This morning I was watching MSNBC when to my chagrin a certain wooden, yankee, politician reappeared without notice — Senator John Kerry (D-MA). Seeing John Kerry return in a sound bite is worse than seeing the trailer for a new Pirates of the Caribbean movie. But John Kerry had an interesting exchange this morning on Morning Joe. He said that the media has a responsibility to not give equal air time to ideas that he deems not to be steeped in fact.
“The media in America has a bigger responsibility than it’s exercising today. The media has got to begin to not give equal time or equal balance to an absolutely absurd notion just because somebody asserts it or simply because somebody says something which everybody knows is not factual.” “It doesn’t deserve the same credit as a legitimate idea about what you do. And the problem is everything is put into this tit-for-tat equal battle and America is losing any sense of what’s real, of who’s accountable, of who is not accountable, of who’s real, who isn’t, who’s serious, who isn’t?”
Is silencing critics what mainstream liberalism has become? Isn’t the answer to misinformation more information to combat it and win in the arena of ideas? Isn’t that exactly what classic liberalism stood for? Furthermore, who is to be the grand arbitrator of what is a legitimate idea? Are only John Kerry’s ideas legitimate?
Obviously, we need more ideas out there. If a significant number of American citizens do not believe in global climate change, the answer is not to silence them but to prove them wrong in the arena of ideas. If conservatives are wrong on creating jobs and growing the economy, the answer isn’t to silence them as critics but to prove why Keynesian economics are the answer to our problems. It is not as if I needed to be sitting down to help with the shock of hearing a U.S. Senator speak openly about silencing critics, but it is still disappointing. The way to hold liars and disseminators of misinformation accountable is to call them out on it with more information not to make sure they can’t say anything else. I will say that I have liberal friends and many of the true believers still believe that they can win in the arena of ideas without quieting opponents, but I fear that they are quickly becoming the minority.
One last thing, just because your message isn’t resonating doesn’t necessarily mean that your opponent’s ideas are not legitimate, rather, it could mean that you aren’t effectively conveying your message, or better yet — people simply aren’t buying what you are selling.