There is a school of thought that’s been advanced by some commentators since Pat Buchanan was fired from MSNBC that his dismissal was a mistake because his ideas need to be vigorously debated and debunked. From Andrew Sullivan:
However repellent some of his views, he is intellectually honest. Yes, publicly bigoted, sometimes outrageous, a flame-thrower, a reactionary who flirted at times with what only can be called neo-fascism. But here’s another thing he has always been: true to his own ideas and a gifted writer. He truly believes what he says and has read and researched a huge amount and has thought carefully about his extreme out-of-the-mainstream views. He is a serious figure in that respect. Compared with Al Sharpton or Ed Schultz, he is a paragon of intellectual integrity. He is not a propagandist. He is a passionate writer who loves nothing more than a good argument with a worthy opponent – and he has a serious sense of humor to boot. That his ideas are often repelling should precisely be why he should stay on MSNBC and defend his views against the smartest critiques that can be found. We should stop silencing people and keep debating them.
And from Buchanan’s now-former colleagues at MSNBC, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski:
Everyone at Morning Joe considers Pat Buchanan to be a friend and a member of the family. Even though we strongly disagree with the contents of Pat’s latest book, Mika and I believe those differences should have been debated in public. An open dialogue with Morning Joe regulars like Al Sharpton and Harold Ford, Jr. could have developed into an important debate on the future of race relations in America. Because we believe that sunlight is the best disinfectant, Mika and I strongly disagree with this outcome. We understand that the parting was amicable. Still, we will miss Pat.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant only if the ideas at hand have actual traction and need to be dislodged. Nobody takes seriously the ideas that Jerry Sandusky’s alleged abuse and rape of children has any connection to marriage equality for gay couples, or that Anders Brevik, the Norway terrorist, has the right worldview. Their credibility has nowhere to go but up, and lending someone a seat at the table confers some of that credibility, even if it’s only to acknowledge that the idea has power that’s dangerous. That risk should be weighed against the possible benefit of debunking the most marginalized, weak ideas by debating them in public.