Free Speech in the West

February 23, 2023

With Douglas Murray at UNC Chapel Hill

Common Sense Society (CSS) hosted a lecture this February 23 in UNC Chapel Hill featuring the British intellectual and well-known author Douglas Murray. Murray, an associate editor of The Spectator, is also the bestselling author of numerous books, including The Madness of Crowds and The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam. Known for his incisive wit and sharp commentary, Murray discussed free speech and how certain public thinkers refuse to honestly debate their ideas.

What did we discuss? 

Murray laments that traditional “public intellectuals”—men and women who are willing to debate and defend their philosophy in the marketplace of ideas—have been disappearing in the West. What are they replaced with? Thinkers who simply make inflammatory and provocative statements that attack America’s very foundations, but who are simply unwilling to defend their statements. When challenged, they either ignore opposing viewpoints or accuse their opponents of being “bigots.” 

To prove his point, Murray gives the example of certain popular thinkers in the “anti-racism” movement, including Robin DiAngelo, who outrageously claims that America has seen no improvement in race relations since 1950 yet refuses to defend such an over-the-top claim. 

What did we conclude? 

Murray demonstrates that public thinkers must have the moral courage to engage in honest debates and allow their ideas to be attacked. He explains how helpful such an open approach can be to everyone: when you debate ideas you disagree with, you can grow intellectually and become better able to respond to opposing viewpoints. Shutting down opinions doesn’t make you safer, it leaves you more vulnerable in the face of potentially terrible ideas. 

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