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Civility Linkblogging: Balancing Civility and Free Speech

Civility Linkblogging
A Lynx, because Linkblogging

This post is part of an ongoing series that highlights discourse about civility from around the Web. We glean the links in this segment from as broad a cross-section as we can manage of blogs, newspapers, magazines, and other online venues, from the United States and around the world.

This week’s articles, on the whole, highlight an important question about civility: how can we balance it with free speech and the free exchange of ideas? In that vein, we have a write-up of a panel discussion at the University of Arizona. We have a response to author Salman Rushdie’s lionization of free speech, even at the cost of civil dialog. And we have some advice: that the best response to free speech that offends us is more speech — not violence.

If you have an article that you think would be right for future civility linkblogging posts, please do not hesitate to email it to us at [email protected]. Include the title, url, and a short summary, and we will gladly review it for publication.

Now — the list:

Panelists Balance Free Speech, Civility
Posted by Terrie Brianna at The Daily Wildcat, April 30, 2015

A friend of Barber’s and member of Kozachik’s Ward, Patterson said that the conversation on freedom of speech and civility is very important.

During the panel, Patterson referred to a bumper sticker he has seen around Tucson that implies a support for guns.

“We have to find ways to help people, who are civil people, find their voice in ways that can be heard and not be uncivil,” Patterson said. “Beyond that, we have to face a culture that promotes violence. We have movies and television … [and] a culture that says the way that we deal with conflict is through violent action.”

Respond to Free Speech You Don’t Like with Civility
Posted by Jennifer Hancock at The Bradenton Herald, May 1, 2015

Assaulting people whose speech upsets us is unacceptable. If we want to live in a civil society, where speaking your mind does not means risking your life, we must start respecting the rights of people who disagree with us. We have to stop enabling bullies who attempt to silence speech with violence. We must insist on civility and stop rationalizing away this violence as somehow justified.

The correct response to speech you don’t like is more speech; not death threats or violence.

‘Pussies and Wimps’: Why Salman Rushdie’s Plea for Free Speech Rings Hollow
Posted by Derek Edyvane at The Conversation, May 6, 2015

Civil self-censorship can help to create a more constructive discussion. It can also help to create a more democratic discussion in which all voices are heard. And to stand up for civility of this kind when everyone else is yelling can actually be quite a courageous thing to do.

That being said, there are certainly some valid free speech concerns about the appeal to civility. Throughout history, powerful elites have used particular understandings of what counts as civil or polite and uncivil or impolite behaviour as a way of stifling the speech of disadvantaged groups.

What Eye Contact — And Dogs — Can Teach Us About Civility In Politics
Posted by Alisa Chang at, May 8, 2015

There’s a common perception that looking a dog in the eye can make it uncomfortable. That would certainly bolster the Minnesota theory. But dog behavioral expert Clive Wynne at Arizona State University’s Canine Science Collaboratory said it’s more complicated than that.

“A dog that’s wagging its tail happily while it looks another dog in the eye is maybe communicating something friendly,” he said, “whereas a dog that growls and has its hackles raised in a very tense body posture — the eye contact may just intensify that threat.”

In other words, eye contact for dogs is like eye contact for humans. When there’s genuine goodwill, eye contact can be a positive thing.

Constructive Listening Can Build Civility in Politics
Posted by Robert Lillegard at The Duluth News Tribune, May 9, 2015

I had the most unusual conversation about politics the other day…. Really, the strangest thing about the conversation was what it was missing.


It actually dawned on me partway through the talk. We’d disagreed on everything from the recent looting episodes to the justice system, but insults hadn’t come up. We hadn’t questioned each other’s motives or called each other names. We hadn’t accused each other of ruining America. Everything was perfectly … civil.

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