Robert Scheer SI Podcast

Nolan Higdon & Mickey Huff: Has America Lost the Key to Democracy?

The authors of “Let’s Agree to Disagree” offer a guide to fostering critical thinking and dialogue in a society that seems to have forgotten how to engage in either.
[docomat / CC BY-NC 2.0]

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Mickey Huff. [Project Censored]

In recent years, as the internet has come to dominate discourse, divisions in the US.–even within families—have deepened along ideological lines that often preclude any sort of critical thinking or dialogue. This has not only been harmful to our personal lives, but to the very fabric of democracy. That’s the argument in an essential new book titled  “Let’s Agree to Disagree: A Critical Thinking Guide to Communication, Conflict Management, and Critical Media Literacy.” The two authors, Nolan Higdon, lecturer at Merrill College and the Education Department at University of California, Santa Cruz, and Mickey Huff, the director of Project Censored and president of the nonprofit Media Freedom Foundation, join host Robert Scheer on this week’s “Scheer Intelligence” to discuss their new book. 

While much of the hysteria around “fake news” has reached its peak in recent years, before social media and sophisticated, increasingly ubiquitous technology, contends Huff, it was the “legacy press [that] played a really big role in manufacturing consent around imperialist foreign policy, around neoliberal economic policies that hurt a majority of the population. It’s really important for people to believe they’re doing the right things even if they’re heading in the wrong direction.”

Nolan Higdon. [CSU East Bay]

Scheer argues, “fake news” is as “American as apple pie,” citing the government-sponsored misinformation around the US. invasion of Iraq as an example. Now, he says, it’s often Democrats leading the charge towards online censorship, but as the three thinkers conclude, in a corporate-controlled America, it’s often unnecessary for political leaders to even intervene; companies like Google (which owns YouTube), Twitter and others do the work of their own accord to protect their corporate interests. So how do Americans re-establish the ability to listen to one another, even when they disagree? Higdon and Huff provide the example of stalwart conservative William J. Buckley publicly debating renowned leftist thinker Noam Chomsky as the sort of dialogue we need to protect if our democracy is to survive.

“What we’re arguing for in the text is that conflict needs to be constructive not destructive,” says Higdon. To the authors, “Let’s Agree to Disagree,” a textbook from Routledge, is meant to teach young Americans and anyone interested in fostering critical thinking the best practices needed to keep lively dialogue and debate alive.

“When you look around at the U.S.,” adds Higdon, “it’s very easy to see how the level of conflict we’re currently in is pretty destructive. We’re the wealthiest society on earth and in history, and we really can’t do basic things anymore because we’re fighting over trivial matters. That’s really a sign of a society in intellectual decay.”

Listen to the full conversation between Scheer, Higdon and Huff as they take apart notions of “fake news” and offer tangible solutions to our current moment of destructive discourse and polarization.

Credits

Host:

Robert Scheer

Producer:

Joshua Scheer

Transcript:

