The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech, by Kirsten Powers (book review)

The title reveals what this book is about. Miss Powers is a lifelong Democrat who has evolved and recognizes many of the dangers presented by today’s liberals and radicals. From a pink-diaper upbringing by leftie academics and atheism, to sometime girlfriend of Carlos Danger (aka Anthony Weiner,) then to a convert to Christianity aided by charismatic Presbyterian minister Tim Keller, and last year to Roman Catholicism, she is a rare example of what a liberal should be: courageous enough to be open-minded and willing to see the faults of one’s own side. The author modestly does not talk about herself, but concentrates on the misdeeds of the Left. Recommended.

The liberal Left – Miss Powers calls it the illiberal Left – has arrogated to itself the role of “authoritarian speech police.” Long past tolerating different opinions, it brands those who contradict its tenets as bigots, racists, sexists, misogynists, homophobes, &c. As such their speech is inherently harmful like a virus and should be suppressed.

“The illiberal left yearns for a world sanitized of information that offends them. So why not just tune out the views they don’t like? They can’t. They are authoritarians at heart; they know what Americans should think and what information they should consume….In 2014, the outside world got a peek at the illiberal left’s staging area – academia – with a spate of high-profile 2014 commencement speech cancellations and forced withdrawals. These were spurred by the protests of lefty students and professors outraged that someone who held views with which they disagreed…would be allowed to deliver a commencement address.” (pp6-7)

There are scores of examples of left-wing hyperbolic intolerance. Citing the “N-word” in Huckleberry Finn even to condemn it is to engage in “racialized violence.” The word “crazy” is an “ableist slur” unfit for liberal company. Debate does not proceed on the merits of different points of view. Since all good and decent people have already decided the issue, your heterodox point of view is illegitimate. By a typical verbal sleight of hand characteristic of the left, the illegitimacy of the point of view is transferred to the person maintaining it. Now you are illegitimate, an outcast. Furthermore, the violence with which your opinion offends me completely cancels out your right to speak. The issue that best exemplifies this is the kerfuffle involving George Will and campus rape.

In his June 6, 2014 Washington Post column, Dr Will contested the wildly inflated data about the ‘epidemic’ of campus rape and deplored the overreach of the Federal government in abusing its Title IX responsibility for athletics and so twisting the standard of evidence that many innocent men would be wrongfully convicted of rape. Will was roundly and widely criticized for “hate speech” and” bullying” and disinvited from speaking on campuses. (pp94, 146) His rhetoric had the “potential” to revictimize and retraumatize raped students. From potential to fact – another verbal sleight of hand – he was guilty of rape speech and per leftie Michael Eric Dyson students were in effect “re-raped” and “re-traumatized again verbally and rhetorically.” (p146)

Sometimes the book reads like a list of examples with little analysis or explanation. Many questions are unasked. Where does the new left’s rage come from? Old-time liberals were not given to such extremes of emotion? How should those of us with a Midwestern nice view of politeness communicate truth to angry radicals ready to erupt at any second? Whence what we have called verbal sleights of hand and their stunning lack of logic? We will pursue explanations of these arcana in subsequent posts.   Troglo

Troglo (L. H. Kevil)


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