The diagnosis made by Randall B. Smith in part one of a two-part Public Discourse essay is not at all unexpected: the tone and increasing lack of basic civility that have come to categorize public discourse is toxic. But he has lots of collected relevant thoughts from smart people, and then part two includes a nice summary:
College students often have only two gears when it comes to public discourse: “non-judgmentalism” and “furious indignation.” In one gear, they proclaim endlessly that “this is just what I think,” that they “don’t want to judge anyone else” and that they “don’t want to tell anyone else what to do.” And yet when they come upon some activity or expression they find unacceptable—usually something they have been taught to view as a sign of an unacceptable prejudice or bias—their response is loud and furious: a shrill protest of indignation.
His mistake here is understandable: he’s an academic. I’m here to tell him, though, that it’s not just college students.
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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)