Of all the forms of censorship, self-censorship is the most insidious and the most dangerous. It is insidious purely because it can be justified – because the self-censor can and does justify it to himself – and because those justifications are often valid. It is dangerous because it is often unnoticeable. Maybe you disapprove of your daughter’s black boyfriend. That isn’t an excuse to call him racist names to his face – or even use them when trying to talk your daughter out of seeing him.
But while there is such a thing as common politeness, it is possible to take it too far. Political correctness is so dangerous precisely because it seeks to humiliate and punish people for using politically incorrect terms, which seems reasonable enough until you realise that those terms are not always very well defined. Or, for that matter, that political correctness will be invoked as a bludgeon to hammer someone into submission, even when said person was not actually being politically incorrect. In the example I mentioned above, the boyfriend might be a drug addict or a serial womaniser, hardly problems restricted to young black men. But I’d bet good money that the poor father will be accused of being racist purely for daring to disapprove of the boyfriend.
I mention all this because of the recent issue with Duck Dynasty. I have never watched an episode in my life. About the only television I watch on a regular basis is Doctor Who, so from what I’ve read I rather doubt I’d enjoy watching it. But I don’t have to approve of the show to realise that NBC’s treatment of its star was completely and totally beyond the pale.
Let me put this in context. Phil Robertson was asked for his opinion on homosexuality. He gave it. NBC promptly removed him from the show on the grounds that his opinions were homophobic … why, precisely?
Opinions are like assholes, if I can borrow a phrase; everyone has one. Phil Robertson’s opinion may or may not be valid and, frankly, I don’t care if it is or isn’t. No one is asking him to take part in homosexual acts and, at least to the best of my knowledge, he isn’t trying to stop homosexuals from engaging in homosexual acts. He isn’t required, as far as I can tell, to toe NBC’s party line on anything and I would be surprised to discover that his contract with them has a provision for penalties if he says something unfortunate.
The problem here is simple. Phil Robertson is being penalised for daring to utter a non-PC opinion. He was hammered for his imprudence, which will have a dampening effect on any future public discourse. Who will dare to utter an opinion if they fear for their jobs or reputations? What will be left, but pandering to the group-think laid out by pressure groups that claim to fight on behalf of threatened minorities? And, with opinions constantly changing, who will even be able to follow the ‘right’ course of thinking?
You may not approve of his opinions on homosexuality, although I would advise you to make sure that you know what he actually said before reacting. However, even if you don’t, I invite you to think about the long term effects of penalising someone – anyone – for daring to express a honest opinion. Can you honestly say that you will be safe in a world where one word out of place could destroy your life?
The pressure groups that claim to defend homosexuals may also want to think about their actions. They come across as bullies – and they may not always hold the whip hand. In the future, groupthink may become far less ‘liberal’ and homosexual groups may wind up banned. The problem with any sort of pressure is that it can provoke a very angry reaction.
And, while you’re at it, you might want to ask why GLAAD is wasting time attacking Phil Robertson while homosexuals in places like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Uganda face the very real danger of death for daring to express their love. A misplaced sense of priorities, anyone?