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Politically Speaking: Ham and Benson on how spirited debate is vanishing from political discourse

Guy Benson and Mary Katharine Ham
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
Guy Benson and Mary Katharine Ham

The latest edition of Politically Speaking takes a bit of a break from the frenetic discussion of Missouri politics by welcoming conservative writers Guy Benson and Mary Katharine Ham onto the show.

Benson and Ham are co-authors of the book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun). They were in St. Louis last week to speak at a Show Me Institute event on free speech at the Chess Hall of Fame.

Benson is the political editor for townhall.com, which was one of the first digital outlets for conservative thinkers. He’s also contributor for Fox News and will co-host a new radio showsoon with Democratic communications strategist Marie Harf. (He’s also a Billy Joel fan.)

Ham is a CNN contributor and a senior writer at The Federalist. She’s the latest member of her family to dive into journalism, as she began her career working at the Richmond County Daily Journal. During the 2016 election cycle, Ham was a panelist during a GOP presidential debate.

End of Discussion was first released in 2015, and it contended that left-of-center activists were increasingly hostile to forms of civic discourse. The book was re-released in 2017 to touch on President Donald Trump’s impact on debate.

Here’s what Ham and Benson had to say during the show:

  • Benson said the general thesis of End of Discussion is that “the left primarily, but not exclusively by any stretch, is increasingly seeking to win cultural and political debates by disqualifying the other side by question or demeaning motives.”
  • He noted that the original edition of the book was published before Trump announced his presidential bid. “We’re noticing as well our side is very much ‘well, the way to fight against left wing end of discussion is do it ourselves and punch back twice as hard,’” Benson said. “And that’s something that we caution and argue against.”
  • Ham said that the general argument she and Benson are trying to convey is that “more speech is better.” She pointed to statistics showing an increasing trend of commencement speakers being uninvited from college campuses, which she said is part of a “real bad trajectory.”
  • She said that “nobody is owed a platform.” But Ham added that once an invitation is extended to, say, have someone speak on a college campus, “we should have the courage to stand up for wanting that person to speak.”

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Guy Benson on Twitter: @GuyPBenson

Follow Mary Katharine Ham on Twitter: @mkhammertime

Music: “Only the Good Die Young” by Billy Joel

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.