Suppression of Dissent in the Time of Trump

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Protest (n.): from the Latin protestari, meaning to declare or testify publicly.

People have been protesting for as long as inequality and imbalance of power have existed. In other words, people have been protesting for as long as there has been the slightest hint of governance.

Protesting is a right, and it is a right for everyone, no matter what side of the political spectrum they are on. It would be a right for Trump supporters if Clinton had won the election, for example, just as it is the right of anti-Trump protesters now.

If you seek to silence the protesters, you are seeking to silence dissent. And that puts you on the side of censorship and suppression.

Suppression of dissent occurs when an individual or group [...] tries to directly or indirectly censor, persecute or otherwise oppress the other party, rather than engage with and constructively respond to or accommodate the other party's arguments or viewpoint. 
Don't forget that many important changes have come about because of protests and political uprisings. These include, but are not limited to:

  1. The American Revolution: when American colonists rejected British rule. 
  2. The Protestant Reformation ("protest" is even part of the word "Protestant"!): when Martin Luther protested what he believed to be Catholic corruption and immorality. 
  3. The French Revolution: when French citizens challenged iniquities of the feudal system and the authority of the monarchy. 
  4. The Stonewall Riot: when LGBTQ individuals protested the targeting of gay clubs by police, and represented a larger fight for equal rights.
  5. The Salt March: when Mohandas Gandhi protested British rule in India. 

Image: Ronile
What's more, during the past week since Trump was elected, many have been sharing videos or descriptions of violence taking place at anti-Trump demonstrations across the United States. Several have tried to use this information to convince others of the laziness or degeneracy or stupidity of liberals or progressives.

In effect, they are using the terms "violent protesters" and "liberals" or "Hillary supporters" interchangeably. This interchangeability of terms is built on a couple of key fallacies, namely the hasty generalization and the fallacy of exclusion.

The hasty generalization fallacy occurs when the sample size is far too small to support the conclusion or judgment.

Two examples of the hasty generalization fallacy:


  1. Four men I know are hunters, therefore all men are hunters.
  2. The Finnish traveller lied to me, therefore all Finnish people are liars.

Clearly, not all men are hunters, and not all Finnish people are liars. The sample sizes in these examples are far too small to draw a reliable conclusion about the groups in question, all men and all Finnish people, respectively. So, how can anyone draw a conclusion about all the liberals and progressives who are protesting based on the actions of a violent few amongst them?

Well, logically-speaking, they cannot draw such conclusions at all.

The fallacy of exclusion occurs when information that would weaken or compromise an argument or position is left out. It is very similar to the generalization fallacy, but instead of making an inductive leap in reasoning (as in the hasty generalization), the person is overlooking key information that would undermine their position.

In the case of the anti-Trump protesters, there is ample evidence that the majority of protesters are acting peacefully and simply walking down streets, carrying signs, and chanting or singing. But inclusion of this information weakens the argument that the protesters are all dangerous thugs and hooligans, so the information is all too often left out.

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