Well, of course the fatuous notion that speech is tyranny — that accusations of bigotry "break the marketplace of ideas", and intimidate poor, hapless victims into silence — can be applied to whine about vigorous discussion of gay rights. How could we think otherwise?
The so-called gay rights movement is not, fundamentally, about civil rights (though gays certainly have had their civil rights violated in the past). It is about the complete normalization of homosexuality. Advocates want to obliterate any notion that homosexuality is outside the bounds of what is considered normal, acceptable, or desirable in society.
So-called blogger Sven (I like that he went with so-called rather than with scare quotes; those are so last year) wants you to understand that the gays don't merely want to get married on the City Hall steps. They want to "obliterate" entire normative concepts. From our minds. This probably seemed like a much more terrifying idea if you recently watched Inception. I don't want some gay Leonardo DiCaprio traipsing around my prefrontal cortext assaulting my tendency towards snark and preference for limited government. At first blush the gay agenda imagined by Sven seems rather ambitious, but bear in mind that we've been at war with social phenomena and concepts (War on Drugs, War on Poverty, War on Terror) for decades, so obliterating notions is a logical next step. The future holds epistemelogical wars, in which some future interests groups attempt to carpet-bomb the concept of whether or not it is possible to know whether or not they are or are not discriminated against.
But I digress. Sven is deeply concerned that gays and their fellow-travelers pose threats to freedom of speech and expression through their sheer hair-pulling nastiness:
What opponents of normalization fear most, I think, is not that gay marriage will damage the institution of marriage, but that their own rights and abilities to stand up against normalization will be further infringed. Those who oppose normalization do so on a variety of grounds: cultural traditions, historical precedent, religion, instinct, science, moral reasoning, emotion, even love. Certainly, these different grounds can all be contested, but many gay advocates want to paint the opposition as motivated only by ignorance, bigotry and fear. Such a characterization can be as hateful and damaging as any other kind of bigotry. Sadly, calling someone a hater (like calling someone a racist) merely degrades one’s opponents and stops civil discussion.
Oh my God! Advocates of one interest group want to argue against strawmen, mischaracterize and misinterpret their opponents' arguments, and treat extremists among their opponents as representative of all opponents? Say it isn't so! This is unprecedented in politics and Western thought!
Or, you know, maybe it's characteristic of every political dispute there ever was. Perhaps anti-gay folks are especially sensitive to offense? I don't know.
Notice how Sven subtly conflates "rights and abilities to stand against normalization" (suggesting some actual legal restriction on free expression) with being painted as a bigot. Sven thus pushes the "speech is tyranny" narrative that suggests being criticized — even roughly, even unfairly — is the equivalent of being censored. This is, as I've argued so many times before, an entirely incoherent approach to freedom of expression. But lying about the incidence of actual conflicts between anti-discrimination law and free speech, characterizing protests as assaults, and mixing up criticism and censorship are characteristic rhetorical devices of some elements of anti-same-sex-marriage movement.
Sven pushes the "speech is tyranny" button harder in the next paragraph:
Should we completely normalize homosexuality? Given our short sense of history, many forget that this is a radical question, not even conceivable in nearly all societies and times. Many say the answer is yes. But those who say no fear that their ability to peaceably espouse their views and to try to shape social institutions according to their beliefs are under serious threat.
Once again, Sven is smuggling bullshit — he's asserting, in effect, that vigorous pro-gay advocacy impairs the right to "peaceably espouse views." To the extent that any jurisdictions use the Prop 8 ruling as an opportunity to promote hate speech laws, or to the extent federal courts use it to further their Harper v. Poway style use of anti-discrimination principles to undermine free speech principles, he'd be right. Freedom of expression is under constant assault from both "liberal" and "conservative" directions, and ought to be defended vigorously. But that's rather clearly not the limit of what he is saying. He's suggesting that accusations of bigotry somehow impair actual rights.
But that's not the way the marketplace of ideas works. It's tough. Wear a cup. Cowboy up. Hell, from listening to the bigots I thought that it was the gays who were supposed to be unmanly and limp-wristed. But this "halp, halp, we can't express our disgust at gays without people expressing disgust at us" is just embarrassing. Should opponents of "normalization" of homosexuality have the unimpaired right to express their views, however nauseating they are? Absolutely. But under what rational or coherent theory of free expression should that right be cherished or defended more vigorously than the right of supporters of gay rights to criticize, ridicule, and belittle anti-gay views?
Laws outlawing gay marriage? Those may or may not be tyranny, depending on your interpretation of state and federal constitutions. But uttering controversial and sometimes pungent views, and being subjected to controversial and sometimes pungent criticism in return? That is not, by any stretch of the imagination, tyranny.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Popehat Goes To The Opera: Un ballo in maschera - August 19th, 2017
- Department of Justice Uses Search Warrant To Get Data On Visitors to Anti-Trump Site - August 14th, 2017
- America At The End of All Hypotheticals - August 14th, 2017
- Lawsplainer: Why John Oliver Is Anti-Diversity Now - August 11th, 2017
- Anatomy of a Scam, Chapter 15: The Wheels, They Grind - August 10th, 2017