Freedom of Speech and How it Applies to Relationships

It’s no secret that the New York Times is my main news source, but you may be surprised to know that my favorite op-ed columnists are moderate conservatives, Bret Stephens and David Brooks. I don’t necessarily agree with their politics, but they’re sober, thoughtful and logical writers who speak for a healthy middle ground that often gets lost in political discussions.

Stephens, in particular, has been on fire ever since the Times hired him last year – taking on both the far right and far left in equal measures. The address he gave to the University of Michigan in February, entitled “Free Speech and the Necessity of Discomfort” might be the best summation of my own feelings on the subject.

In it, he explores a subject near and dear to my liberal heart – the perpetual, problematic, embarrassing outrage by the far left over anything it doesn’t like. I’ve watched it happen to most of my ideological thought leaders: Stephen Colbert, Sam Harris, Bill Maher and Andrew Sullivan. All are thoughtful liberal-thinking pundits who have – at one time or another – been labeled racist or sexist for nothing more than making a joke, speaking an uncomfortable biological truth, or defending others rights to do so.

On the surface, this has nothing to do with dating and relationships, but, in fact, everything has to do with dating and relationships. Life is about relationships. Listening to others. Trying to understand their perspectives. Looking for common ground. Seeing the good in others instead of assuming that any disagreement is tantamount to war.

Life is about relationships. Listening to others. Trying to understand their perspectives. Looking for common ground.

For a long time, I dismissed people who were hostile to women, gays, blacks, Muslims, Jews, etc – by saying, “It is not intolerant to be intolerant of intolerance.” I still believe that we should not tolerate intolerance. But recently, the left has been blazing its own trail of intolerance by turning its allies into enemies – witness the recent exchange between Sam Harris and Ezra Klein.

In it, Harris defended another sociologist’s right to report data that intimates that there may be IQ differences between races. And because Harris defends this sociologist’s right to see where the data leads – even if the result is uncomfortable – Klein smears Harris as a racist himself – a label that’s nearly impossible to wash away once the accusation has been leveled. This is happening everywhere and the effects are chilling. It’s why I passed up an opportunity to go on CNN to talk about #MeToo. Anything I say to defend men like myself is potential fuel for someone who wants to label me as part of the problem.

“Either agree with us in lockstep or shut up!” seems to be the party line. That’s no good.

Says Stephens in his Michigan address: “The answer to a politics of right-wing illiberalism is not a politics of left-wing illiberalism. It is a politics of liberalism, period. This is politics that believes in the virtues of openness, reason, toleration, dissent, second-guessing, respectful but robust debate, individual conscience and dignity, a sense of decency and also a sense of humor. In a word, Enlightenment. It’s a capacious politics, with plenty of room for the editorials of, say, The New York Times and those of The Wall Street Journal. And it is an uncomfortable politics, because it requires that each side recognize the rights and legitimacy, and perhaps even the value, of the other.”

Like Harris, I’m a pragmatic liberal who, above all, values truth and rational debate. For the most part, this blog and the comments reflect that. But every once in awhile you’ll notice women commenters dismissing the views of male commenters, male commenters dismissing the views of female commenters, and both sides occasionally attacking me as if I’m driven by ideology rather than truth. This is what I want to call attention to. This is what I’m trying to eradicate.

We will never get anywhere as a country if we can’t acknowledge uncomfortable truths.

We will never get anywhere as a country if we can’t acknowledge uncomfortable truths.

Guns DO kill people. Liberals ARE turning allies into enemies. Radical Muslims DO hold beliefs including stoning for adultery and apostasy. Trump IS a liar. Men and women ARE different.

It’s not that we can’t make good faith arguments as to why the 2nd amendment is important, liberals are consistently on the side of human rights, many Muslims (especially in the US) don’t have radical beliefs, Trump appeals to many people with his MAGA rhetoric, and men and women share more in common than they have different.

But if we can’t listen to both sides of the argument; if, just by acknowledging the truth of the other side, you’re a heretic, well, it says a lot about what ails our society. I would hope that my regular readers will read the Bret Stephens piece and won’t give me any grief for writing this piece, but if you cherry pick something in this piece that triggers you and use it as an attack on my character, guess what?

You’re the reason I felt compelled to write this at all.

Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated.

