12 December 2012
As a free speech journalist, I am very interested in Greg Lukianoff’s recent book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of the American Debate, about the stifling of free speech on university campuses. (This post links you to a number of paragraph-length excerpts that will give you a good idea of important topics he covers.)
Today, I was sorting books in my new office and came across some books from the publishing house of Harun Yahya1, a Turkish Muslim Darwin foe, and they sparked a memory. In 2009, I interviewed him (by e-mail), basically asking routine questions like: Who are you?; How did you become involved with this?; How do you respond to those who say? …
That’s the sort of thing journalists are supposed to do. First, you ask the subject to explain himself, and you don’t get in the way of his explanation.
That does not obligate you to believe a single word and certainly does not prevent you from fact-checking everything afterward. Indeed, as the comments below the post show, there is a great deal to be concerned about with respect to Yahya’s work, but he was an influential voice in Turkey, which was seeking admission to the European Union, and he spoke out on topics of interest to Uncommon Descent.
It is an act of faith in the concept of human communication to just turn the mike over. The “don’t speak while I am interrupting” approach that we sometimes hear is not journalism; it amounts to using the interview subject as a human soapbox.
Well, a number of people criticized or ridiculed me for even interviewing the man. Some assumed (seriously or in jest, it is hard to tell) that I had converted to Islam. All because I decided to ask him to explain himself in his own words. And these were not literacy-challenged people, frightened by the power of the printed words they can’t read; they were intelligent, educated people who—I must assume—don’t have much faith in the power of human communication to sort things out.
No wonder the campus censor goes so often unchallenged.
1. Nom de plume of Adnan Oktar.
Denyse O’Leary is a journalist, author, and blogger, and co-author of The Spiritual Brain.