Anyone involved in public debates, the blogosphere, or discussion about controversial issues in the public arena will know that it can get pretty hot out there at times. Public controversies are certainly not for the squeamish or the faint of heart.
One quickly discovers that developing a thick-skin is necessary to survive in the dog-eat-dog world of public debate. There is often far more heat being generated than light. Much of what passes for argument and debate is really just a lot of name-calling, ad hominem attacks, character assassination, and thinly disguised hatred. Indeed, over the years I have certainly received my fair share of abuse, hatred and bile, especially from the secular left.
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins is of course a classic example of this rage. Indeed, go to his website – if you dare – and see how his groupies savagely attack anyone who dares to challenge the reigning atheist dogma. While some proper argument is found there, more often than not, it is just a lot of abuse and personal attacks.
Countless other websites of the secular left could be mentioned. There seems to be a lot of anger and bitterness out there. Of course this is not to deny that conservative websites and commentators are free from such emotion and/or tactics. But for the most part, it seems the ugliness and hatred is found much more on the left side of the debate.
One American commentator, who happens to be both black and conservative, takes up this theme in a recent column. Thomas Sowell asks in his May 15, 2007 townhall.com, why is the left so angry? He begins:
“That people on the political left have a certain set of opinions, just as people do in other parts of the ideological spectrum, is not surprising. What is surprising, however, is how often the opinions of those on the left are accompanied by hostility and even hatred. Particular issues can arouse passions here and there for anyone with any political views. But, for many on the left, indignation is not a sometime thing. It is a way of life.”
He continues, “How often have you seen conservatives or libertarians take to the streets, shouting angry slogans? How often have conservative students on campus shouted down a visiting speaker or rioted to prevent the visitor from speaking at all? The source of the anger of liberals, ‘progressives’ or radicals is by no means readily apparent. The targets of their anger have included people who are non-confrontational or even genial, such as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. It is hard to think of a time when Karl Rove or Dick Cheney has even raised his voice but they are hated like the devil incarnate.”
There are many examples of this, not only from overseas, but here in Australia as well. Consider the case of one conservative and religious blogger that I know. His site has attracted so much negative attention from those on the left, that he has been forced to make big changes.
The lefties became so threatening, nasty and ugly, that my friend was left with no alternative but to pull down the entire web site and start over elsewhere. In this case the intimidation, stand-over tactics and bullying of the left paid off. And that is just what they want: to shut down proper debate, and just shout down any opposing viewpoints.
In truth, many of them really are not interested in debate at all. They can talk all they want about tolerance and acceptance, but often they can be the most intolerant and bigoted people I know.
I am reminded of an example of this some years ago, when Pauline Hanson was involved in politics. Whatever one thinks about her political viewpoints, one would have thought that in a democracy she had a right to share her opinions in public. But recall time after time when she sought to give a public lecture, she was physically threatened, abused and attempts were made to prevent her from speaking.
I recall at one Melbourne university there were large posters around campus urging students to prevent her from speaking. The posters urged students to do all they could to prevent her from even getting a hearing on campus. “Do not let Hanson speak” shouted the poster, or words to that effect.
Given that universities are in theory to be all about openness to ideas, freedom of expression, and the discussion of important issues of the day, it is quite strange to find such a totalitarian mindset among the campus lefties.
More recently I noticed posters on another campus saying John Howard was due to visit, and students were encouraged to “come along and give this warmonger the welcome he deserves”. The poster said in large letters that Howard was “Not Welcome Here!”. So much for openness, tolerance and diversity – something the left so much rants and raves about.
And given that this poster was supported by Students Against War and Racism, one would expect that if peace is their aim, then peaceful activities would be something they would want to promote. But if past experience is anything to go on, their presence at the Howard meetings will be anything but peaceful. Indeed, with words like “give him the welcome he deserves,” one can imagine what kind of reception he will get. These words amount to little more than incitement to riot. So much again for the “peaceful” left.
So why the left is so bitter, angry and hate-filled remains to be answered. I suppose they are entitled to their twisted and negative emotions. It is just so ironic that this nastiness comes from those who so often talk about the need to be loving, peaceful and tolerant. Nice theory, but pity about the reality.
So it is up to us to respond in the opposite spirit, to show that we can respect others even as we disagree with them. The other side may resort to bullying and low-down tactics, but we must aim for something better. Indeed, as Jesus prayed about those who wanted to put him to death: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”.