The Right Not To Be Criticized: John Rocker Edition
Sometimes people accuse me of making up, or at least exaggerating, the speech tropes I talk about here.
In today's example, WND conclusively refutes critics who say "WND can't stoop any lower" by running a think piece by former baseball player John Rocker. Rocker, you may recall, was less known for competence and more known for running his mouth about people who irritated him, a group that seemed to include everyone who didn't closely resemble John Rocker.
Rocker begins his piece by thanking a fallen solider. Tastes differ, but when the topic of your post is not our soldiers, it strikes me as disrespectful and self-indulgent to invoke their sacrifices to launch an unrelated screed. It seems almost as if you're invoking them to insulate yourself from criticism — but big strong manly John Rocker can't possibly be overly sensitive to criticism, can he?
Over recent years, it seems the term “free speech” has become more of an oxymoron than an absolute in our society. Technically, as our Founding Fathers intended, we are all given the undeniable right to voice our thoughts and opinions freely without fear of scorn and/or ridicule derived from non-agreement. I supposedly have the same right to express myself as you do. In a perfect world, my rights should be no different from yours. I’m quite certain that given the current stage of the world’s social climate, however, anyone ascribing to the ridiculous notion that our world is perfect is kidding himself. Our “perfect” world was replaced many moons ago by the defective reality in which we are all forced to reside – and one of the most blatant areas to view the erosion of perfection is seen in the lack of ability many in this great country have to speak freely without fear of chastisement.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am a reader. I started to teach myself to read when I was supposed to be napping. I read instead of interacting with my peers. I read to the exclusion of many other things I should have done. I read things I loved and things I hated. I read the words of the incomprehensibly brilliant and the words of drooling idiots. I've read YouTube comments. But I can say, with complete confidence, that I cannot recall reading anything so completely fucking stupid as that paragraph and its spew of cliches. There is not, and never has been a right to be free of scorn or ridicule or chastisement in response to our speech. In fact, the prospect of scorn and ridicule and chastisement is the only reason America has free speech — because we believe that ignorant or offensive speech is better handled by the marketplace of ideas than by government intrusion. Nothing in law or in history supports Rocker's imagined "right." Only weaklings, cowards, and fools seek protection from criticism of their speech. Yet this moronic trope — this idea that critical speech is censorship, and that the assholes of the world have some sort of protected right not be to called assholes — persists. It persists because of sub-normals like John Rocker. Thanks, John.
There is without a doubt an unwritten but staunchly understood “pecking order” when considering who has the right to freely voice thought without the fear of public scorn and who must tread very lightly on certain obvious topics of socially sensitive subject matter. Media, along with a brainwashed segment of the American populace, grant asylum to different degrees according to what segment of society one belongs. The seemingly more oppressed an individual and that individual’s group is the better. Let’s face it, some have the ability to wage verbal holocaust and go virtually unscathed in the court of public opinion, while similar thoughts or opinions voiced by one whose existence does not grant them immunity will most likely be subjected to scorn and public rebuke from all sides until penance has supposedly been paid. Undoubtedly, the conservative, heterosexual, white male gets and most likely will continue to get the proverbial short end of the stick when it comes to speaking freely. Those who fall into this unfortunate category had better watch their backsides with both eyes when discussing any topic with a script of politically correct verbiage that must be followed.
To the extent that I can understand this hideous paragraph — which is not so much writing as it is putting out lit cigarettes on the exposed tender flesh of the English language — Rocker is complaining that the media promotes selective outrage about what some people say. Given Rocker's history, his view of "selectiveness" and "treading lightly" may differ from ours. But that's irrelevant. Nobody promised you a marketplace of ideas run by aggressive kindergarten teachers making sure that everyone shares and shares alike and plays nice. It's a brawl. Different speech gets valued differently. Different media outlets — motivated by their own values, and by making money — are no more neutral than any other participant. For all the whining of the Right, its values have had extraordinary success in this marketplace through talk radio and Fox News and other outlets. The marketplace is ever-changing, and some ideas are widely despised and ridiculed. Tough shit. Put on your big-boy pants and go speak your mind and, if that's what pleases you, promote and patronize the media outlets that tell you what you want to hear. But if you start whinging about how the marketplace isn't fair because your views are not valued highly enough, don't expect to be taken seriously. If you start talking about a "right to freely voice thought without the fear of public scorn," expect nothing but contempt.
For God's sake, man. Summon an ounce of self-respect.
Hat Tip: Nobel Dynamite.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Follow-Up: U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks Gets Free Speech Right This Time - September 12th, 2014
- The Quality of Mercy Is Not Strained, But It May Have A Litmus Test - September 11th, 2014
- [Rerun from 2011] Ten Things I Want My Kids To Learn From 9/11 - September 11th, 2014
- Yale Might Want To Look Into Some Sort of Basic Civic Literacy Course - September 10th, 2014
- U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks Gets Free Speech Very Wrong - September 6th, 2014