Robert Scheer:
Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, where I always add that meant correctly, that the intelligence comes to my guests, otherwise I would just write my own columns and just babble on. People say I talk too much in these shows. Anyway, but this is really a genuine effort to learn about issues that we need to know about. And this could not be a more important topic. I’ve got two people here who have spent a lot of time in the academic world and a bit of advocacy arguing for media freedom, literacy, critical thinking. And they’ve written a book together called Let’s Agree to Disagree, a Critical Thinking Guide to Communication Conflict Management and Critical Media Literacy. And I find the book very valuable. I’m thinking about using it in my own teaching and communication at USC. I respect what you’re doing, but I just wonder why this is even a subject. Don’t we all know you’re supposed to agree to disagree?
So maybe we should begin with that. And what I found in the book was really a plea for common sense. Common sense. And one example you want for the Chomsky William Buckley debate. And obviously that’s the sort of debate and discussion we want to have. The question is, why are we getting less of it? And so the basic question I want to put to you in the next half hour, I always promise I’ll stick to half hour. I rarely do. But the question I want to put to you is the threat to critical thinking now, and media and literacy, really about something called fake news, which we attribute a lot to what’s happened to the internet and to the changes in journalism, current meanness, polarization, or do we always have this problem?
When did we have an environment where we didn’t have fake news, where we didn’t have to argue about different things, where we didn’t have to agree to disagree? So why don’t you guys introduce yourself. I haven’t done a proper job but give us your own background. I know Nolan teaches at the UC Santa Cruz. Michael is the head of Project Censored, a great project that’s been in business forever. So tell us why you came together, write this book, and really what’s the point you want to get across. Well, and you identify yourself since I got two guests.
Nolan Higdon:
Absolutely. Sure. I’m Nolan Higdon. I’m a lecturer at UC Santa Cruz at Merrill college in the education department. And a lot of my work is in critical news literacies. And I wrote the Anatomy of Fake News. And to answer your question, Mickey and I have done a lot of work previously. And when we went around the country on our previous book tours, a lot of our message resonated with people about how to spot problems with media and how to identify and mitigate the effects of fake news, which has been around forever. It’s as old as humans themselves. But we kept getting this question. Folks said, yeah, but like, how do I talk to people who believe in false information? Or how do I talk to people I disagree with? And at the same time, Mickey and I were reading these headlines about people thinking we’re on the brink of a civil war in this country.
We hear passive comments about people, how they block people online, or they thought they couldn’t reach liberals, they couldn’t reach conservatives. And Mickey and I being scholars of democracy, thought, look, we have to be able to talk to each other. We have to be able to disagree with each other to hopefully work to change each other’s minds, to open each other up to different perspectives. And so, as you point out, a lot of this book is really common sense. I mean, this is the kind of age old democratic practices of engaging in constructive dialogue that we really seem to have lost in this country. And so Mickey and I wrote this book as an opportunity to remind people of what it takes to be in a democracy and that it’s difficult to keep it. It’s very easy to lose it.
Mickey Huff:
So, Bob, yeah, I’m director of Project Censored. I also am Chair of Journalism with the Diablo Valley College in Northern California. Nolan and I wrote a United States of Distraction together for City Lights a couple years that really outlines this series of challenges and sort of how we’ve gotten to a place that is arguably worse than it may have been in the past. You mentioned that these have always been issues, fake news, propaganda, people discussing or debating ideas. We’ve become a lot more contentious as a society. We’ve become a lot more unwilling to hear out other people’s views and positions. And rather than listen for the sake of understanding, many of us are only sort of biding our time until it’s our turn to tell somebody why we think they’re wrong again, using our own confirmation bias, our own cherry picked sources and details.
And that’s really the challenge. And so, as Nolan said, we’ve been working on this for quite some time in teaching. We both teach critical thinking and contemporary historiography, particularly because we think the past really matters as context for people to better understand where we are in the present. And so in this book, you’ll notice, let’s agree to disagree, which is a textbook from Rutledge, for better or worse. The worse part of it is that they’re costly. The better part is that it is an academic textbook. It’s not a screed. It’s not a rant. It’s really not a polemic. It’s a best practices collection of what we really need to do if we’re going to navigate the increasingly contentious political climate in which we find ourselves.
Robert Scheer:
Let me chime in here. I’d like a contentious environment. And I’ve been doing this for a long time and I understand it can get noisy. There can be a lot of static. There can be hate. There can be meanness. And there actually, yes, there can be violence. But you can have all of those things in an environment that is not contentious where there’s uniformity of thought. For example, the decision to drop the atomic bomb. One of the most momentous, maybe the most momentous, decision ever made by a government in human history if you think of the implications for the future of life on the planet, was made in a non contentious environment. There was some grumbling by some of the atomic scientists. Basically the media, both political parties, everyone accepted it as kind of necessary. There was some marginal dissent and we had, in my view, the greatest act of terrorism, individual terrorism, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki of destroying basically civilians who had nothing to do with the war. Weren’t asked, didn’t have a vote, couldn’t support it. Tell the emperor what to do.
We then got into a series of wars, that you are familiar with, without much contention. The Vietnam war, basically, until the draft started to have a bite. Korean war, there was no debate. I think IF Stone was one of the few journalists that dare object. Even the Bay of Pigs with Cuba, the missile crisis, the invasion of Iraq. Now there wasn’t much contention about suddenly giving the president of the United States $8 billion more than he asked for, enormous commitment of resources to the Ukraine, you know, stopping what is done without any debate or seriousness about what caused all this and what can be done.
So I guess I’m coming from a point of view where, if you go back to the founders, the good thing about the founders of our country, they had a lot of bad things, but the good thing about it is they expected it to be a contentious environment and they protected our being contentious. So I’m just a little concerned. I know the school where I teach and elsewhere, there’s a lot of this preoccupation of fake news. And my objection is, first of all, we’ve always drowned in fake news, but actually now at least were more alert to the ease with which fake news has turned into the appearance of real news.
Nolan Higdon:
Yeah, I think it’s a great point. We address this in the book that, to your point, conflict is a way of life. Democracies are predicated on conflict. It’s really harmony that’s abnormal. So we’re not arguing for an end to conflict. What we’re arguing for in the text that the conflict has to be constructive, not destructive. And so when you look around at the United States, it’s very easy to see how the level of conflict we’re currently in is pretty destructive. We’re one of the wealthiest society on earth and in history and we really can’t do basic things anymore, because we’re fighting over trivial matters. That’s really a sign of a society and intellectual decay. I think yes, people are aware of fake news, but I don’t think they’re really aware of all the different sources and the effects it has.
And that also helps shape the debate quite problematically. So, liberals quite rightly can point out the fake news on the right of about QANON, things like that. But, they struggle to sort of confront some of the false assertions made about like, Russiagate or things like that. And just the opposite is true for conservatives. So I think that we’re not necessarily asking for some conflict-free society or fake news free society. We recognize the conflict and false information are baked into the cake. The text is really about how to responsibly sift through it and maintain somewhat of a democratic society.
Robert Scheer:
But now, if you were in charge in any of the areas where we will encount — let’s say you were the chairman of my department. I mean, I’m not going to put down my own chairman, but I mean, if you were running the university, if you were the Senator representing me, if you were the editor of the New York Times and so forth, I would say, “Oh, this guy’s making sense.” And you know, obviously we’d like to keep things to the point where you can debate him and not beat each other up where you kill each other, but the fact of the matter is when did that period ever occur? I mean the civil rights movement was incredibly contentious, was not civil, but important things got to be said and important changes got to be made.
And, and I’m just wondering whether we’re asking for manners. Manners, the appearance that –for instance, let’s just take going to war in Iraq. You know, we know that the major media, not the new internet, not crazy spinoff organizations, we know that the New York Times printed lies about why we had to go to war in Iraq. That it had nothing to do with 9/11, had nothing to do with Afghanistan, Bin Laden, anything at all. And it was fabricated. Weapons of mass, et cetera, et cetera. It wasn’t that the norm throughout most of our history, I’m not just talking about the sinking of the main, but I mean, what was Vietnam about? What was, again, dropping the bomb World War II? Is it just sort of a call for a kind of mannered censorship?
Mickey Huff:
