Jonathan Rauch on the New Attacks on Free Thought

Jonathan Rauch
Show Date
January 18, 2015
Civil Liberties
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Guest: Jonathan Rauch

“Be nice” may be excellent advice for children on the playground, customer service workers, and indeed, for most people in most situations. Being nice, however, does not always advance what Jonathan Rauch calls "the liberal science" – the ongoing process of public criticism that gradually brings us closer to the truth. Thanks to robust rights to free thought and expression, new ideas have been able to overturn ancient dogmas and superstitions. As a long-time editor of The Atlantic and scholar at the Brookings Institution, Rauch’s own writings and opinions have been forged in the crucible of free public debate, and he thinks all knowledge claims should be subject to this same process – even if it sometimes leads to "psychic harm," i.e., hurt feelings. The recent massacre in France is just one more in a long line of assaults on free expression. But the greater danger, described in Rauch’s book The Kindly Inquisitors: New Attacks on Free Thought, is not necessarily violent fundamentalism, but the failure by some to condemn such attacks out of a "humanitarian" sympathy with those offended. The book was republished in late 2013 with a new foreword by George F. Will, and is now more relevant than ever. Rauch will join Bob as he returns to the subject of our increasing sensitivity to criticism and our desire for freedom *from* speech.