Thursday, May 21, 2015

Book Review: The Silencing by Kirsten Powers

I read Kirsten Powers's The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech because I was interested in what she would say about free speech on our university and college campuses. I have blogged about the restrictions on free speech on campus, with free speech zones and other horrors, before on my blog.

Powers identifies an "illiberal left" which, instead of engaging in debate and discussion with people who have different viewpoints, works to shut those people down. They refuse to look at any content and instead attack the person, usually by identifying them as misogynistic, racist, or some other ad hominem attack.

Throughout Powers' book she makes statements like, "although I support a woman's right to choose abortion" or "although I support the Affordable Care Act" and then follows them up with something to the effect that "I think those who are opposed to abortion have a right to be heard" or "those who want to repeal the ACA should be treated with respect". She wants our country to maintain its great heritage of free speech, including speech that opposes settled law. She thinks free speech should be practiced in journalism, on university campuses, and in society in general. She argues that when those in power (academic, political, or social) attempt to silence free speech, all of our freedoms are in danger, including religious liberty.

Powers' book is filled with anecdotes, cases, interviews, and examples. She maintains a tone of mild outrage throughout the text and warns continuously against the consequences of this pattern of silencing opposing viewpoints. She does repeat some of the same examples in different context, which I think is a weak point.

I read the book on Kindle and one of the advantages is that every web-based source she has cited is linked in the notes, so the reader may follow up and check on Powers' interpretation of events.

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