So yeah, you’re right. The lies of the New York Times on the march to Iraq. You mentioned the USS Maine. We could go back to the Creole Commission. We could go back to World War I. Deception is the name of the game as part — it’s one of the main tools in the American exceptionalist toolbox that really promotes a kind of group think. And you know this. After World War II, you know, even the Nazis said, well, it’s not difficult to get seemingly reasonable intelligent people to go along when you can shock them, when you can appeal to emotion, when you can appeal to prejudices. And we, as human beings, are incredibly susceptible to manipulation. And as time has gone on, technology has become more ubiquitous, more sophisticated. We didn’t have social media, antisocial media, as I like to call it. We didn’t have that going on even in the late 20th century.
So the legacy press played a really big role in manufacturing this kind of consent around Imperials foreign policy, around neoliberal economic policies that hurt a majority of the population. It’s really important for people to believe they’re doing the right things, even if they’re going or heading in the wrong direction. And what Nolan and I do in this book is we deconstruct the many different ways that people can be misled. We really go — and again, I’m going to come back to your word mannered. What we would argue is that, and Nolan mentioned this already, we argue for constructive dialogue and constructive discourse. We argue for a type of critical thinking, not ideological thinking as the means by which we can most productively communicate with each other.
So it’s not, as Nolan said, it’s not that we’re not going to have conflicts. It’s how do we approach those conflicts? If you approach someone from the very beginning and you are right, they’re wrong, no matter what, and you’re reaching for the nuclear option, to riff on your statement earlier about the bomb, we’re not leaving room, we’re not leaving time for debate. We’re not leaving any space to learn, to grow, to change. And we’re certainly not open to compromise.
That’s writ large over the January 6th hearings that we’re seeing right now, is that it’s, again, it’s two sides, two ships passing in the night, each one not speaking the same language. And I think in a Tower of Babble fashion, this is what’s going to lead to the collapse of the Republic in general. And this is what we’re trying to argue. And we’re trying to teach. We believe strongly from our last book that we didn’t get here overnight. This is a half century of neoliberal policy, privatization of education, teaching to the test, no child left behind conglomeration of media consolidation, of media corporatization, and privatization of media, the influx of big tech and control of the flow of information, the rise of surveillance capitalism. I mean, we’ve been heading into this soft cage for a long time, Bob. And so Nolan and I don’t just want to call attention to it. We want to try to give people best practices and ideas for how to navigate it.
Robert Scheer:
Well, I love the statement you just made. That’s the blurb for the book and I think the book is very valuable. That’s why I asked you to do this podcast. And what you just said touched on a whole range of issues that really alarm me much more than the shouting or whether you’re listening properly. Ownership, for example. You know, that media’s ownership is concentrated. So what choices between Fox and MSNBC with a little bit of CNN thrown in. We don’t have these significance of independent print publications that could go their own way, like St. Louis Post Dispatch did on Vietnam, or, in the south, you even had some liberal papers on civil rights.
Let me just throw it out there. The reason I bring up manners, I think in the name of manners, we’re getting a new form of censorship, which first of all, it uses the cloak of the private sector. So it’s not the government censoring us, but it’s the government pressuring Facebook and Google and Apple and Twitter to censor it. And they can take, well, somebody, I publish, Chris Hedges, and just disappear. Backlog of video and others. And so why don’t we address that?
What is the real danger here? Is it a riled up public or is it just canceling out certain points of view? I mean, I find it quite dangerous that you can say an ex-president of the United States, Donald Trump, could not be on Twitter. I mean, my goodness, that’s a pretty extreme. Then people say, well, it’s just a private company. Now it isn’t. These are cartels that control the debate. They’re very much subject to government influence. Everywhere. In China, in Russia and France, and so forth. There is no separation between the private and the government. So why don’t we address that? And I agree with you. It’d be nice if people were better mannered, but don’t you think this is the real danger of pressure for uniformity of thought and journalism?
Mickey Huff:
This is Mickey. We’ve been talking about this at Project Sensor for some time. It’s censorship by proxy. The revolving door of the boards of directors of big tech, big pharma, regulatory agencies, Congress, lobby groups. You’re getting at the crux of the problem. They’ve created a convenient way to skirt first amendment prior restraint issues by having censorship by proxy. The problem historically, and I just wrote about this for the next Censored book, the problem here is you go back to go back to AJ Liebling, freedom of the press belongs to those who own one. What we have now isn’t a free press. It’s a billionaire press. We have vast increase in billionaires literally buying up the media, literally in closing the commons of public discourse debate, what used to be considered a free press, kind of a stage, is now all managed, all controlled. It’s controlled algorithmically as well.
What happened to Chris Hedges, what happened with RT, the United States government didn’t have to say a word to collapse RT America. Roku did it. Direct TV did it. YouTube memory hold his entire show that Lee Camp, Abby Martin. They just disappeared this stuff. By the way, Bob, they did this to Nolan’s own conference a year and a half back where they disappeared an entire conference on critical media literacy, where the keynote literally was Shoshana Zuboff talking about surveillance capitalism and the problems with tech platforms. I’m sorry. Go ahead. Go ahead.
Nolan Higdon:
Sophia Noble. Sophia Noble, not Shoshana Zuboff.
Mickey Huff:
I’m sorry. Yeah, my bad, my bad. It was Sophia Noble. Go ahead, Nolan.
Nolan Higdon:
Yeah. Yeah. I concur with what Mickey said. That’s why we talk about censorship by proxy in the text. So this has been a long standing problem. And it’s worth that the space has gone, but it’s even more pernicious than that. So I know like you were saying Bob, some people say, well, these are private companies, but the government influences these companies to do this censorship. Like companies like Amazon have contracts with the CIA. Senators like Mark Warner, they have a white paper they carry around threatening to break up big tech. So the threat is you either get rid of the voices we want you to get rid of, or we can break you up. You have people like Michelle Obama and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez publicly calling for censorship. And to be quite frank, the way this happened, it’s worth reminding ourselves that this sort of got normalized in the culture as far as digital spaces goes after 9/11.
People were comfortable with like, spying on supposed terrorist groups. Then it was defunding groups like WikiLeaks. By the time of Trump, it was removing folks like Alex Jones. But we’ve really over the last 20 years normalized this idea of digital censorship, that the digital masters can decide what we can and can’t see. And Jillian York among others have written quite brilliantly about how, when we spend so much time in the digital space and we’re so carefully managed by these, our communications are so carefully managed by these oligarchs, they start to shape our values and our expectations of society. And so I think that’s like the deeper problem here, is we’re being socialized at some level by these companies.
Mickey Huff:
The book was Algorithms of Oppression from Sophia Noble. So the irony is that this was a conference talking about the very thing that YouTube then later went and did. So this is an increasing problem and they now are cloaking it under the guise of community standards or community guidelines. Facebook some time ago, Bob, you might know, they have this policy against hate speech and so on, but they then permitted a certain kind of hate speech so long as it fit the official narrative, the NATO narrative calling for acts of violence to be committed on behalf of Ukraine against Russia. So, we believe that if more people are aware that this kind of absolute blatant form of censorship and propaganda is exposed, we can at least have the discussions about resting control from these kind of companies. But I think that that’s a real pushing the boulder up the hill moment. So I think that we really need to act now and fast because these tech companies and the billionaire class have more control over communication systems now than at any time in history.
Robert Scheer:
Well, so let me again throw in my own view. First of all, I agree. I think the book is very important. I want to promote it. I think there isn’t anything I’ve said that’s not already in the book and said better by you folks. So this is not an argument against your book. It’s an argument against the general discussion we’re having in the country, particularly in the liberal side of things, where you would think everything was hunky dory in this country, as far as a free press. And then the internet came along and disturbed it and put these Louts and all of these crazy people and gave them a megaphone and so forth. And, you know, I think the internet is the best and worst of all worlds. But what is best about it is, until we started talking about fake news, there was a lot of freedom on the internet.
And I have to remind people that the people who gave us our constitution, including certainly somebody like Tom Payne, but certainly Jefferson and a lot of others, even John Adams, they were controversial figures. Their rhetoric could get quite wild. You know, Tom Payne’s body was dug up in his grave and strewn into, at least legend has it, into the woods. Their tempers flared. And so, yes, I think debate can get wild. What I am scared about is giving even, and maybe we’ll just take the last six minutes or so that we have here to talk about the spector that you’ve just raised and that you booked raises, that the excuse to control of fake news is only extending the power of this billionaire class to control the narrative.
