The left are at it again, if you’ll excuse the crude generalisation (more discussion on left/right distinctions some other time).
In a classic shout down on The Project, Jamila Rizvi, “accomplished host, interviewer and commentator”, who has “firmly established herself as the preeminent voice of young Australian women online” aggressively silences conservative radio host and fellow panelist on The Project, Steve Price. Yes, Price often speaks in a way which is ‘rude’, but this is different to speaking aggressively. You can watch the scene here .
Steve said in response to the US election result that “the people in real America – in Small Town America weren’t buying the bulldust that was coming out of the elites”. To which Rizvi took offense, commanding Price to cut the bullshit, in an aggressive attack.
In Rizvi’s defense, she did have a point: it makes little sense to call people in small town America real; all Americans are real. However, it showed a lack of interpretation on her part, not following the principle of charity in interpretation, which, to put in terms similar to the bible maxim: “interpret unto others as you would have them interpret unto you”.1 Price didn’t mean that people other than those in small town America are unreal, or empty shells embodying the form of ‘real people’. Rather, he was expressing that the concerns of those in small town America differ from the concerns of those in and among the hustle and bustle of cities, those vast centres of mass culture at its most manipulable.
But as has been mentioned, the principle of charity in interpretation assumes that the partner in the piece of reasoning has the goal of truly robust argument in mind.1 It is questionable as to whether Rizvi had this in mind, as her first instinct is, quite literally to shut down the debate. What is worse, host Carrie Bickmore assists in this goal when she reproaches Price for his “tone”. This happens after Price makes the comparison with people like Rizvi who shut down the debate on a show and political parties like the Democrat machine (presumably these were the elites Price mentioned that were peddling the said bulldust) shutting down debate in America. He makes a valid point, which a television program which has the primary goal of robust discussion might allow him to elaborate on; but as can be seen, the public discourse shrivels up to a narrow one-sided discussion.
People who have seen Price know, as I’ve said, that he can be “rude”, but I don’t think he was being rude at all when he gave his opinion on why Trump was elected. The problem with our society is that it is becoming one where the left are ready to take offense and shut down a debate rather than argue a point. This is what happened when Rizvi went wild at Price. However, he is used to this kind of thing, and could hold his own. He made the point that it was because of people like Rizvi that Trump won the election. I think this is a most penetrating insight. Especially when the audience then got emotional, and Bickmore then reprimanded Price for his tone. What about Rizvi’s tone? It was quite a spectacle to see; I urge readers to view the above link.
Why wasn’t Rizvi reprimanded for her tone? Because she’s the preeminent voice of young Australian women online. She’s part of a group which needs special treatment, positive discrimination, in the form of being allowed to speak aggressively and shut down debate, while Price needs just the opposite. It is such a joke that in a free society our culture tries to artificially alter debates.
A petition started which demanded that Bickmore apologise to Price on air. To which he responded that there was no need. Fair enough, the guy probably isn’t hurt. What is a big problem to me though, is the biased picture of the world which this shows people watching the show. The public deserve a balanced debate – leftists like Rizvi, and minority fundamentalists alike who always have an appeal because they possess or emphasise a certain identity, of an oppressed group which are owed something: women, certain ethnicities, LGBTIQ – and conservative voices such as Price. By letting people battle it out in the debate field, we encourage only the survival of the fittest ideas. By reprimanding people on a certain side (always the right), we encourage a worldview which is imposed on the world, and reproduces itself.
I don’t know if anything good would have resulted from an apology; but I think it does at least show that people are outraged. Some people. I would personally like to see the petition put up for a longer period of time to see how much support it could attract. I think it shows also what Price was talking about, that there actually does exist a certain amount of people (who knows how many) who are annoyed by the one sided debates, shutting down of opinions, and shrinking of public discourse. If Price was swearing at Rizvi you can bet there would have been a petition, possibly something worse, like him getting seriously reprimanded or kicked off the show. You think this is farfetched? Check out the eminent scientist Sir Timothy Hunt whose career was ruined after he made a joke that “caused offense”.
Make no mistake, we are entering into a culture where any aberration from sterile, politically correct standards of behaviour can result in the most dire consequences. The fact that what happened to Price wasn’t so bad mustn’t make us lose vigilance. If we are to fight for freedom in our country – freedom of ideas, that is, we must speak up when something like this happens. Those of us who do cherish ideals of freedom, robust debate and a free society, must be eternally vigilant of threats to liberty, and support each other. Encroachments on freedom are hardest to fight when they arise from the very culture itself.
- California State University (n.d.) Rational Reconstruction and the Principle of Charity. Retrieved from http://www.csus.edu/indiv/m/mayesgr/phl4/tutorial/phl4charity.htm