Eight decades is a long time — enough to forget some hard lessons. Let’s forego the standard cliches, unheard and uncontemplated. Instead, imagine living in Berlin, say in the mid 1930’s. You know what’s coming. Where would you turn? The Universities? Press? Government? Police?
By then, most institutions already had lost their independent voice. Might history look different if some group had exposed the Nazi nightmare? Would we ever have learned the words “Blitzkreig” or “Treblinka” if the German people had risen up against Adolph — rather than for him? We will never know.
We do know of some dissenting voices. Bonhoeffer, the Confessing Church, and others opposed the regime and helped Jews to safety. But those dissenters were too few for a moral revolt. This is a textbook case of Burke’s adage about evil triumphing.
You may be wondering what this thought experiment was supposed to accomplish. I placed you in the mid-thirties where you could take action before the war began, but after the body politic had yielded independence to those who meant them harm.
Eighty years from now, will posterity ask similar questions of us? “Why didn’t they do something?” “How could they let this happen?” “Did they not see this coming?”
Today, we are free to say George Carlin’s “Seven Words” unopposed, but not to say we support traditional marriage without feeling the backlash. We mustn’t question certain religious practices. Or criticize someone from certain racial backgrounds. Or hold unpopular opinions on immigration policy, or abortion. Because these things brand you with the beta version of the Scarlet Letter: “sexist / racist / (blank)-o-phobe”. What’s more, we must not wish a Merry Christmas, say “husband and wife”, or hold father-daughter dances. The reason? “Thou Shalt Not Give Offense”.
You see, we’ve imported vicious tactics into our political discourse, which have grown and taken hold culturally. The tactics of Saul Alinsky, and others like him, have rewritten society’s norms through something of a cheat. Rather than engaging ideas, they attack people, so that their opponents’ ideas die with the reputation of those who hold them. Easy victory.
Is this an effective shortcut to power in a world driven by sound bites and attack ads? Yes. But any gains made by these means come with a heavy cost. Outsiders have been watching, and taking notes: Claim to be offended and sue. Use a manufactured slight as the basis for an attack. Build protests into angry mobs. Intimidate your opponent and demonize him. Etcetera.
No longer is this only employed in domestic politicking: interest groups, unions, and the left-right dichotomy. We watched a Danish cartoonist split the world in half. One half wanted to burn something down. And the other blamed the cartoonist! This pattern was repeated with that flimsy YouTube pretext for an organized embassy assault.
By submitting to social conventions set by politically-correct brownshirts, we train our necks for a yoke of servitude. Before I elaborate, here are my chief objections to these imposed rules.
First, these rules threaten the thing they claim to protect. To the extent that any law grants special benefit or protection to one party because of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, culture, income, or any other reason, it strips the blindfold off of Lady Justice. Remove the objective basis of justice, and equality under the law is impossible. Ditto cultural peer pressure.
Second, “protecting” a group assumes it needs the protection of its “betters”, like a child unable to speak for himself. If they are people, and therefore our equals, let them make their own case without special protection. That’s true equality.
If you took five random people to discuss any topic, from politics or religion, to preference in culture, food, or music you could have robust debate. But you can’t have that debate when one participant gets violently offended when his (king, ancestor-worship, haggis, yodeling) is critiqued. The problem isn’t the critic, but the critiqued who has a fit when his ideas are challenged. Solution? Treat them like responsible adults, and challenge them to join an intelligent conversation, hard questions and all.
Back to servitude — what do I mean? I mean voluntary acceptance of any limitation to our freedom that we would ordinarily reject. Here’s an example. In Dearborn Michigan, a violent muslim mob attacked people for preaching Christ. Police were present, but told the preachers to leave. (YouTube: “Dearborn + stone”).
One single Canadian newspaper had the stones to publish the Danish cartoon. (The others, servile eunuchs, self-censored.) The publisher was rewarded with a lawsuit, and a Human Rights Tribunal “trial”.
The defendant, Ezra Levant, famously said, “I published those cartoons to use the maximal freedom allowed … I reserve the right to publish it for whatever offensive reason I want.” And, later, regarding supposed offense to the prophet Mohammed, “He’s dead by the way, so I don’t think I’ve offended him. But I reserve the right to do exactly what they have accused me of.”
Doug Marlette said of the cartoonists, “…publishing those cartoons was an act of democratic inclusiveness. By engaging satirically with Islam, these brave artists included Muslims as peers in the tradition of satiric (sic) self-examination and irreverence that until recently we’ve taken for granted in the West.”
Question: If we are holding people to a lower standard of behaviour because they’re different, isn’t that the real evidence of our bigotry?
Image: Congressional Quote; courtesy of k_donovan11