And I’d rather hear from angry right wingers than have them suppressed and then climb out of a hole and shoot us all. I believe in debate and I believe in it even when it gets pretty wild. And I’ve had a few tomatoes thrown at me. So, I think that really is the issue now. And you mentioned AOC, you mentioned Michelle Obama. There are a lot of people who are supposed to understand this who are now talking about freedom of a press as if it can be always on their side.
Nolan Higdon:
Yeah, I mean, you point out rightly that fake news in general, but right wing fake news in particular, is really the Trojan horse to kind of normalize censorship. So that’s why you saw like, a lot of the attacks on podcasters and alternative media sources. It’s really a competition between two forms of media. Legacy Media sees these online media creators as their competition. And so they use every epithet in the book to try and get people to believe in censoring this content. But I want to point out that, you know, one of the things we sort of write about in the book, the idea that censorship is going to solve our problems really shows a lack of sophistication. We are advocating in the book that we need a much more substantive plan to strengthen our democracy, one predicated on critical thinking and critical media literacy and constructive dialogue.
But censorship, it’s just the opposite. It’s really a lazy, unenlightened attempt to strengthen your democracy and censorship not only doesn’t work, it tends to make things worse. So when people know people are getting censored, they start censoring themselves. It creates what we call a chilling effect. And so you lose a free society. When people know stuff is censored, it gets more popular. So you actually popularize the stuff you’re trying to get rid of. And usually savvy media users find ways to go around censorship. So it doesn’t work. And this, even in totalitarian regimes, this is the case. So censorship is not only anti-democratic, it also doesn’t work and complicates our problems and makes it worse. So we kind of point that out in the text, that if you’re an advocate of censorship, not only are we ideologically disagreed with you, there’s some very accessible case studies to show why it’s quite ignorant to advocate for censorship in a democracy.
Robert Scheer:
And I should make that clear. That was Nolan just speaking. So, okay, Mickey.
Mickey Huff:
Yeah, Mickey here. I’m going to start with, you know, since we’re wrapping up here, Bob, I think article 19, another flawed organization, the United Nations. But, you know, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. In article 19, it states everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and that right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference to seek, receive, impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers. So let’s think about that. You know, the antidote to our current situation, to views we disagree with and things we don’t like, isn’t censorship, it’s discussion, it’s debate, right? You know, digital erasure and destruction of knowledge or diverse perspectives, again, this is the corporate captured commons we’re talking about. Big tech, billionaire media. We cannot selectively accept this. We need to oppose it in all ways.
This censorship by proxy, as Nolan argued earlier, is again, a Trojan horse. It’s the big brother coming to protect us, to help us decide what we should be doing. And it’s not really that way. You know, I guess you could call it a soft glove in the soft cage. But we really need to be serious about opposing censorship. And that means that you oppose it any time. That means you don’t applaud when the Trumps or the Alex Jones’s are de-platformed. We already have rules and laws against hate speech, which is again, a very gray area. We already have laws and courts to adjudicate some of these kind of things. We are not using them. Right? And that’s why the word lazy came up a couple times.
And I think that’s what this book really promotes. It promotes that we do not be lazy. Democracy is not a spectator sport. And we need to be really actively engaged in how we get and impart information. And we need to check ourselves before we start checking others. You know, I have a saying I use often. It’s called know censors, know censorship, meaning K-N-O-W. Understand why people want to control narratives and oppose that very control. And we want to support a robust debate. We want to support robust disagreements because I think disagreements are where we learn, where we grow, and where we have a chance, not only in understanding each other, but creating a better and more socially and politically just society.
Robert Scheer:
Yeah. And that’s why your book, Let’s Agree to Disagree, even though I think it’s kind of got a boring academic title, a Critical Thinking Guide to Communication Conflict Management and Critical Media Literacy. However, the book is really critically important because what you’re talking about is the importance of a vital debate. And what I love about the book is you welcome the debate when it’s between Chomsky and Buckley. I like a debate. Well, Gorb et al debated Buckley. They almost got to a fist fight. And people, when I talk about well mannered, they want to keep the — you know, the south, most of the wealthy white south was very well mannered when you had slavery. You know, Jefferson. They were well mannered when you had segregation. They weren’t the rebel when the clan, but they supported the clan when they needed it.
And I’m just suspicious of manners as a marker of civilization and freedom. And I know your book does not endorse that. We’re coming to the end of our time. And what we’re really talking about is not just let’s agree to disagree, let’s debate. You know, it matters. For instance, Trump, you can dismiss some kind of, I don’t know. I don’t know a single person who seemed to have any respect for him, but the fact of the matter is Trump did call attention to the dangers of NATO and Europe. And what are they doing? there are contradictions out there that Republicans explore as well as Democrats and including people you don’t agree with. And I guess, what I like about your whole approach is it’s not so much agree to disagree. It’s listen. It’s what journalism should be, it’s what citizenship should be. And not dismiss, just dismiss out of hand, people who don’t have your party line. Let you have the last word on this, both of you.
Nolan Higdon:
This is Nolan. And yeah, we talk a lot in the book about the necessity of listening, not hearing which you sort of do passively, but actually listening, trying to understand other people and also being — we talked a lot in the book about being self reflective. So thinking about where are your weaknesses, where are your biases, what are the practices you engage in that prevent constructive dialogue? Are you being decent? Are you being respectful? Do you have credibility? Do you have integrity? Do you mean what you say and say what you mean? And so we hope folks will use the text, not only to sort of point the finger at others, but also do a lot of self-reflection. I know Mickey and I talked about how we did a lot of self-reflection while writing this text to understand ways to be more constructive communicators as well. So we think it’s a great text. Students have responded really well to it, and I hope folks will consider it.
Mickey Huff:
Yeah, Bob, this is Mickey, Project Censored. I’ll end on this note. You know, we address the argument and the debate about censorship itself. I think that that’s where we should be having a key debate with people that they don’t see themselves as censors. They see themselves as, “fighting fake news or misinformation.” Bidens new or Welly in ministry of truth, the governance, you know, the Disinformation Governance Board. I mean, which is ridiculous. But look, you hit it on the head, Bob. We need to hear even those views, right? And again, we need to hear dissenting views in favor of censorship or de-platforming, but they also should be vigorously and rigorously challenged, right?
And again, take Russia. It’s not because someone’s pro-Putin that they point out the problems of NATO. It’s because one is pro free expression, pro free speech, pro free press, pro article 19 that I mentioned before. The right to be wrong and debate openly matters as does the right to be heard. Opposing views shouldn’t just be distilled to misinformation or fake news by decree or ideological whim of the moment by the narrative police. They need to be addressed and argued with while presenting transparently sourced supportive evidence. Memory holing, you know, arguments or dissenting views is just not acceptable. We think the antidote to mis and disinformation or propaganda is critical media literacy education, and transparently sourced, ethical free press, not censorship. And that’s what we hope people take away from the book and use the tools that we provide to actually achieve this goal.
Robert Scheer:
So how do people check it out? It’s an expensive book. I hate to bring that up.
Mickey Huff:
Yeah. It’s Rutledge. It’s an academic text. So there you go. Yeah. It’s crazy.
Robert Scheer:
Yeah. I hate the idea that really that students are — You’re not one of the more expensive ones. I get books sent to me all the time that I’m supposed to ask students to buy. Some of them cost $150 bucks or what have you. Yeah. That’s one reason I do these shows so at least people can get interested. But I do think this is worth the price of admission. Let me advertise it. It’s called Let’s Agree to Disagree. I began this by saying, it’s a shame that we actually have to debate this. Let’s agree to disagree. We’re at a really scary moment in which we keep defining anyone who disagrees with us as the enemy, as a fascist, as everything. We want to cancel them out. We want to deny them. We don’t want to listen to them. And it’s all a form of character assassination, and it’s a way of cutting off debate.
And I think your book is a breath of fresh air in this debate, that disagreement is good and debate is good. It’s a shame I have to say that, but unfortunately I think as a culture, we’ve lost track of that. I’m going to end on that. Thank you guys. The book again is called Let’s Agree to Disagree published by Rutledge. I want to thank Christopher Ho and Laura Condurgian at KCRW in Santa Monica, the NPR station, for carrying these shows. They do a great job. Joshua Scheer, who is our executive producer, puts it all together. And that’s Natasha Sakimi Zapata who is our editor and write the intro. And I want to thank the JKW foundation, which in the memory of a very independent writer, Jean Stein, who actually, center of a lot of controversy yourself, and some of her writing helps support the show. See you next week with another edition of Scheer Intelligence.

