I’ve been thinking. When I remarked (disparagingly) about Thailand’s ban on frightening news, there was more to be said.
Starting in 2016, I’ve been reading tweeted agitations from really smart, good people who implore the news media and its associates — opinion writers and talkers — to drop any references at all to people they deplore. And the reason seems compelling. Why should we have our intelligence, common sense and general humanity abused several times a day by second generation quotes from people who make us scream?
Right now, the designated Ignore These People Because They’re Crazy And Dangerous group include Marjorie Taylor Greene and, more crazily, Tucker Carlson. (BTW, the absolute best nickname for Carlson was pronounced by Joy Reid, who calls him “Tuckums.”)
(I’m eschewing quoting Voltaire*…forget that and read the * if you wish. You’re under no obligation. It may well be more than you want to know right now.)
Sure, outrageous people have the right to say outrageous things. Equally, we have the right to ignore them. But whenever I see the plaint, “Don’t give them any attention! Ignore them!” I have an instant picture of a child putting his hands over his ears and yelling, “Nya nya nya,” or whatever it is kids yell when they’re trying to bury their heads in the sand without being asphyxiated.
Some of us have to listen. If Jamelle Bouie hadn’t been paying attention to Tucker Carlson, he would not have been able to write this profoundly informative column in the Times today, which I especially appreciated because he shows everyone what an awful person William Buckley was, and he does it by using Buckley’s own words.
*Well, to get the exact quote (and to make sure it was indeed Voltaire’s), I had the pleasure of dipping into my Bartlett’s. Here is the exact quote:
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
Followed by this footnote: “This sentence is not Voltaire’s, but was first used in quoting a letter from Voltaire to Helvétius in The Friends of Voltaire  by S.G. Tallentyre (E. Beatrice Hall). She claims it was a paraphrase of Voltaire’s words in the Essay on Tolerance: “Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too.”