A Q&A with Philip Slayton, author of Antisemitism and past president of PEN Canada
We are under attack from within. It has become more and more obvious to me as the “awokening” has gone on. It’s almost like a fifth column has bored its way into our countries society. This is not going to end well. And hate to say it but I’ve had to abandon many thinkers on the dissident left these last few weeks.
I am a believer in Free Speech. If speech is going to be regulated, it needs to be in the realm of criminal enforcement of criminal laws with respect to counselling someone to commit a crime. Beyond that, the best way to combat bad speech is with more speech.
I do however struggle with propaganda and narratives. I also struggle with the lack of a level playing field. I struggle when I see power & money distorting the narratives to favor a particular voice. I also struggle when I see groups / interests setting out to capture governments / media / academia with their narrative, and silence competing voices preventing full debate.
In our western democracies, there are many groups guilty of this for many different reasons. For instance, the Cuban Exiles silence any voices that challenge them. Historically, the Arab voice has been silenced with respect to Palestine, the Haitian people's voice has been silenced with respect to historical injustice,.... There is a very long list of untold narratives that have been silenced historically, and in the present time. This does not make the voices right, or wrong. What has happened, is that because the voices have not been allowed to become part of the public debate is that they have not been heard, listened to, or dealt with in any coherent way.
For instance, our debates have consisted of Castro & his supporters bad, Cuban Exiles good. Arabs are bad irrational people, while Israel the only democracy in the middle east. Hattian's are ignorant useless people who need the White saviors to help them run their country. What these narratives do is to infantilize the people involved, decontextualize the situations, and remove all historical events that may have an impact on the present from the conversation. This has done nothing to contribute to solutions in the present time.
If we are going to move forward, we need to find ways to bring many different voices forward to be heard, considered, and then as a society we need to find ways to move forward in ways that respect all voices, and acknowledge the complete history & context of current events. This will not be easy, as many ugly truths will be revealed, and much forgiveness required, but do we have any choice?
Thank you for this excellent discussion of a very difficult subject. I have been looking up Gaza and Palestine and Israel to try and understand. I have found a lot of good information about the history that seems unbiased. As much as we should be free to hold pro and con opinions, i doubt very much that reasoning will get us to peace. Yet isn't that the assumption behind free speech, that moral justice will prevail? Or is more likely to prevail than when one authority or another suppresses opposing views? I think that is an untested assumption. If we look hard at history I suspect we will find many cases where decisions were made because one side claimed the moral high ground (in its opinion) and had the will and the might to fight for it. In battle, the struggle is to contain and "suppress": arms, logistics, manpower, supplies, transportation... and communications. We can indulge in debate about free speech only because we do not ourselves feel under siege.