37 comments

  1. For all their noise about freedom of the press and the importance of dissenting voices, left-ish, Neo Progressive publications have one of the most limited scope of opinions in the industry, the likes of which can be found primarily in far-right propaganda outlets like Breitbart or FOX. Contrary to left-ish propaganda concerning censorship, one can find, for example, tens of thousands clips, on YouTube, of left-ish, Neo Progressive demagogues and propaganda buffs like Matt Taibbi, Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, Glenn Greenwald, and others! Even super centrist mainstream media outlets like New York Times or Washington Post or MSNBC include opinions ranging from progressive to reactionary, by center-left to far right pundits, with political orientations from social democratic to ultra conservative Neo Fascists. On the other hand, you’d be hard pressed to find any centrist, liberal or conservative voices on media outlets like Scheerpost, Consortium News, Tom Dispatch, and the likes, and even on outlets like Democracy Now! or The Intercept, where the landscape of opinions is a bit wider, very few texts include any challenge, let alone a serious and comprehensive one, to the official left-ish dictum – anti liberal, zero-sum fanaticism, anti establishment demagogic indoctrination, ‘deep state’ conspiratorial-ism, and reactionary ‘socialism’. What’s more, any worldview outside the (very) narrow scope of that dictum is considered ill-intended and/or malcontent propaganda lies in the service of manipulation by one ‘elite’ group or another, and always against the ‘people’, while the dictum is consider sacrosanct, self-explanatory populist and absolute truth that, in most cases, doesn’t even require evidence, or anything more than rudimentary, unchallenged (faux) argumentation.

    1. Drivel.

      All you’ve “discovered” is that this society is fundamentally divided, as in the period before the last Civil War.

      Fine people on both sides — in your case — flips to “extremists “on both sides.

      Same difference.

      The gap is not subject to discussion or amelioration.

      It’s a matter of fundamentals, one direction for the society or another.

      “Centrists” and even more puke-y “moderates” are American Mensheviks, they deserve the same historical fate as their Russian predecessors.

      There is no marketplace of ideas.

      Only victory or defeat.

      1. @Baba

        me: ” zero-sum fanaticism”

        him:”Only victory or defeat”

        Case in point. Thank you, Baba, for making my case for me!

    2. @Democracy Gone Astray
      “Even super centrist mainstream media outlets like New York Times or Washington Post or MSNBC include opinions ranging from progressive to reactionary, by center-left to far right pundits, with political orientations from social democratic to ultra conservative Neo Fascists.”

      That doesn’t even approach being true. People like Jimmy Dore and Aaron Mate have to go on Tucker Carlson because he’s the only one who will have them on. The three propaganda machines you mentiones are always pro-war and have so few anti-war opinions or voices that they practically don’t exist there.

      So are you lying, or just totally uninformed?

      1. @Jeff

        me: “any worldview outside the (very) narrow scope of that dictum is considered ill-intended and/or malcontent propaganda lies”

        him: “So are you lying, or just totally uninformed”

        Another case in point…

    3. A society and nation in decline is not a pretty sight. The Mexican writer Octavio Paz once said : when Americans come to terms with history they will face the reality of decline. We have been wallowing in the illusion of American exceptionalism and that somehow we are exempt from the rise and fall that all nations go thru. All signs point to decline, an inept executive office, octogenarian leaders of Congress, limpet like fixation with guns, pickups and other destructive implements, a closed mindset, military worship, a fake Defense Dept. meddling overseas, pursuit of hegemony… the list is long.

