.. At that time women really did have to be significantly better than their male colleagues to be considered “equals”. This was “freedom of association”on the golf course, but definitely had adverse consequences for fifty percent of the population. When 50 percent of the population is being harmed, yes, I would have to consider this “freedom of association” to be harmful to the society.

  4. Alan Miller

    “If a store owner spewed hate for gays, are you trying to tell me I have to continue shopping at his store because there should be no consequences for his speech?”

    There are a half-dozen businesses in Davis that do not receive my dollars for various reasons, from poor service, to how they treat their employees, to promises made and broken, to negative effects on the surrounding community.  Political views of the owners are not enough to earn my wrath; outright racism will.

  5. Alan Miller

    “Whether you like it or not, freedom of speech comes with consequences.”

    Except when you are ANONymous.  Then it comes with no consequences.  Ironically.

    David, I agreed with so much of the first part of your piece, especially about posting articles with opinions you don’t support, and most importantly the irony of the left squelching speech / speakers they don’t like.

    However, you lost me and flushed your own logic when you talked about how the Vanguard allows for freedom of speech without consequences by allowing for the anonymous.  Who has freedom of speech when there is no who?  Of course part of freedom of speech is that there will be a reaction to it.

    Ironically, I agree with most all A-Non says as well, except, ironically, that A-Non argues that there will be consequences, and yet posts anonymously, and thus there are no consequences for A-Non.  Again, flushing one’s own logic.

    Arrrrg! #sound of Alan’s head being self pounded against a brick wall#

    1. hpierce

      Suspect many of us feel at least emotional consequences when we say things that people negatively react to.  You see to imply that although you probably will have no economical, peer group, other repercussions from what you say and/or how you say it, you support the idea that there should be no “nom-de-plume” posters on this blog.  I get it.

      Perhaps we should end the “whistle-blower” laws, or extend them to cover “social media”, even if the whistle is blown on someone other than their public/private employer.

  6. Tia Will

    Alan

    The issue for me is whether or not the idea itself has merit. If it does, and is not an attack on another poster, then I believe that it deserves to be heard and judged regardless of the identity of the poster.

    If it is a personal attack then it has no place here anyway.

    If it is merely a statement of agreement or disagreement without the addition of any other facts or comments, then it can be viewed as an up or down button and appreciated….or not as one chooses.

    It is the value of the ideas themselves that is of interest to me and the reason that I have consistently favored allowing anonymous posting.

    And I hope your head feels better.

    1. hpierce

      “If it is a personal attack then it has no place here anyway.”  Check yourself.  You may be over-simplifying.  If I say Mr X is an idiot, I may well be out of line.  But if Mr X says something and I sarcastically/sardonically answer back, “Well, if it was your child, and we amplified the injury 10 X, would you feel the same?”, I guess that wouldn’t be a “personal” attack (just a question), so that’s OK,  Right?

  7. Alan Miller

    I agree from and ideas point of view. I do not agree for my free-speech point of view. Part of free speech is taking responsibility for one’s speech. I know, if I were anonymous, I would be much more straightforward and harsh with my comments (More so than I already am).

    1. hpierce

      Again, note the difference between “free” speech” and “civil” speech.  That being said, most uncivil comments tend to undermine the author’s credibility, so “what the hey”.

    2. sisterhood

      Alan, this bears repeating: you have a very common name. I do not. I used to be on FB and I was the only one with my name, which tells you how rare it is. With a name like Miller, you still have a slight veil of anonymity. I have none.  I also have experience with a very fragile mentally ill woman who bothered my family, a stalker exboyfriend, and my sister’s stalker exboyfriend. Due to these experiences,  (and the fact I’ve criticized the Dixon Police Dept., who I continue to fear and always will, for the rest of my days), I don’t need any more loony tunes in my life.  I prefer to let my pals who read this figure out who I am, and the rest of you folks don’t have a right to know. A while back one poster made a comment that they could figure out who I was. I changed my profile name after that, and got flack from one reader. I then stopped writing on here for a while. I don’t understand why people need to know who the anonymous folks are. It’s almost like they are a tiny bit voyeuristic…

  8. Frankly

    We live in a society where, increasingly, we have free speech in name only.

    I completely agree with this and applaud the VG for sticking to a recognized journalistic standard of free and open dialog with some controls to keep the conversation civil and focused.

    However, I think we are missing the more important angle on this topic.

    First I need to disclose my own personal perspective on conflict of ideas and debate.  Early in my professional life I was burned by complacency and group-think. I learned about “opportunity cost” and that risks were also defined by failure to recognize and grasp opportunity.  Andy Grove, the ex-CEO of Intel, wrote the book “Only the Paranoid Survive”.   The “paranoia” in this case was the constant nagging fear that the organization is doing something blindly wrong or failing to do enough things right.   One of the catalysts toward an unfortunate end from unmitigated risks of not doing enough things right or doing too many things wrong, is bureaucracy… and so bureaucracy needed to be stamped out.   Best-practices in leadership and organization developed to foment a constant rational challenge to the status quo… basically a march AWAY from greater and greater bureaucracy.

    Since this type of direction (away from complacency and group-think) can lead to destructive competition (anarchy), the leaders would have to do a few other things very well.

    One – they would have to establish a set of clear operating principles as a behavior code.  This becomes the base of security to support many branches of ideas.

    Two – they would have to set clear general direction (mission, etc).  Again, setting the base.

    Three – they would have to spend more time facilitating team participation rather that working to solve the problems.  People tend to fall in love with their own ideas and solutions… hence the need to separate from the actual work and become a true leader of others doing the work.

    Four – they would need to create a safe environment for others to contribute ideas without fear of retribution.

    This last point is the missing angle.  More specifically, it is the material damage done to someone over something said or written where there is inadequate leverage for demanding an accounting.

    And there are two entitles where abuse of this type of thing should be absolutely NOT tolerated.

    One is the media.  The other is government.

    For both there are limited remedies to demand an accounting.  In the private world we can sue and we can spend or not spend money.   But going after the media-political industrial complex to demand an accounting is fruitless.  They have absolute power.

    Interestingly enough, these are the two entities supposedly the most entrusted with protecting freedom of speech.  But they are also the two entities increasingly brazen about attacking and damaging people and entities they disagree with.

    They are supported by constituents, who IMO are making a giant mistake, applauding this type of behavior as it supports their worldview.  For example, a business leader that gave money to protect the traditional definition of marriage that was attacked and lost their job.  Another business leader that made a blog comment about a politician that was rejected from government contracts or programs.  Non-profits targeted by the IRS.   Celebrities with conservative leanings attacked for something they said while others with liberal leanings saying much worse but are ignored… and the converse.

    Freedom of speech means needing to be tolerant of and respectful of speech that may go against your worldview.  More importantly, lacking an intelligent debate and falling into complacent group-think will increase the risk that giant mistakes are building or valuable opportunities will be lost.  In fact, those demanding complacency or silence should be labeled as the biggest risk to our continued success.

    Intolerance should really be redefined as being dismissive of and hostile toward people in disagreement.   Myself, I seek those people out because they make for the best conversations.

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