World War II general and cis white male George Patton is quoted as saying, “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” His words came at a time of hardship in the world, a time of cancerous, collectivist ideologies paired with great uncertainty abroad. Thankfully we today have the surreal privilege of living at a time where collectivist ideologies are on life support, mostly kept alive by a minute amount of internet trolls and ill-informed college students, but there are still those who do not count their blessings nor care for the invaluable, individualistic wisdom of past generations.
In Kevin Ssonko’s “A Response to Absurdity,” it appears that Patton’s quote was replaced with the idea of “If someone doesn’t think like me, they are wrong and must hate human rights. Or something.”
Ssonko’s recent article sincerely makes me question the very definition of “absurd.” Merriam-Webster defines it as “ridiculously unreasonable, unsound, or incongruous,” but I can’t help but feel as though Ssonko’s article did not use the word improperly. So, why don’t we look at some examples of true absurdity?Ssonko made the initially bizarre claim that “The condition of the conservative movement throughout history is rooted in the belief that human beings are fundamentally unequal,” followed by several more claims that lacked even one source or real-life event to back them up in his article besides a vague reference to monarchism. Which is, ironically, not at all what the conservative movement is at all. Conservative values focus entirely on the individual and his or her economic freedom, but Ssonko’s statements are not based in reality and are initially bizarre claims. I emphasize “initially” because there is a name for Ssonko’s tactic. In the world of debate, it is called the “gish gallop.” It is a strategy of winning an argument by making a large number of claims at once, each with little to no reinforcement by means of statistics or examples, but because your opponent cannot answer all of them at once they end up inevitably ceding one or more points. Unfortunately for Ssonko, I can recognize it and call him out for this embarrassingly disingenuous debate tactic. Luckily for you, the reader, I can also recognize the theme of speech suppression that was a motif in this article.
Ssonko originally acknowledged that “we are a society that fully supports free speech,” but then later questions why those who commit the irredeemable crime of disagreeing with him – including myself – are “allowed a platform.” Ssonko has also written in his letter of intent that he wants to “elevate the voices of those who are around [him],” a statement that is quite interesting when considering his thoughts on de-platforming. I have some strong words for Ssonko, and they may very well not be easy to hear:
Not everyone agrees with you. Around half of the country, actually. I know, it’s absurd to think that there are people out there who may not actually agree with you. It may even be, dare I say, a microagression! But it’s the reality of the real world outside the cushioned ivory tower of Dickinson and every other hive of collectivist ideals that calls themselves a campus across the United States.
Ssonko appears to see the problems of the world through the lenses of right and wrong, rather than the reality of political nuance. And, since he questioned why conservatives like me are allowed a platform but did not question whether those left of center should be de-platformed, Ssonko’s article appears to be advocating for suppression of those who do not hold the “right” opinion like Ssonko.
What a nifty coincidence that is. I find it important to note that the United States declared its independence from Great Britain in part because free speech was nonexistent in the empire, and not so that we could turn around and de-platform those who make the heinous crime of disagreeing with us. The thought of de-platforming those who disagree with you is laughably childish, but even moreso seriously concerning. Ironically, it was the fascist and communist nations of history who relentlessly cracked down on free speech and the (classical) liberals who supported the idea of free speech. If free speech to Ssonko truly means questioning the platform of opposing opinions, it is extremely troublesome. It is the same view countries like Russia and Communist China have on free speech, and, to put it lightly, they are not exactly known for respecting free speech nor the human rights Ssonko claims conservatives don’t stand for in his article.
Ssonko, not everyone agrees with you. Certainly not myself. But you ought to stop questioning why those who disagree with you have a platform, abandon toxic identity politics and subscribe to the ideals of individualism. Just like Venezuela, and the USSR after that, and fascist Italy after that, your groupthink-centered, authoritarian-minded rhetoric and policies are doomed to fail.