The fight to be heard

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Friday, February 23, 1962.

I may  not agree with what you say, so I have perfected several techniques to dim the sound of your voice. 

Thus begins the ethical code of too many Americans.

Maybe I can discredit your opinions in the eyes of others by subtle name-calling, the code continues. Evidences of this often used tactic abound. “Politician” and “communist” or “fellow-traveler” are current favorites. “Reactionary rightist” or “far left liberal” are labels designed to close certain people minds to the words of the ones so designated.

This technique is a refined version of the old-fashioned “witch-hunting.” Actually, “witch-hunter” has now become one of the discrediting names used along with politician and communist.

If name-calling doesn’t work or isn’t practical a second technique the code names is censorship. The ideas of people can be kept from the public through the use of censorship. This technique has been used by Texas businessmen to censor school books. A recent issues of the Saturday Review discussed a booklet listing over 200 examples of recent censorship.

Censorship is often done under the guise of good. Censors defend themselves by arguing that they are helping people avoid evil influences. Nevertheless, they are using the agency of censorship to block the expression of opinions they do not agree with.

A technique that can be sued against public officials is impeachment. This technique has narrow application but it is one that the John Birch Society plants to try on Chief Justice Earl Warren next year. They have brought up no charges against Warren except that they do not agree with some of the decisions the has made while chief justice.

Those in authority fearing opinion often try to cut criticism off before it starts. Hearings, meetings and conferences are closed. If no one knows what is going on, there can hardly be an objective criticism of the decisions made.

Gerrymandering is used by a political party to dim the voice of the opposing party. Voting restrictions have been used in the South to discriminate against the opinions of certain people.

There are many watt to silence the voice of the dissent, and, unfortunately, all these techniques are being widely used. Most of them are based on emotionalism. Name-calling, censorship, impeachment are designed to set people emotionally against the offending opinions. And that emotionalism is often enough to close their minds to reason or considered thought.

What do I think we should do? How about a back to Voltaire movement? “I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it?”

What? You don’t really care to go that far? Well, at least let’s keep obstacles out of the road, let all opinions be voiced freely and give them due consideration.