 

 

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Sam

    Evan, I really appreciate you writing this post. As a millennial (I’m 28), female, republican attorney living in New York City I am constantly surrounded by people who disagree with me. Here in NY (LA is probably similar) it almost feels like you’re not allowed to be a republican. It’s something I don’t tell people. There are a small number of people who are like you, such as my best friend (huge democrat) and a few other people I know, but in my experience, most people I encounter make it known right off the bat that if you don’t despise Trump, you shouldn’t bother talking to them.

    I wish I could explain to some people that not everyone votes for the same reasons. I’m socially liberal but I’m fiscally conservative and that is where my voting allegiance lies. I do find Trump to be a complete pig, but there is no doubt that the economy has been booming since he has been elected. I actually did vote for Hillary in the 2016 election but if Trump runs again and the second half of his term is anything like the first, I would not hesitate to vote for him. That’s not an opinion I can openly express to most of the people I associate with on a daily basis without being ridiculed. Yet, almost all my friends, colleagues, etc. bash Trump and the entire republican party and if they make a good point based on facts and statistics, I’ll almost always agree. Your articles are always based on facts and logic and that is exactly how I like to see the world too, which is the exact reason I’ve been reading your site for the past 5+ years. I have read almost every blog post you’ve written, listened to many of your podcasts, and read your book “Why He Disappeared” and I love the way you think.

    As for my dating life, since that is the real reason you write, you have helped me so much in that realm. I discovered your blog about 5 years ago after a long term relationship ended when I was 24. I began dating in NYC for the first time and quickly discovered that I knew nothing about men. I discovered your blog after some googling and started reading. I have had 3 serious relationships since (my current boyfriend and I have been together almost 11 months now!) but I have never stopped reading your blog posts every Monday and Thursday. In fact, I look forward to them. I just want to say thank you for everything you have taught me. Your logical (and very accurate) take on dating and men is exactly what every girl needs to read.

    1. 1.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Thank YOU for replying, Sam. That means a lot to me because this is a subject near and dear to my heart. While I still don’t see how anyone can get behind Trump, who is almost objectively the World’s Worst Person, I do have many moderate conservative friends who have a different set of priorities when it comes to politics. They’re among my favorite people and we have some of the more interesting discussions, because we’re trying to see eye to eye within a moderate lens – and rarely, if ever, dismiss each other’s point of view (yes, the very way I just dismissed Trump). Anyway, thanks for reading and make sure you’re on my mailing list to see what’s coming up next… XO

      1. 1.1.1
        Sam

        Evan, I’m so glad you answered me! I never thought that would happen! Even though I’ve already been on your mailing list for years and love your emails, haha.

        I completely respect your position on Trump, I have many close friends and family members who agree with you, and right here is an example of listening to other people’s opinions instead of dismissing them so quickly!

        Anyway, I truly want to thank you for all your wonderful advice! I will never stop reading your weekly posts and emails.

    2. 1.2
      Gala

      Sam: take it from another millennial female concervative living in New York: you need a new set of friends. There are more conservatives in NY than people realize… especially among the upper middle class and affluent who are constantly asked to pay for the welfare extravaganza with the tax dollars taken from their families (though like you and me they tend to be socially liberal). Most of my friends fall somewhere on this spectrum. I steer clear of aggressive social justice warriors since i consider it a form of mental disability… come to an event at the women’s republican club in the city for some mingling with like minded ladies.

      1. 1.2.1
        Sam

        Gala, I didn’t even know there was a women’s republican club. I’m going to research that and see if I can make any events. I’d love to meet more young, female republicans like us. I honestly don’t even know one. My boyfriend is republican and I have a few male friends and exes who are too but I have yet to meet another young female. So good to hear there are more of us out there!

  2. 2
    Serena Day

    There is so much wisdom in your words, so much common sense. You are clearly a mature ADULT with the ability to think and analyse information. Unfortunately some of the more extreme liberal types are more like toddlers who scream with rage and throw tantrums when they encounter an opinion they don’t agree with. Their aggression at times is quite terrifying.

    I am shocked that you were too scared to go on CNN to talk about #MeToo. I mean, I understand and I don’t blame you but basically you are admitting that these intimidation tactics have worked. They have silenced you! You and how many others? How many good men are afraid to speak for fear of the Outrage Warriors coming to destroy them? Chilling, indeed. I’m slightly older than you Evan and when I was young we thought feminism was creating a better world. How did we get here?