  2. This is an interesting and worthwhile discussion. However, it, in my opinion, does not go the heart of the problems which have created the dual censorship and lack of critical thinking. In my view, both of those problems have been created by two disastrous developments over the last forty years:

    1. The first (chronologically) is the vicious and wholly successful attack by the 1% on our civil liberties and our social safety net, commenced in the early 1970s. I think the Powell Memorandum was written in 1971. It is thought of (rightly, I think) as the declaration of war on the people by the 1%. The “war” was a rout. The 1% ran over us like a steamroller over a bug. Reagan gave us the fraudulent trickle down economics (now called neo-liberalism), tax cuts, social spending cuts, deregulation and all the other nasty policies which have created the greatest inequality in the history of the Country.

    2. The destruction of democracy and creation of the current legalized bribery system we now have. This solidified the control of the 1% over the people. The 1% now selects all the candidates for public office after vetting them and insuring that all of them are committed to serving the 1%. The people now have no meaningful influence over “our” government. Both political parties are owned by and operated for the benefit of the 1%. If any politician dares to threaten the establishment policies, he/she is destroyed by the relevant political party. The fraud committed by the Democratic Party on Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary is an example of this.

    If we lived in a democracy, where the people had meaningful influence on policy, the answer to the current “fake news” and lack of critical thinking on issues would be to have the government regulate the media companies (and also require them to pay substantial fees for the right to use the airwaves) by forbidding censorship. As pointed out in the article, there are libel and slander laws which provide protection to anyone who is a victim of actionable attacks. The problem with that approach is that “our” government is no longer answerable to us and no longer represents our interests. It has been captured by the 1%, including the giant media companies which serve as de facto propaganda agents (as does the MSM) for the government. We, the people, have no representatives in Washington, D.C. In fact, “our” government is now effectively repealing our first amendment rights of free speech and free press. Biden ‘s terrible decision to proceed with the trumped up (no pun intended) “espionage” case against Julian Assange has made that perfectly clear. Furthermore, the so-called “intelligence agencies” are eager to support the suppression of verified facts if doing so is politically expedient for them, as they did with regard to the emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop. This total corruption of our electoral/political/governmental process is so pervasive that only a total reversal of the “money is speech” perversion of our political campaign laws can offer any hope of restoring any semblance of democracy in this Country. That does not appear to be likely.

    1. @Jim Thomas
      No one should be censored. But anyone who publishes a provable lie that causes substantial harm (tobacco doesn’t cause cancer, weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, global warming isn’t real or isn’t caused by humans, etc.) should be put in prison for ten years, no chance of parole. This would have to include everyone, no exceptions for people like presidents, owners of mass media, etc., and would have to be strict liability so the rich can’t get out of it with their lame excuses. This is basically criminalizing defamation and is what’s badly needed to combat all the corporate and establishment lies & propaganda we’re constantly bombarded with.

      1. @Jeff – Yes, the remedy is the legal system. If you can persuade the lawmakers that the penalties you suggest are in the public interest, it is their duty to pass the laws to implement those penalties. The point is that those disputes belong in the legal system. Censorship is not appropriate. Those who advocate for censorship by the social media companies (AOC, for example) want to censor by proxy. Of course, Biden tried to impose that ridiculous woman in charge of direct government censorship. I will not be surprised if another attempt to implement direct censorship is not made, perhaps with someone with an intellect greater than that of a gerbil in charge. These are perilous times.

      2. @Jim Thomas
        The people who used to support free speech now oppose it. We have become a small minority.

  3. This is abominable garbage.

    This really stands out:

    “When you look around at the U.S.,” adds Higdon, “it’s very easy to see how the level of conflict we’re currently in is pretty destructive. We’re the wealthiest society on earth and in history, and we really can’t do basic things anymore because we’re fighting over trivial matters. That’s really a sign of a society in intellectual decay.”

    Yes, trivial items like racism, sexism, abortion, vast inequality, endless wars.

    The marketplace of ideas is a fraud, this kind of academic-based misdirection is a tool in the hands of our enemies.

    Democratic party betrayal of the people has yielded a neofascist crop of Brownshirts who ought to be hanging oligarchs, not menacing flaccid invertebrates like Pence. There’s no conversation with these people, or the moneyed interest who’ve financed and cultured their rise.

    We are on the edge of a violent civil conflict: after the Republicans seed critical states with election-flippers there will be very few here who will accept legitimacy of any election they lose.

    The majority already agrees with the left on major issues, we need to rally our side and defeat the enemy.

    No one need to sit around and diddle with Bill Maher, the Democratic party establishment or any other purposeful mush-maker.

    Time to rebel.

    1. Baba Yaga:

      “We are on the edge of a violent civil conflict: after the Republicans seed critical states with election-flippers there will be very few here who will accept legitimacy of any election they lose.”

      I agree with this, and am curious how people think the near future will unfold for the United States. I no longer think of your country as “the wealthiest on earth”, nor the American dream as one of progress. I imagine the 2024 presidential election will open many wounds that are festering beneath the surface.

  4. Socratic dialogue – am a big fan of that – listen, then ask questions, then question the answers, etc. I have found, when trying to do that, that after a couple of rounds, folks get pissed, often, it seems to me, because they don’t have answers – but if we can’t explain to others what we mean by, or why we say, something, it’s often because we can’t, or haven’t, explained it to ourselves … and that is potentially an uncomfortable thing to consider – so often the best way to end the conversation and avoid the discomfort is to insult the other …

    1. Socrates pissed off many people mostly from Athenian Democratic Party and hence was falsely accused of .. spreading anti democratic propaganda among youth. And for that was condemned by almost all 1000 dicastery judges sentence his to death by poison only because he never accepted the merits of accusations. In fact when he was told to chose his punishment he challenge that very judicial system by asking for a medal and compensation for public damage such hassles accusations already costed him.

      Those who want to punish people for their analyses and opinions are simply dictators wanting to suppress peoples drive to discover truth among forest of their own lies.

      There should be no censorship whatsoever, as it is ignorance not knowledge that is really dangerous to society.

      It is stupidity and ignorance that kills.

  5. When has the US been a “democracy”?

    Democracy is supposed to be *representative* government. We seem to leave that part out. If any level of voting occurs, we tend to euphemize to the point of fantasy that the voting means we have a “democracy.”

    It’s easy to have or be anything when words are so easily transformed to mean so many different things.

    White men voting for everyone alive, including Black people who at the time of the civil war made up one out of every seven people in the US, Native Americans who weren’t included and who weren’t citizens until the 1920s, women who weren’t included in democracy until the 1920s, but even afterward still couldn’t hold most jobs or be educated for the most part or even open bank accounts without their husband’s or father’s permission, etc.

