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Story highlights

Fareed Zakaria says freedom of speech is not just for ideas we find comfortable

Zakaria: Conservative voices and views are being silenced

(CNN) —  

Fareed Zakaria said Saturday that though many liberals think they are tolerant, often they aren’t.

Zakaria noted that “at the height of commencement season,” many new graduates across the country had made their political views apparent, from the Notre Dame students who walked out as Vice President Mike Pence gave his commencement address to the crowd members who booed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos during a speech at Bethune-Cookman University.

“American universities seem committed to every kind of diversity except intellectual diversity. Conservative voices and views are being silenced entirely,” Zakaria said.

The CNN host said he found this attitude strange, especially given that these incidents occurred on college campuses that “promised to give their undergraduates a liberal education.”

“The word liberal in this context has nothing to do with today’s partisan language, but refers instead to the Latin root, pertaining to liberty. And at the heart of liberty in the Western world has been freedom of speech. From the beginning, people understood that this meant protecting and listening to speech with which you disagreed,” Zakaria argued.

That means, he said, not drowning out “the ideas that we find offensive.”

In addition, Zakaria noted what he called “an anti-intellectualism” on the left.

“It’s an attitude of self-righteousness that says we are so pure, we’re so morally superior, we cannot bear to hear an idea with which we disagree,” he said.

“Liberals think they are tolerant but often they aren’t,” he added.

No one, he continued, “has a monopoly on right or virtue.”

In fact, it is only by being open to hearing opposing views that people on both sides of the political spectrum can learn something, Zakaria said.

“By talking seriously and respectfully about agreements and disagreements, we can come together in a common conversation,” he said.

“Recognizing that while we seem so far apart, we do actually have a common destiny.”