Filters can be necessary

This is annoying. Someone called Iona Italia wrote a post about Richard Dawkins’s de-platforming from a speaking event at radio KPFA in Berkeley. I think the de-platforming is rude and stupid and also shockingly under-justified by the people at KPFA, whose written explanation is about as cogent as a Trump tweet. But in writing about this Italia basically says it’s great that Richard is so rude. Yeah no – it’s not.

Dawkins has always been a man without a filter, who says exactly what he thinks, without worrying whether it might offend. This means that, in his public statements on politics, he occasionally sounds goofy or politically incorrect or voices a sentiment without considering how it will be interpreted by others. He’s no diplomat, no politician. But his frankness is one of his most important qualities, a manifestation of the passion his new book title alludes to, a passion for truth. He has real integrity: he always says what he believes to be true, unafraid of how it will be received. He sometimes admits he’s wrong and corrects himself but he never self-censors in advance. He always speaks truth to power.

Excuse me but that is crap. He does not always speak truth to power – he very often speaks belligerently and rudely to people with no power, and he very often does it for no reason of principle but just because he gets impatient and/or he is indignant at being contradicted…much like Trump.

And this business of having no filter and saying whatever one thinks without worrying whether it might offend is – obviously – far from always a virtue. Yes it’s often useful to shock the respectable, yes it’s often a good thing to shake up conventions; that does not mean it’s always awesome to blurt whatever pops into your head and then shout at anyone who talks back. There’s being a rebel and there’s being an asshole, and it’s just not the case that Richard is always the first and never the second.

I wish people made this distinction more often.

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