Free Speech, Harm and the Pursuit of Life, Liberty and Happiness





The above speech giver’s disdain for what he calls the Left's "belief that since words can cause stress, and stress can have physiological effects, stressful words are tantamount to a form of violence" is noteworthy.

The speaker claims that the view that speech alone can cause harm has led to an "age of protected feelings purchased at the cost of permanent infantilization" is an exaggeration that shows his ignorance. That words can cause physical, psychological and social harm is not a "belief," it is a fact. See 'The Harm in Free Speech' https://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/opinionator/2012/06/04/the-harm-in-free-speech/?referer=.

A society that promises its people a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has an obligation to intervene in some manner and protect those who are forbidden this right. When a person is the target of racial abuse and threats of violence, his/her ability to freely pursue his/her life and strive for happiness is adversely affected. That is, they are adversely impacted in terms of their physical and emotional healthiness to perform work at their optimal capacity.

Such insensitivity to the rights of the oppressed also shows the speaker’s lack of life experience as a member of a group whose individuals have long been and continue to be the target of hateful, threatening words, and institutionally-condoned and supported, overtly or tacitly, prejudice, discrimination and violence.

That aside, the points he makes about journalism are compelling.

Excerpts
"This is yet another age in which we judge one another morally depending on where we stand politically."
...
"But today there’s a belief that since words can cause stress, and stress can have physiological effects, stressful words are tantamount to a form of violence. This is the age of protected feelings purchased at the cost of permanent infantilization."
...
"Any argument that can be cast as insensitive or offensive to a given group of people isn’t treated as being merely wrong. Instead it is seen as immoral, and therefore unworthy of discussion or rebuttal."
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"I’d like to conclude this talk with a word about the role that editors and especially publishers can play in ways that might improve the state of public discussion rather than just reflect and accelerate its decline."
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"The crucial prerequisite of intelligent disagreement — namely: shut up; listen up; pause and reconsider; and only then speak — is absent."
...
"Fox News and other partisan networks have demonstrated that the quickest route to huge profitability is to serve up a steady diet of high-carb, low-protein populist pap. Reasoned disagreement of the kind that could serve democracy well fails the market test. Those of us who otherwise believe in the virtues of unfettered capitalism should bear that fact in mind."
...
"But no country can have good government, or a healthy public square, without high-quality journalism — journalism that can distinguish a fact from a belief and again from an opinion; that understands that the purpose of opinion isn’t to depart from facts but to use them as a bridge to a larger idea called 'truth'; and that appreciates that truth is a large enough destination that, like Manhattan, it can be reached by many bridges of radically different designs. In other words, journalism that is grounded in facts while abounding in disagreements."
...
"[F]ree men and women do not need to be protected from discomfiting ideas and unpopular arguments. More than ever, they need to be exposed to them, so that we may revive the arts of disagreement that are the best foundation of intelligent democratic life."


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