Van Norden on the Right to an Audience

Ilya Repin. Portrait of Professor Ivanov. 1882, oil on canvas, Ateneum Art Museum.

Bryan W. Van Norden, professor of philosophy at Vassar College, writes that:

We are seeing the worsening of a trend that the 20th century German-American philosopher Herbert Marcuse warned of back in 1965: “In endlessly dragging debates over the media, the stupid opinion is treated with the same respect as the intelligent one, the misinformed may talk as long as the informed, and propaganda rides along with education, truth with falsehood.”

His solution? Not denying freedom of speech, but limiting access.

There is a clear line between censoring someone and refusing to provide them with institutional resources for disseminating their ideas.

Van Norden goes on:

What just access means in terms of positive policy is that institutions that are the gatekeepers to the public have a fiduciary responsibility to award access based on the merit of ideas and thinkers. To award space in a campus lecture hall to someone like [Jordan] Peterson who says that feminists “have an unconscious wish for brutal male domination,” or to give time on a television news show to someone like [Ann] Coulter who asserts that in an ideal world all Americans would convert to Christianity, or to interview a D-list actor like Jenny McCarthy about her view that actual scientists are wrong about the public health benefits of vaccines is not to display admirable intellectual open-mindedness. It is to take a positive stand that these views are within the realm of defensible rational discourse, and that these people are worth taking seriously as thinkers.”

In conclusion:

The invincibly ignorant and the intellectual huckster have every right to express their opinions, but their right to free speech is not the right to an audience.”

Attributions

Van Norden, Bryan W. “The Ignorant Do Not Have a Right to an Audience.” The New York Times, 25 June 2018. Accessed 25 June 2018.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s