Providing a platform for unpopular views adds credibility or brings about greater scrutiny

One of the criticisms that is levelled against Dave Rubin from the Rubin Report (along with other shows such as ‘Real Time with Bill Maher”) is how such programmes provides a platform for ‘unpalatable views’ along with the implied validation that the given point of view is within the realm of ‘acceptable discourse’ (aka the ‘Overton window’ ( link ) ). I’m one of two minds regarding this because I tend to lean heavily towards wanting the least amount of regulation on speech as possible – apart from the usual exemptions such as ‘you can’t yell fire in a theatre’ and ‘you cannot incite violence’, I believe that dialogue should be open and free but that being said there are two points of view that keep in my mind:

1) Sunlight is the best disinfectant for bad ideas or to paraphrase what Fran Lebowitz said “allow idiots to speak because that is how we find out whether they’re idiots”. So when Bill Maher or Dave Rubin invite on eccentric characters such as Alex Jones or Milo Yiannopoulos are they really saying, “these people are within the acceptable realms of discourse” (assuming there is some sort of objective arbiter of what constitutes ‘acceptable realm of discourse’ it a concept that is made up on the fly based on the political expediency of the host or some random opinionator at the Fox News, New York Times etc) or are they actually saying, “here is someone who is high profile, lets bring them on and put their views under scrutiny”.

Part of providing that platform to critique also undermines the well crafted technique that many on the extreme ends of the spectrum try to use to validate their ideas by claiming that the “powers that be do not want to give us a platform because we have the truth so they try to repress it to stop people from finding out! If we were wrong then why wouldn’t they allow us to speak and thus be proven wrong in the marketplace of ideas”. Once you allow them to come on television, make a fool of themselves and then they scurry off then all but the most hardcore crazies remain with the group in much the same way that David Starkey noted that the best way to skewer anti-Semites such as David Irving is to show them up for the charlatans that they are.

2) The platform is implied validation of the view or at least implying that their views are within the ‘acceptable realm’ of discourse thus claiming that there is some sort of legitimacy of what is being said by being given a platform. The best parallel that one can come up with his the ‘teach the controversy’ of ‘evolution vs. intelligent design/creationism’ where people have noted that it is akin to having ‘chemistry vs. alchemy’ if one were to be as ridiculous as coming with a false equivalency when one provides a platform to what is seemingly an irrational position or to paraphrase PJ O’Rouke would say, “outside the acceptable boundaries of being wrong’

Just something that has been rattling in my head over the last few weeks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s