I Can't SpeakI had an interesting conversation with someone recently who sought to ‘silence’ a particular discussion not because of what was said but because of who said it.  I had quoted a philosopher on an issue that was of great interest to me and the content of my position was ignored because the philosopher was thought to be a person who introduced destructive and dangerous ideas into the world.  The rationale for this was; “While some one might speak truth, sometimes they just need to be silenced so that they aren’t given false credence or mar our witness.”

It is understandable that some views need to be confronted.  Hateful and false claims should be challenged and refuted. The trouble starts when people are silenced because their opinions or ideas are disagreeable.  The whole idea of silencing is based on the belief that those who do the silencing ‘know’ better than everyone else.  These self-appointed judges believe that the ‘hearers’ are not able to think for themselves.   So censuring, the silencers believe, is the best course of action.

How can ‘silencing’   reveal what the truth is when it is based on stifling free speech?    This kind of approach can lead to a ‘spiral of silence’;  “Spiral of silence theory describes the process by which one opinion becomes dominant as those who perceive their opinion to be in the minority do not speak up because society threatens individuals with fear of isolation.” (Wikipedia)  Silencing is a form of bullying.

Does silencing work?  Yes and no!  Yes it works in so far as it encourages ignorance over awareness because silencing stifles the free exchange of ideas.  Silencing is a great tool for mass control and deception.    Silencing doesn’t work when it comes to stopping the truth.  Christianity is a case in point.  Some 2000 years ago very powerful people attempted to silence the early church’s witness about Jesus Christ.

The religious leaders felt that people who spread dangerous ideas about Jesus ‘marred’ their self-righteous witness.   The Pharisees of the Sanhedrin tried to silence Peter and John; “What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.   But that it spread no further among the people, let us straightly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.  And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.”  (Acts 4:16,17,18)  We all know how that went!

Sadly those who seek to silence rather than allow others to speak openly, by stopping others, trust in themselves more than God.  Those who silence while claiming they worship no gods but  reason alone, show that they don’t trust the very principles of free speech and democracy that they claim to defend.  The Pharisees finally had to accept good advice  from one of their own; “And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing;  but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”  (Acts 5:38,39)

What do you think?