  3. 3
    Fromkin

    “Unfortunately some of the more extreme liberal types are more like toddlers who scream with rage and throw tantrums when they encounter an opinion they don’t agree with. Their aggression at times is quite terrifying.”

     

    Particularly when they threaten violence at the drop of a hat with firearms, for at least 8 or 10 years now. Or when they seemingly drool at the thought of someone spilling blood in the streets. You know, when they actually drive cross country to march in some city with their guns, and kill a young woman who actually lived there.

    Oh wait, are those liberals?

    1. 3.1
      AndyK

      Brilliant whataboutism. Extremism is extremism, eventually they all seem to manage justifying mass murder to themselves through groupthink.

  4. 4
    Denise

    Great post, Evan. 

    Hopefully you also saw or will look at the article on the so-called Intellectual Dark Web.  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/08/opinion/intellectual-dark-web.html

    It’s heartening that people of different intellectual and political persuasions are coming together for free speech and wide-ranging conversations in an end-run around the traditional media, which I believe is to blame for us seeing each other in stereotyped, extreme and false ways.  Everyone on the right who sees the left eating itself is saying “now you know how we always felt and still do.”

    I like watching Scott Adams talk about the ‘lies’ and ‘narcissism’ of Trump, because there are vastly different ways which good people can interpret the same facts.  And much of how we react to ‘news’ is based on confirmation bias. 
    https://www.pscp.tv/w/1YqGoLRgQMvJv
    https://twitter.com/ScottAdamsSays/status/994950534887981056

    He just began an online conversation with Hawk Newsome of Black Lives Matter today.  While his mostly Trump-leaning audience did not relate to Hawk’s point of view, what was most interesting was the fact that everyone liked that the conversation had occurred and wants solutions that make black people’s lives better and there are some areas where everyone can actually take action together.

    The media that falsely polarizes us will keep losing power to these genuine conversations that are occurring with much less commercial interruption and corporate/political interests dictating what we are aware of and shaping how we perceive it.
    https://twitter.com/ScottAdamsSays/status/994950534887981056https://twitter.com/Scot

    1. 4.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      I did read the Bari Weiss article. I think she’s great. But people like Scott Adams are more part of the problem than the answer, if you ask me. I listened to Sam Harris interview Adams on his podcast and I wanted to throw my phone across the room. Way too many apologies for Trump based on him being a master communicator, rather than a liar who taps into peoples fears and insecurities and tells them what they want to hear. Still I get your larger point and think we should stop blaming “the media” since it’s far from monolithic and, for the most part, it takes news journalism seriously.

  5. 5
    Girl in the Midwest

    Hi Evan,

    I’m really glad you wrote this post.  In my 20s I was a liberal, now in my early 30s I am a moderate.  Fiscally more right than center, socially more left than center.  My problem is that overall, I am “too moderate” and thus don’t belong anywhere.  Both the right and the left have some modicum of truth in what they’re saying.

    Eg, I have to censor myself and nod politely along with my friends, who are mostly liberal.  I believe in personal responsibility.

    However while I agree with some of Trump’s policies, I didn’t vote for him.

    The result?  I just censor myself when I agree with the right.  I can only tell those deepest darkest truest political views to my husband and my parents.  I think this is the reason why nobody predicted Trump could win in 2016.  “You have not converted a man because you have silenced him”.  The Trump voters just went underground, and won.

  6. 6
    Jan

     
    Dear Evan,
     
    Thanks for taking this on…it’s a contentious topic.  And thanks for bringing the work of Bret Stephens and David Brooks to my attention. I’m always on the look out thoughtful writers willing to step up and risk taking it on the chin for their opinions. I appreciate your mention of the Harris-Klein debate. I’m a long time follower and admirer of Harris but pretty much on the down-low as my altra-lib friends think he’s an Islamophobe and as you said, nearly impossible to shake that label in the public square once you’ve been branded. Anyway I’m glad there are folks like you reminding us to try and work through our discomforts whether they are triggered by the opposite sex or opinions different from our own. Our reactions to virtually everything in life spring from an emotional place deep inside us. What good can we be if we can’t examine our own motives, opinions, and prejudices.
     

     

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