Discourse

Milwaukee free speech event provides much needed discourse in a time of paranoia, polarization, and lockdown

Better Discourse was a profoundly American event, and its participants and audience were extremely thankful for that.

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In-person gatherings have been forbidden, as have open, free exchanges of ideas. It’s as though humanity itself has been outlawed. Despite the COVID concerns that have ruled conversations about gatherings these past months, Mythinformed held their annual Better Discourse event this year in Milwaukee.

Slated for the same weekend as the DNC, Better Discourse could easily have been cancelled. But the founders knew that in-person communication is far more effective, and incredibly necessary, so they facilitated a scaled-down version.

No matter how much mainstream media, advertisers, politicians, and virtue-signalling celebs want us to believe that we’re better off locked indoors and talking through a mask, we are not. We need each other, we need to meet face to face, we need human contact.

Better Discourse let us gather despite the risks and fears. It is a thing of beauty to be around people who think, who speak their minds, who have ears hungry to listen and hearts yearning for truth, justice, and clarity. That’s what was found at Better Discourse this year.

Many of those who come to speak at Better Discourse are under the persistent fire of the public eye. They are tagged as alt-right by far-left whisper campaigns that erupt into full-fledged social media attack campaigns. Who they are really are outspoken, principled individuals who refuse to back down.

OAN’s Jack Posobiec is one of these, and he gets flak for it, but increasingly the flak doesn’t matter as the community of those who reject cancel culture grows. Melissa Chen led a panel on Populism and COVID, defining populism as a movement for the people against a group of elites. Mike Harlow and David Silverman joined the conversation.

Posobiec, with his background in China relations and analysis, said that there were concrete reasons to know that the virus was starting up in November. Those analysts who follow Chinese policy were the only ones who were sounding the alarm, and noting concerns over supply chains that are entirely globalist in nature. Posobiec was one of the very first.

It was the CCP, Posobiec said, that instructed Chinese citizens worldwide to buy personal protective equipment to send back to mainland China. While he doesn't believe that the invention or dissemination of the virus was intentional or malicious, he called their response into question.

Mike Harlow, a New York-based filmmaker, said that “it’s hard to take leftist populism seriously when the they control literally every institution in this country.”

“They all want more control and more censorship,” he said. The left controls all of culture, academic, media, and for Harlow, the concept that the federal government would also be ruled by this same ideology is more than he can tolerate.

Though he didn’t vote for Trump the first time around, this time, Harlow “can’t wait to pull that lever with [his] middle finger.”

“There’s so much gaslighting that’s been going on right now,” he said, referring to the “mostly peaceful protests” that frequently went off the rails and became violent in so many American cities, such as Portland and Seattle, this year.

“Everything’s mostly peaceful,” Posobiec said, “until it’s not.”

The ideas that Chen raised, about the politicization of medicine, science, of education, are infrequently discussed in mainstream media. Instead, it is assumed that there can be no way to talk about them without first knowing upon which side of the political divide the speakers sit.

“It’s been eight months,” Posobiec said. “We know so much more now than we did when I was translating videos back in January.” While he believes that there “should be a social safety net for the vulnerable” he said that this shouldn’t prohibit everyone from reengaging in life.

Yet, the increase in suicidal thoughts, deaths of despair, aren’t even part of the conversation. Lockdown, Chen noted, was about wanting to “flatten the curve to protect the health care infrastructure.” But there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight.

The panels were only part of the conference. It was incredibly novel to be sitting among other people. After months of all of us stuck inside, with society shut down, human being standing six feet apart, there was both joy and trepidation among those present.

“Coronavirus has been a giant red pill that has made people realize that the government can’t save you,” Posobiec said.

There was a panel on racial equity, where actual social justice leftists hashed it out with Trump Republicans. Niko House, of the MSCS Network, and author Karlyn Borysenko, who sat knitting in a Trump hoodie, argued about whether or not systemic racism exists. And no one got cancelled, or even doxxed.

Melissa Chen, ever a voice of considered reason, made the rational point that trying to fix things based on an intended outcome is not effective. Instead, we need to know how things are done and why, and fix the process, not quantify for an end result.

A panel on immigration featured The Blaze’s Elijah Shaffer and YouTuber Sydney Watson arguing against open immigration while Michael Gonzales spoke in favour of open borders.

“The radical-left uses semantics to use words to change the discussion,” Watson said, “If I stole something, am I an undocumented buyer?”

The panel on cancel culture featured Travis Wester, Will Chamberlain, Keri Smith and TPM's own Libby Emmons. While the rest of the panels had substantial disagreement on the issues at hand, none of those present could make the argument in favour of cancel culture.

The final panel featured Milo Yiannopolous, Brandon Straka, and Twitch streamer Steven “Destiny” Bonnell II, on the perceived violence of words and language.

Yiannopolous’s view on language was more nuanced than he is typically known for. The question of if words are violence resulted in a further question, of it they can be violence if the hearer does not understand their intention. In asking the question, he intoned the deadly curse of Harry Potter. “Can a person be avada kadavra’d if they don’t know what that is?”

“I’m all for nationalizing Twitter,” he said, as someone who has been permanently banned from the platform.

The spectre of a nationwide lockdown hung over the conference. Was it courageous to gather? Was it stupid? Nobody had a concrete answer. We went back and forth between masking ourselves out of a fear that the “experts” might be right, and not masking because despite everything we needed to feel like we were not alone, not brutally separated from everything that makes up life and community.

Collectively, we needed to gather and exchange ideas. We needed to exercise our human right to discourse, to freedom of speech and assembly. For this alone, Better Discourse was a resoundingly successful event. But it was more than just a success—in a cultural climate where even simple conversations with ideological opponents seems forbidden, Better Discourse showed us a better way forward.

We are free to express our ideas and to associate with who we choose to. All we have to do is exercise this freedom and dismiss the authoritarian scolds who mean to shame us. Better Discourse was a profoundly American event, and its participants and audience were extremely thankful for that.

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