    Not to mention that at first it was only White men who owned property who could vote, which was a small fraction of the White men.

    Wow. So, if anything between 10% and maybe 35% or so of the adult population has the power of the vote, if it happens in this country it must be “democracy.”

    The closest we ever came was the New Deal, and that lasted only about forty years, and was, again, for White men. It was under attack even before all that wealth and brilliance from the poor and working classes transformed the country into the post-WWII powerhouse it became, but the moment women and people of color wanted in on the “democracy” without waiting for some White man to give it to them, the hammer fell hard. The sociopaths with money bought the government again and took charge again. By the year 2000, they appointed a president. Since that time, they have brought us back to societal miseries caused by extreme wealth disparity made famous in Oliver Twist and Les Miserables, the kind that has existed in Europe for over 1100 years.

    Now we have some American guys talking about the “democracy” they have lost the key to. We’re such deluded losers. We’ve always been monsters for money dressed up like princes. The “America” that we think we’ve lost has never existed except in propaganda and fantasy. We just lost the illusion, and aren’t smart enough to know it was just an illusion because we just can’t get past the idea that White men are the only people who count.

    If Black Americans and Native Americans and Muslim and Asian and Mexican Americans, who have been here all along, and all WOMEN weren’t in on it, it wasn’t ‘effn democracy because it wasn’t a representative government.

    Maybe if we were living in reality we could figure out how to get power away from the psychopaths (“elites”) that we do believe in, because we believe in cooperating with them much more than we believe in our pseudo democracy. I’m not putting aside a single moment of my time waiting for us to finally have a democracy, that’s for sure. I have a dog to talk to. It’s much more satisfying.

    1. @Tupe
      You don’t understand white people. If you say “democracy,” they bow down as if to some god, even though they have no idea what it means. 🙂

      1. Worshipers of America are clueless about America.
        Worshipers of dollar are clueless about dollar.
        Worshipers of capitalism are clueless about Capitalism. Worshipers of democracy are clueless about democracy etc.,

        Why? because it is nature of worshiping anything to be clueless ignorant about everything.

        We must stop worshipping and start thinking on our own.

    2. Tupe, your first sentence (actually question) is at the core of this whole thing. And the answer is “never”. I’ve long grown tired of hearing people burn a candle for the return of something we never had to begin with. The term “American democracy” has always been an oxymoron. So when I hear a pundit, thinker, etc, drone on about democracy, that we have to “get it back” and so forth, I immediately tune out.

  6. I have always wondered….back in ancient Athens when democracy was invented, was it invented as a high minded and enlightened new form of government by the people, or merely sold to them as such. Was ancient Athens the first attempt at something better, or one of the first great cons…

    Because no less a personage than Socrates laid out the fundamental problem with democracy thousands of years ago. In modern parlance Socrates declared democracies don’t work because the average person is an idiot. He goes on then to state the obvious, the average person is too easily swayed by evil people. Look at those around you and I prove my point.

    You want a system the most easily corrupted, a system that is easily controlled and manipulated, a system guaranteed to fail…and for added benefit a system easily sold to the masses, then Democracy is for you.

    1. @JustAMaverick
      Overpopulation and the resulting overpopulation is the problem. There is no good solution except for living in small communities where people all know each other. Those communities are very democratic, because as their leaders have said, if the leaders try to make people do things they don’t want to do, they will no longer be the leaders. In overpopulated civilization, the choice is democracy or dictatorship, neither of which is acceptable.

    2. Anyone want to take a shot at explaining what they mean when they say “democracy?”

      1. One of my wife’s grandparents taught in a missionary school in China. The students, of course, were from elite families. When he explained democracy to them, they liked the idea.

        “What if you don’t like what people vote for?” he asked.

        “No problem; we’ll tell them how to vote.”

        I don’t know that that’s what I’d call ‘democracy’; but it’s what we’ve got.

  7. Some significant oversights here:

    An adversarial contest (“debate”) works to distract participants’ attention from seeking the truth of their subject, to focus their minds less on understanding opposing views and more on upholding their own. [Buckley, by the way, was never an honest opponent, was continually needing to distort the situation to justify the nihilistic authoritarianism he and his opponents mislabeled as “Conservative,” though it served to “conserve” only systemic injustice.]

    This discussion seemed stuck in an “Enlightenment” frame of reference: the assumption that conflicts are rooted in differing verbal ‘propositions’ that can be usefully argued in terms by presenting the propositions behind each side. Cognitive psychologists make it clear that people don’t agree/disagree by weighing arguments so much as by their choice of context and ‘framing’, ie which semi-conscious metaphors they apply to model an issue. Bad metaphors: a fetus is “an unborn child” — or an egg, an unhatched chicken? — make flawed understandings near-invulnerable to reasoned argument.

  8. Yes, we spent over a quarter of a century pointing this out every step of the way. Every now and then, someone notices, and assumes it’s something new.

  9. fabian asks the question never understood in USA
    democracy? amerikans will never examine the relationship between ideology, law, social life, tradition, politics, amerikan national character, jurisdictional antagonism, policy creation vs implementation, the inherent immorality of amerikans, etc. there is one political party in USA —2 identical ruling class formations—dems slightly more fascist and GOP LESS IMPERIALIST…USA is at best a procedural republic like North Korea

  10. “the sort of dialogue we need to protect if our democracy is to survive”

    Democracy doesn’t survive on dialogue. In a highly stratified society where a small portion of the population has a large majority of the money and consequently the power, there is no democracy, not even when some of us can vote.

    But we can lie about it all the time and make people think they have a democracy by calling it that. The elite psychopaths are really good at that scam, have had lots of practice, and will be happy to assure you that it’s a “process” and we are making “progress” if you begin to question it too much.

    If you do question it too much, they have a plan for working within the system for “change” for you that will fail. By the time you figure it out, you are the system.

    If that doesn’t work for you, you can starve or go to war against them, and they will win in the long run. They have won for centuries on centuries because we believe in wealth, so basically we ask to be run by psychopaths all the time.

    Not much anyone can do for us on that score.

    All the magical dialogue in the world doesn’t change it. And it really doesn’t change it because the power structure is predicated in violence, not in dialogue or anything else. Talking is how we rationalize and justify and con people. It’s not how we solve the power problem. We take power through conspiracy, collusion, money and all that money buys, including the in the largest military in the world – the background visuals and final stance of all our “dialogue” with the rest of the planet.

