Archives For Lindsay Shepherd

In the debate about whether we create or discover a writing voice, it doesn’t matter which side of the camp you land on. It’s generally agreed that a writing voice takes time to develop.

When I started a blog in 2013, I had no real idea how it would develop. My plan was to use the blog as a way of networking, and as a way of improving my own writing skills. In my post-graduate world, I wasn’t sure a blog would achieve either.

Looking back, I can see areas where I’ve succeeded, and I can also see areas where I haven’t.

In the areas where I haven’t succeeded, I can see one specific reason for it. I let a fear of being misrepresented by critics, influence how I wrote.

This stumbling block is illustrated by some of my earlier articles from 2013 and 2014. Those posts are unintentionally hard to read. Some were convoluted or weighed down by my attempts to navigate what Douglas Murray calls, the ‘dishonest critic’.

Overcoming this stumbling block has taught me how fear hinders free speech. Speech is paralysed through the fear of offending someone with the truth, or fearing that someone might deliberately misrepresent what has been written or said. Insecurity complicates intention. This fear messes up content, intention and limits the development of a writing voice.

Lindsay Shepherd recently made the observation that when we ‘try to answer a dishonest critic’ we fail to communicate effectively.

Citing Douglas Murray, she noted:

‘It’s hard not to sort of self censor in some way in this era, because everyone who’s a writer, speaker, thinker, or public figure is basically trained, (you train yourself or you’re trained) to learn, to write, or speak in such a fashion, that an honest person cannot honestly misrepresent you; that what you said is faithfully understood by decent people, acting in a decent manner. The era of social media, among other things, has caused something different to happen which is that many people are now, having to write, think, and speak in a manner that ensures that a dishonest critic, cannot dishonestly misrepresent you. There’s a problem with this: it’s not possible to do.’

At certain times in my life, I’ve found myself surrounded by ‘dishonest critics’. Criticisms from my parents, sister and some friends would sometimes include back-handed compliments. Along with snide remarks, criticisms padded with some half-truths, were designed to tear me down in order to pull others up. Sometimes these involved passive aggressive whip statements, and sometimes those criticisms were intense cross-examinations, where words were selectively chosen to steer an argument in a selfish direction; all designed to discourage, control and put down.

Growing up in this kind of environment has given me a greater appreciation for free speech and its consequences. Just as I can see the dangers in muzzling freedom of speech, I can see how some people would want to subdue it; force a straight jacket over it, and muzzle people from saying things that we disagree with or that can be harmful to us; such as the words of the ‘dishonest critic’ and their manipulative ways.

When it comes to creating content, writing and posting my own thoughts online, I was a clumsy beginner. I could have cried victim, for fear of the ‘dishonest critic’, and stayed there. Instead I’ve persevered, learnt some news things along the way, and made improvements[1].

I don’t blame any one for my own clumsy writing, but I can acknowledge the root cause of it. Only then am I able to rise, and be raised above it.

Insecurity complicates communication. When we try to navigate the ‘dishonest critic’, how we communicate is bound in a type of psychological straight jacket. This breeds uncertainty. From uncertainty (self-doubt) comes insecurity and eventually silence. We end up saying nothing at all.

This why I believe, that the area in Western society where Jesus’ commands to ‘turn away from offence, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’[2], are most applicable, is freedom of speech.

Our response is our responsibility.

The Apostle Paul, in his Second letter to the Church in Corinth highlights personal responsibility in thought, deed and attitude, by encouraging Christians to remember that:

‘..the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…’ (2. Corinthians 10:4-5, ESV)

Paul’s statement, ‘we destroy arguments and every lofty opinion, taking captive every thought’ means taking personal responsibility for our actions. This includes how we use free speech and respond to the speech of others. In acting without fear of the bureaucrat, or ‘dishonest critic’, we deny those who would shut down freedom of speech, the room to stifle freedom, and complicate communication by forcing what we say through a bureaucratic tea strainer, like political correctness.

If we can relearn the Jesus-art of turning the other cheek, and recognise that words are only harmful to us, if we let them have power over us, we don’t have to restrict, or stifle freedom by asking bureaucrats to police speech. As Paul said, ‘..the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds…taking every thought captive to obey Christ’.

This doesn’t mean ignoring the ‘honest critic’, making laws restricting freedom of speech, or refusing to take an assertive stand when wrongly accused, or misrepresented. What it means is that the freedom to speak, includes the freedom to listen, it implies room for self-limitation, and personal responsibility, because freedom of speech allows for honest rebuttal.

