You know I've said it before. In fact, it's one of my favorite themes: speech is not tyranny. That is to say, if you act like a dick, and people treat you like a dick, that's not censorship, even if awesome-under-most-circumstances folks like Clint Eastwood think that it is.
Today's example: Kirk Cameron, who used to star on a sitcom. Kirk, who is now chiefly known for saying such things, says that homosexuality is "unnatural. I think that it's – it's detrimental, and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization."
So far, so banal. But that's not all. Faced with predictable criticism — it seems like some people don't like the suggestion that they or their friends or loved ones are unnatural and destructive of civilization — Kirk mewled.
Kirk Cameron, who has drawn gales of criticism for comments against homosexuality made to Piers Morgan on CNN on Friday, spoke his mind again Tuesday, calling on those demanding tolerance from him to exhibit tolerance of their own.
"I should be able to express moral views on social issues," he told ABC News via email, "especially those that have been the underpinning of Western civilization for 2,000 years — without being slandered, accused of hate speech, and told from those who preach 'tolerance' that I need to either bend my beliefs to their moral standards or be silent when I'm in the public square."
He called for learning how to debate such issues "with greater love and respect."
Well, no, Kirk. That's the marketplace of ideas. If you want to call people unnatural, they may respond sharply. You don't have a right to be free from that. Nobody with a principled or coherent view of free speech thinks that you should.
I could go off on an epic rant at Kirk, since "your criticism of my speech is tyranny!" is one of my bugaboos, but John Scalzi has already done an excellent job of it.
The "poor me, I should be able to articulate controversial views without being attacked" argument is insipid, and is part of an incoherent and self-contradictory view of freedom of expression. In effect, it elevates the right of the first speaker above the right of everyone who follows, which is nonsensical. There's a perfectly good argument to be made that angry and insulting responses to speech like Kirk's is counterproductive or less persuasive than calm discourse, but that's an issue for the marketplace of ideas, which will value the speech accordingly.
Also — and this is not so much a free speech point, but a for-the-love-of-God-have-some-self-respect point — if I said "Christianity is unnatural, detrimental, and destructive to society," and then got all butthurt when someone threw some elbows in response, I would be a whiny loser worthy of general derision. Like Kirk.
[Note: I haven't all of the responses to Kirk's "unnatural" comments, so I don't know whether some people suggested he should be censored by the state. Anyone who suggested that is a censorious jackass and should be called out and opposed. Think it's unlikely? Think again. There are censors on both sides of the aisle.]
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