A Case of Poor Judgement
It seems like not a day passes lately that we don’t hear a new example of how cancel culture is inhibiting the free exchange of ideas. Most recently, I learned of how Whoopi Goldberg had been censured by The View due to some misinformed statements she made regarding the Nazis’ view of race. Whoopie had tried to argue that the Nazis were not actually racist since they were one group of white people who oppressed another group of white people. Obviously, anyone who is aware of the malignant history of antisemitism in Europe knows that Whoopi’s statements were wrong. So she was wrong; does that mean she deserved a time out from her show to reflect upon the grievousness of her mistake? I don’t think so. The show is called The View, after all, which I assume means that it is a program based on opinions and not facts. Whoopi was quickly called to task by individuals and organizations with a more nuanced understanding of the word racism. She immediately made an on-air apology for her ignorance and promised to research the issue more thoroughly. That’s the way honest debate should occur, with both sides expressing their point of view in an attempt to arrive at a consensus. It seems to me that the controversy should have ended right there.
Misinformation Vs Disinformation
The fact is that Whoopi was simply misinformed. We’re only human and we all make mistakes. If she had persisted in peddling her opinion, we could accuse her of acting in bad faith. But she didn’t. She owned up to her mistake and promised to do better. Compare her to people like Tucker Carlson, who routinely disseminates misinformation, and the distinction is clear. Tucker not only peddles misinformation, it is his stock in trade. For that reason, one can accuse him of being a bad actor who deliberately traffics in toxic fallacies. His purpose is to intentionally disseminate wrong or questionable information for the sake of furthering a right wing agenda. Assuming that he is not just stupid, show after show, week after week, then he is peddling disinformation designed to confuse or rile up an insecure, aging, white nationalist base. I wouldn’t be surprised if he runs for office someday soon. And yet Tucker remains on the air, protected by his First Amendment rights.
Walking a Fine Line
Full disclosure, I am an unabashed leftist liberal. I believe in Human Rights, and especially the right to express one’s own opinion. However, being from Canada and living in the actual world, I support Canada’s laws on hate speech as well, knowing that there are bad actors like Tucker Carlson who will deliberately abuse the system of rights and freedoms enshrined in their country’s constitution to spread hate, fear, and conflict. Unfortunately, there are many uninformed or ignorant people who are greatly affected by such fear mongering and periodically resort to armed attacks to address personal grievances. The 2017 shooting deaths of six Muslim worshippers at a Quebec mosque is one example that comes to mind. So there is a line to be determined between our rights to free speech and our obligation to ensure the safety of minorities and marginalized groups in our society. Despite my commitment to freedom of speech, I have to believe that the health and safety of groups in society at large outweighs the right of bad actors to stir up animosity for some personal agenda. Therefore, while I am inclined to give Whoopi Goldberg the benefit of the doubt, I would definitely support giving Tucker Carlson and the rest of his ilk a good long time out until they come to understand that the flip side of rights and freedoms is responsibilities and obligations.