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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-authorsof 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, which was one of the first digital outlets for conservative thinkers. He’s also contributor for Fox News and willco-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 Discussionwas 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 ofEnd of Discussionis 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

Copyright 2018 St. Louis Public Radio

Since entering the world of professional journalism in 2006, Jason Rosenbaum dove head first into the world of politics, policy and even rock and roll music. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Rosenbaum spent more than four years in the Missouri State Capitol writing for the Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri Lawyers Media and the St. Louis Beacon. Since moving to St. Louis in 2010, Rosenbaum's work appeared in Missouri Lawyers Media, the St. Louis Business Journal and the Riverfront Times' music section. He also served on staff at the St. Louis Beacon as a politics reporter. Rosenbaum lives in Richmond Heights with with his wife Lauren and their two sons.
Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.