Jean Bethke Elshtain puts it this way:

‘Our ideas have to meet the test of being engaged by others, far better than having people retreat into themselves and nurture a sense of grievance, rage and helplessness…thoughts must be tested in the public square where you have to meet certain standards…we must be careful not to confuse tolerance with complete and total embrace…total acceptance does not mean universal love’ (Maxwell School Lecture, State of Democracy 2013).

Rather than limiting freedom of speech by advocating that free speech be forced through a bureaucratic tea strainer, perhaps we could keep this in mind. Even when ‘dishonest critics’, stand at the ready, with pen in hand, eager to pounce on any misstep, or easily misinterpreted statement, our response is our responsibility, their response is theirs.

 


References:

[1] For ‘the man who believes in the providence of God is distinguished from the man who does not, [by the fact that he does not rest his head on his own prudence], and is not too proud to be a continual learner.’ (Karl Barth, CD.3:3:25)

[2] Matthew 5:43-48, ESV

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2018

This YouTube post from Lindsay Shepherd is captioned, “I’ve come to the realisation that I am no longer a leftist. Here’s why.” It’s worth sharing because, as one commentator suggested, “it’s not so much that you’ve moved away from the Left; the Left has moved away from you.” I’m not certain that I agree, but the sentiment in that statement describes something that I think is happening to a lot of people who traditionally associated themselves as ideologically progressive.

You might remember that Lindsay was at the epicentre of outrage, when she used a video of Jordan Peterson disagreeing with transgender-ism. Lindsay, a teaching assistant, was attempting to present the opposing side of gender theory in order to open up a broader discussion of the issues.

In true, cult of modern liberalism fashion, Lindsay was brought before a tribunal and punished for doing so. What the University didn’t know at the time, was that Lindsay had secretly recorded the socialist people’s court and their charge of blasphemy against her. The rest is now well documented internet history.

Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. and the professor directly involved have since apologised. This was after Lindsay had been hit with a wave of the all too predictable harassment and abuse, from many who proudly wave Leftist flag/s.

Has the Left moved away from people who have traditionally associated themselves with the Left? It’s a fair question, and if allowed, it’s a question that needs to be asked by those who’ve invested so much into holding the front-line against enemies of the Left, both real and imagined. An offshoot of this question would be, in light of Lindsay’s experience, how much of those enemies of the Left are in fact, real and how much are in fact the product of an overly sensitive imagination.

The coming great awakening may not be as abrupt as Lindsey’s has been. If anything it’s a classic case of Plato’s Cave. The one who is set free, returns to say to those remaining, that life exists outside the chains and the cave; life isn’t the shadows they see bouncing off the walls. Life isn’t lived in the imagination; life exists in the wonder and the investigation into what (and Who) inspires the imagination. The cave dwellers are being called to a fullness of humanity; freedom from the very thing that chains them. Attempting to silence the truth of the freedman, the remaining cave dwellers reject the summons and address. They see the freedman as foolish and refuse to leave because they’ve found the truth that encounters them from outside the cave to be offensive. They are happy in their ignorance.

Sometimes waking up to the slow boiling of the pot, in which some get stuck, takes time. Sadly, more often than not, it doesn’t happen at all.

In Lindsay’s case, I’m not suggesting that she is a prophet or that she’s now a republican, conservative, “christian traditionalist” (whatever that means), who is ready to live out all the negative stereotypes applied to all three groups.

What I am saying is that the significance of this event, and the many that parallel it, such as  recent attack on Chik-Fil-A’s, ‘Christian traditionalist” (whatever that means)  ”creepy invasion of New York“, is that the genuine prophets of our age, who’ve long been lovingly calling out the tragic trajectory of the Left, in it’s post-modern manifestation, are constantly being justified.

Kudos, Lindsay:


References:

Kierkegaard, S: ‘There is a view of life which holds that where the crowd is, the truth is also, that it is a need in truth itself, that it must have the crowd on its side.There is another view of life; which holds that wherever the crowd is, there is untruth, so that, for a moment to carry the matter out to its farthest conclusion, even if every individual possessed the truth in private, yet if they came together into a crowd (so that “the crowd” received any decisive, voting, noisy, audible importance), untruth would at once be let in.’

‘The Crowd is Untruth’