Hillary Clinton: As a society, 'we don't even want to hear things we disagree with'

"That is what we see happening in Ukraine today," said the former secretary of state. "The Russian aggression is aimed at dehumanizing the Ukrainian people; they are not worthy of existing so why should anybody care whether they are bombed into oblivion?"

Published: March 16, 2023 3:36pm

Updated: March 16, 2023 11:38pm

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it's difficult to run a society in "today's environment" where people "don't even want to hear things we disagree with," which she argues is what's happening in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"The information ecosystem in which we live demands so much quick response, often totally unthought," Clinton said after a discussion at Georgetown University on the legacy of the Good Friday Agreement. "It creates so much insulting, threatening rhetoric aimed at people who are trying to do hard things."

Clinton said there are lessons for today from the Good Friday Agreement, which was signed in April of 1998. The peace agreement brought an end to the violent political conflict that had wracked Northern Ireland for decades. 

Clinton mentioned the controversial decision that former President Bill Clinton made to issue a visa to longtime Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in 1994. According to a BBC report in 2019, Adams said Clinton's decision "helped to pave the way for the IRA truce seven months later."

"You do not make peace with your friends," Clinton said during her speech. "You do not negotiate with people you already agree with. It is sometimes difficult in today's environment for people to want to make the effort, let alone take the risk, to get out of their own comfort zones. We don't even want to hear things we disagree with. We don't want to hear different opinions from people who we have already concluded are outside the pale of our comfort zone.

"You cannot run a society, let alone make peace for long, if that is your ingoing attitude. 'I have nothing to learn from this person. I do not see him/her as a fellow human being. There is no reason for us to talk.' That is what we see happening in Ukraine today." 

Clinton told the audience that the "Russian aggression" in Ukraine is "aimed at dehumanizing the Ukrainian people: They are not worthy of existing so why should anybody care whether they are bombed into oblivion?"

She implored the public to find ways to relate to one another in today's complex information environment.

"So we all have to do some serious soul-searching about how we relate to one another in this much more complicated information environment where demonizing and scapegoating are just accepted strategies," she said.

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