    1. @Tupe
      “Democracy” can mean that everyone votes on literally everything, like in ancient Greece. But the more realistic definition in today’s grossly overpopulated society means a government that represents the will of the people.

      – No democracy in a winner-take-all system
      – No democracy where candidates receive private campaign contributions
      – No democracy where all candidates and ideas don’t get equal exposure to the public

      1. Apparently, “democracy” means anything ‘we’ say it means. We even get that from the rich, our definitions of things. Democracy is whatever they say it is. If it’s just rich landowners who are all White who can vote, well, then that’s “democracy.”

        That’s why we call them “elites” instead of psychopaths. It’s what they allow.

      2. @Tupe
        Unfortunately, most people are little if any better. There are people who are rich, and people who want to be rich. The rest of us are a very small minority.

  11. @Democracy Gone Astray

    I made the case that people like you are the enemy.

    Your kind of liberal mush is why we have looming fascism.

  12. Let’s examine what “our democracy” actually consists of.

    It’s an oligarchy that’s neither competent nor legitimate.

    The US’ basic institutions are fraudulent.

    “Our” elections have been rigged for some time now — Iran has a theocratic filter for participants, the US has a money filter. Both Obama presidential campaigns and that of Joe Biden cost one billion dollars each. Anyone think the payees got some bennies in return?

    Rot is inherent.

    The way the Senate is structured virtually assures white minority rule, and control by the most out-of-touch elements of the population. As a last resort, the filibuster.

    Gerrymandering tops off the structural fraud, this is all a con game.

    The Constitution is an outmoded, 18th century structure that inhibits progress and assures minority white rule.

    Separation of powers is a Rube Goldberg Machine.

    The US government is hamstrung by legal and de facto power limitations that gunk everything up.
 Division of tasks makes sense, but setting up conflicting interests is dumb.

    The Supreme Court, which elected George W. Bush and OK’d Citizens United, is transparently political.

    Amy Barrett re-issued Nixon’s “I am not a crook” statement, underlining the truth about the Supreme Court.

    Amy Coney Barrett says the supreme court aren’t ‘partisan hacks’. Oh really?
    Never mind the court’s wildly rightwing bent and secretive ‘shadow docket’ – or Barrett’s refusal to recuse herself from a case involving a fossil fuel giant that employed her father

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/sep/15/amy-barrett-supreme-court-partisan-hacks

    Breyer issued a similar muddled liberal version of this nonsense, and the Court’s ever-miniscule intellect, Clarence Thomas, said the same.

    The Roe reversal resoundingly proves all of this.

    The states are also a damaging and incoherent anachronism. They bear little resemblance to the actual social and economic structure of the country, Duplication, waste, incoherence, places where backwardness can thrive.

    For the capitalist mindset: try imagining a major corporation that works like that.

    Some 80 million non-voters agree.

    A majority said they believe it makes no difference who is elected president and that things will go on just as they did before. Two-thirds agree, for example, that voting has little to do with the way that real decisions are made in this country; they are 21 points more likely to say so than people who voted.

    They are correct.

    Once the GOP voting apartheid laws go into effect, helped along by president Manchin, only a minority of voters will accept the outcome of any election their side loses. rsient DeSantis will issue pardons for Trump if convicted and all the January 6 criminals.

    No one can vote against the interests of the corporate oligarchy, both “parties” are totally bought-and-sold.

    There are no peaceful options available for necessary change.

    Finally, people are “getting” it

    Body armor and tactical gear are becoming increasingly popular among leftist progressives of color, gun rights advocate says
    https://www.yahoo.com/news/body-armor-tactical-gear-becoming-161633572.html

  13. What’s wrong with democracy?

    Social system is a system that imposes social, socioeconomic relations and shapes human bonds within society. (Plato, Rousseau etc.,)

    Social system rules are rules of the society that determine spectrum of political system rules that may shape nature and functioning of government.

    If social system rules are promoting and rewarding social inequality, inequity and elitism such a system permits only certain limited forms of governance.

    On the other hand equal, equitable and egalitarian social system permits different limited forms of political system of governance.

    For example socioeconomic system of capitalism promotes individualism, social conflict and divisions , competition, individual accumulation of capital and exploitation of fellow members of society and hence promoting and rewarding social inequality, inequity and elitism in other words promotes divided or class society.

    While socioeconomic system of socialism promotes collectivism, social harmony, cooperation, caring and sharing among fellow members of society and hence promoting and rewarding social equality, equity and egalitarianism, in other words promotes united, classless society.

    So where democracy fits into this picture?

    It is simple. The true democracy as a political system of governance can only grow out of equal, equitable and egalitarian society and this is necessary condition for establishing democracy meaning true rule of the people by consensus who take up political role of individual sovereigns of collective democratic governance.

    That explains why historically political systems wrongly calling themselves “democratic” allowing some input from the population but established over unequal, inequitable and elitarian societies are not true democracies,

    Such pseudo democratic political systems are based on political deceit of pretension of democratic process while in reality are used for individual and group or party benefit stemming from instigating social conflicts (identity politics) and divisions as a part of promoted by the social system socioeconomic and political competition.

    According to that even Greek democratic system was not real democracy as it was funded on slavery and based on socioeconomic inequality, inequity and elitism.Plato was rich Socrates was poor.

    Capitalism inherently precludes democratic rule and hence is inherently autocratic despite disguises while real socialism inherently assures democracy as it is based on social equality, equity, egalitarianism and self governance by consensus of sovereign individuals acting collectively for common purpose.

    On the other hand we know that none of political systems that called themselves socialist in last 100 years qualify to be called democratic. Those were autocratic governments underlaid by state capitalism with politically expedient social welfare.

    Both of those political systems of east and west were in fact elitist as both were under control of not of self governed sovereign people but economic, financial or political elites.

    All of the democracy especially representative democracy talk was always a deceit while required for democratic rule socioeconomic equality was stifled.

  14. The idea “Let’s Agree to Disagree” sounds good when qualified by “offer[s] a guide to fostering critical thinking and dialogue in a society.” Without the qualification its no better a proposition than what is currently prevalent.

    And in fact nothing in the discussion that follows suggests any kind of a “guide” to critical thought or how it might come about. Nothing about the role logic can play, and how it needs to be informed by facts.

    One hopes that the role of logic and facts, competing and agreed-upon, are not ignored in this book.

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