The marketplace of ideas is a very powerful forum. In his book, The Doctor and the Soul, Victor Frankl, a survivor of Auschwitz, illustrated this in the most extreme case:
“The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment. … I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.”
Those who pride themselves in being the most “independent thinkers” out there sometimes are just unaware of how much their environment influences their beliefs. Many are not just ignorant as to the power of words and ideas, but they also fail to notice the danger in those who traffic in the distortion and manipulation of our most basic principles.
Take for example the principle that “all men are created equal.” This is as powerful an idea as any other. But its power lies in its truthfulness. Those who prey on good intentions and emotions have long distorted its truth, corrupting not only the principle but the standard through which all ideas are to be tested. They argue that, since all men are created equal, all the ideas of men are also created equal.
Therefore, “don’t try to impose your beliefs on me” has become a most fashionable statement these days. “You believe what you want, and I believe what I want,” they say. “It is not about who’s right or wrong. It is about a difference of opinion.”
That attitude has caused much damage in our society, especially when it comes to the business of governing. Many policymakers hide behind the “don’t judge me” masquerade to avoid the gargantuan task of defending the foolishness they try to pass off as sensible policy. Taking advantage of the political cynicism many Americans have developed, they argue politics instead of policy and get away with almost anything.
Notice I am not talking about the right to believe what you want. A man can still believe today that his race is superior to any other. He could even be sincere about it. But he would be sincerely wrong. That is because truthfulness is the standard, not sincerity, emotion or passion.