Silence Is Not Consent

7 Jul

When my students didn’t ask any questions, I would write “Qui tacet consentire” on the board, saying that if you didn’t speak up, I’d assume you agree with me. In real life, that’s rarely the case.

For those who didn’t take Latin in high school (including me), qui tacet consentire videtur means “he who is silent is believed to agree.” In legal terminology, this is known as the silence procedure and dates to time immemorial. In fact, it’s in the Bible:

If there is a virgin pledged in marriage to a man, and another man encounters her in the city and sleeps with her, you must take both of them out to the gate of that city and stone them to death—the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he has violated his neighbor’s wife. So you must purge the evil from among you.

But if the man encounters a betrothed woman in the open country, and he overpowers her and lies with her, only the man who has done this must die. Do nothing to the young woman, because she has committed no sin worthy of death. This case is just like one in which a man attacks his neighbor and murders him. When he found her in the field, the betrothed woman cried out, but there was no one to save her.

Deuteronomy 22: 23-27 (BSB)

In American jurisprudence, the silence procedure is not acceptable. In the case of rape, just because the woman didn’t fight back mean that she wanted the sexual contact. Even in jurisdictions where this procedure is acceptable, you can still debate it. In fact, where I learned about this was from the movie (based on the play), A Man for All Seasons. In this case, Sir Thomas More is being tried for treason because he didn’t approve of King Henry VIII’s remarriage without the Pope’s approval for divorce. So the prime minister, Cromwell, is prosecuting him.

Cromwell:
Yet how can this be? Because this silence betokened, nay, this silence was, not silence at all, but most eloquent denial!

Sir Thomas More:
Not so. Not so, Master Secretary. The maxim is “Qui tacet consentire”: the maxim of the law is “Silence gives consent”. If therefore you wish to construe what my silence betokened, you must construe that I consented, not that I denied.

Cromwell:
Is that in fact what the world construes from it? Do you pretend that is what you wish the world to construe from it?

Sir Thomas More:
The world must construe according to its wits; this court must construe according to the law.

A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt.

So… why am I bringing this up? Because I don’t like to debate people on social media. So when I see someone I like or someone I know posting something I think is really foolish or contrary to my beliefs, I don’t get on the comment and start a merry little war. Because I know it’s not going to do any good; it will not change their mind or mine. This may be why I like blogging better. 🙂 However, the majority of posts are by a small minority of the population.

For example, let’s take Twitter and break it down.

  • Twitter has 206 million monetizable daily active users worldwide (as of August 2021).
  • World population as of 2021 is 7.87 billion. So Twitter consists of 2.5% of world population.
  • The estimate is that 25% of Twitter users are responsible for 97% of all posts.
  • Even if you want to just isolate America, only 22% of American adults use Twitter. Twitter users are younger, more likely to identify as Democrats, more highly educated and have higher incomes than U.S. adults overall. 
  • So if 25% of users are responsible for almost all posts, and only 22% of American adults use it, then you are hearing the opinions of 5.25% of the American people.

Now if you’re like me, and you ignore or block the people who are the most obnoxious (usually about politics), you’re only hearing an even smaller circle of opinions. Extreme views get the most attention–whether that’s on my news radio show or on social media. The mistake is to believe that the extreme voice is what everyone who holds that opinion believes. Most people who agree with critical race theory would not agree with the idea that math is a white supremacist concept. Most people who agree we should secure our borders would not agree with the idea of that we are bringing in a brown-skinned underclass to replace us. (Interestingly enough, I couldn’t find an original source on that, only the commentary. Hmmmm…)

So what’s my point? Don’t discount the silent majority. NPR crowed that Pew Research discovered that pro-choice was now the majority in the US. However, when you break it down, of the 61% of “pro-choice,” of those only 19% say abortion on demand, no exceptions. 42% of that “pro-choice” say there should be limitations, especially how long the mother has been pregnant.

When you hear an extreme viewpoint, don’t take it as the example of who they are. Republicans are not racists, Democrats are not all socialists, and Libertarians aren’t all pot-smokers. I should have made this post shorter, or broken it down, but I was on a roll. Hopefully you have a comment or two, and I will welcome it. Welcome to the extreme moderates. 😀

2 Responses to “Silence Is Not Consent”

  1. Joliesattic July 7, 2022 at 11:57 am #

    I love A Man for All Seasons. Great quotes – Great film. Netflix needs to re-release it.

    I totally agree with you in so many ways and so appreciate the percentage breakdown. Without it, we would be inclined to believe the majority holds these extremes as truth.
    The unfortunate thing is those voices of dissent are the loudest and what is also interesting, to me anyway, is that it’s so easy to begin to believe everyone has gone mad, if they truly believe what they say. These voices are making a dent in human thinking and I’ve seen their impact on people who do not do social media other than read it and assume that based on their loud voices, that it’s the majority talking and how they should think. There are many lemmings out there, you know. So I wonder what percentage goes along, taking these opinions as gospel?
    I was, at one time married into a family that took on the role of devil’s advocate and for a long time I did not realize they just enjoyed the argument for argument sake. It was how they honed their debating skills. I find it disturbing and wonder if some of those voices out there may just enjoy stirring the pot?
    Great post!

  2. Dawn Renee July 9, 2022 at 7:46 am #

    I think this is the perfect length to accommodate very well articulated views and facts.

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