In the “Environment & the Economy” discussion in the Sunday Commentary section, two writers presented their cases to support or oppose President Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement.
I feel that the writer opposing the president’s move was on the right side: The Paris agreement, while flawed, is still a step in the right direction to address the very important issue of global warming and its effect on our climate. Regardless of the writer’s position, though, I feel his understanding of democracy and how it works was itself very flawed and a more immediate danger to our society. One of the writer’s final statements was disturbing: “In a democracy, lies are supposed to be countered, shouted down, and acted against until they stop.”
That is dead wrong. Yes, lies, distortions, and even honest ignorance need to be countered, but it must be kept in mind that you are not just talking to the liars and distorters, but also to the millions of people who, for one reason or another, may be undecided on the issues of global warming and what should be done about it. You are not going to win their hearts and minds by “shouting down” anyone. That is not how democracy is supposed to work.
No one, not even the writer of the article, knows everything about global warming. “Shouting down” is a good indicator of ignorance and fear of learning something new. We should keep in mind the statement attributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”