It seems to me that a key issue here is that of genuine pluralism. Most people spend their time with other people who are much like they are and who largely share their own values and views. This social isolation tends to be self-reinforcing as we simply presume that our own views and values are self-evidently correct. We seldom encounter those who disagree strongly with our views, and we tend to characterize those who are not part of our own “in group” as not only “the other,” but also as self-evidently in error, and, if obstinately holding their views, perversely in error.
When people (of whatever ideological commitment) come to share social power, the immediate temptation is to use that power to surround oneself with those of like-minded commitments, but, not only that, to use that power to reinforce the “in group” ideology, and to limit the expression of those characterized as “the other.”
From Pius IX’s principle that “Error has no rights” to McCarthyism to the Soviet Gulags to the A&E and Duck Dynasty, the knee-jerk tendency is simply to “shut up” those who are self-evidently deluded.
The alternative is genuine pluralism. Genuine pluralism presupposes that cultures and societies are formed of numerous social groups, who, simply because they are different social groups, will necessarily hold views that are at odds with one another. Genuine pluralism insists that this is a good thing and to be encouraged, and that the best way to resolve issues of disagreement is through public discussion and the genuine politics of “give and take.” If nothing else, pluralism is to be encouraged not only because our own views may be those that are in error and cannot be corrected without being willing to listen to those who disagree with us, but because the alternative to pluralism may mean that it is our own views that are suppressed tomorrow. (more…)