Thursday 21 September 2017

Democracies require opposing viewpoints to be heard

If we wish to truly call ourselves liberal progressives, we must learn to listen to those voices we disagree with most, writes Carol Hunt

Stephen Fry recently criticised the self-censorship that now prevails in many campuses — including Irish ones — where ‘safe spaces’ and ‘trigger warnings’ are popular and invitations are rescinded to liberal speakers to prevent open debate, for fear of causing offence to the easily offended. Photo: YouTube
Stephen Fry recently criticised the self-censorship that now prevails in many campuses — including Irish ones — where ‘safe spaces’ and ‘trigger warnings’ are popular and invitations are rescinded to liberal speakers to prevent open debate, for fear of causing offence to the easily offended. Photo: YouTube
Carol Hunt

Carol Hunt

Last week I caught myself in the act of self-censoring. It occurred so naturally, and therefore perniciously, that I wondered how many times I had been ignorantly guilty of it in the past. I had returned from the NUI count centre in the RDS where I had chatted to fellow candidate, Senator Ronan Mullen.

Over the years I've had a few debates with Mullen on issues we disagree on, things like abortion, LGBT rights and religion in schools and in general. I've always enjoyed our clashes. As a feminist, a liberal and an atheist I could choose to be offended by ideas that I believe discriminate against me on grounds of gender and (non) religious belief, and I have no doubt that my own beliefs - on theism and equal rights, etc - offend others, but, as George Orwell said, if "liberty means anything it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear".

So I enjoy conversing with Mullen and others like him, not because I agree with many of his views, but precisely because I don't. How else am I supposed to sharpen my arguments or try to persuade them to my view?

Please sign in or register with Independent.ie for free access to Opinions.

Sign In

Don't Miss