Monday, April 9, 2012

(Fortunately) Writing Exposes The Evils In Us All

John Derbyshire is an admitted racist. The fact that he was fired from his job as a writer for The National Review because of a racist article he authored which was subsequently published by Taki's Magazine seems a little like closing the barn door after the horse has run off, the pig's been eaten by wolves and the straw has been set ablaze.

It would have been different if when in 2003 Derbyshire admitted in an interview he was a racist and homophobe he had been fired immediately and denied further work, but instead it took a near public self-immolation to prompt any reaction at all.

Plus, since when does it help anyone for us to censor a writer's point of view, regardless of how racist, homophobic, bigoted or intolerant it may be? A much better idea is to drag these individuals into the light of day, force them to defend their point of view and generate public discussion on the issue.

Silencing a writer diminishes us all.

I certainly do not support Derbyshire's point of view. The guy sounds like a complete nut-job to me and his ideas are so backward I feel stupider having read his article which I refuse to link to. (If you want to read it, Google it yourself.) However, as Voltaire once wrote, "Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too."

If we silence writers we do not silence the thoughts which prompted the words which they wrote. If we have a problem with their words than surely we have a problem with their thoughts as well. The issue then becomes one of debate, not silence. With debate we can present divergent points of view, defend our points and come to better understand the points made by others.

Does The National Review have the right to fire anyone they wish? Absolutely. Does Derbyshire have the right to write anything he wishes? Absolutely. But the existence of one of these things does not preclude the existence of the other. In fact, without divergent points of view we cannot advance as a species-we cannot face the evils within us all if we don't bring those evils into the light of day.

Derbyshire clearly has a view of black Americans which differs greatly from my point of view. I am glad he wrote his ideas down so I am made aware of them. If he had kept them to himself how would any of us know what lurked in his heart? How would we be able to defend our own views and experiences and help educate him that his views might have been skewed by a singular bad experience or perhaps a lack of positive experiences?

Censoring or silencing writers does nothing to promote public awareness, regardless of how misguided the writer might be and worse yet, it prevents us all from moving forward in our thoughts and deeds because it prevents us from facing the obstacles which we are all trying to overcome.

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