Why the ACLU should defend Santorum

Reddit wanted nothing to do with this.

UPDATE: APRIL 15, 2:52 PM : REDDIT BANNED ME FROM THE R/LGBT SUBREDDIT FOR POSTING THIS ARTICLE. SEEMS NOTHING WILL INVOKE CENSORSHIP FASTER THAN QUESTIONING THE WISDOM OF CENSORSHIP.

Over on Reddit, Polpaul’s “Coexist” article, which was critical of the ubiquitous “coexist” bumper sticker, was quickly “downvoted” into oblivion. (Reddit is a website that allows its readers to share links, and then encourages others to vote on the links.) I posted a link to PolPaul’s article in the atheism area (r/atheism), but the swift negative reaction showed that atheists have heresies all their own.

Like an updated AOL chatroom, the Reddit sections, or “subreddits,” are essentially echo chambers. Posts – often one-panel cartoons – that glorify the majority’s view receive praise. Posts that offer provocative challenges to the majority’s view quickly disappear (once a post receives five or so negative votes, it tends to disappear from other viewer’s ability to see it).

But the greatest heresy of r/atheism appears also to be the greatest heresy of the progressive movement itself: questioning the holy writ of diversity.

Progressives have distorted the idea of “diversity” from one of inclusion to instead shield themselves against any criticism of their positions. True diversity means that we should tolerate a diverse blend of ideas and practices (such as the “coexist” bumper sticker promotes). Yet, most progressives today are as far away from an organic, laissez fiare marketplace of ideas as any theocracy would be.

Consider these two recent examples.

In Britain, a group of people tried to express their own opinions about sexual preferences. This group believed that environmental conditions, not simply genetic ones, factored into someone’s sexual preferences. As such, they believed that, if someone didn’t want to be homosexual, there were options available to them become heterosexual. This group parodied a popular pro-gay advertising campaign with their own.

Banned in Britain

The British thought police (Transport for London) rejected the ads because the adverts did not reflect a “tolerant and inclusive” London.

In another example, consider one of the reader comments (that received top endorsement from other readers) in response to a New York Times article on Rick Santorum.

Ms. Burke raises a valid fear in the first part of her post. But things go a little off course toward the end. There is a disconnect between the need to “welcome differing viewpoints into political discourse” and the behavior of attacking people who do, in fact, introduce different viewpoints into political discourse.

These people, and many others, attack Santorum for exercising the very freedom they claim to hold most dear: the right to introduce a differing viewpoint.

Yes, but his viewpoint is to limit the viewpoint of others.

Is it?

The fear of a religiously oiled slippery slope is fair. But neither Santorum nor the Christian group that ran the “gay cure” bus ads had promoted the view that their opponents’ viewpoints should be censored.

They simply disagreed with them.

Herein lays the problem. If progressives truly want a culture that welcomes differing and diverse ideas, it then follows that ideas that divert from our own deserve the same opportunity for consideration. People can then choose to reject them and state their reasons why. If we possess the conviction of our own ideas, we must be confident enough to let them compete with others.

This means, if we’re going to defend the value of the “coexist” bumper sticker – one that espouses the value of tolerating belief systems different than our own – we must be consistent with this position.

Freethinkers should admire Rick Santorum, not for what he says – but for what his speech represents. By sharing his anachronistic, small-minded, tribal viewpoints with the rest of the world, he is proving that our system of “tolerance” still exists, and helping to reveal the absurdities of his beliefs far faster than if they were censored. Viewpoints may become appropriate material for every standup comedian on the planet, but we’re not going to censor your right to say it.

From Voltaire to the ACLU-card-carriers of Reddit today, that’s something that every guardian of liberty should defend.

But you might want to avoid saying this out loud on Reddit:

Advertisements

About SWIRLosopher

The SWIRLosopher is Sean Trapani, a professor emeritus of advertising who - despite a degree in philosophy - has abandoned all reason and is trying to make a living in the wine business.

2 thoughts on “Why the ACLU should defend Santorum

  1. I mean, I’ll defend Santorum’s right to speak freely, but I won’t defend “him,” insofar as doing so would entail defending his beliefs and arguments.

    And while banning an advert is indeed an act of censorship, the ex-gay people aren’t being absolutely silenced. They were just told that they couldn’t publicize their hateful message in that particular way; there are still PLENTY of other avenus (both IRL and online) for them to spread their beliefs. Would we tolerate a billboard saying that “Racial segregation is best, get over it”? Somehow I doubt it.

    • I think your response raises two questions:

      One, what is the fundamental difference between someone paying for ad space and someone writing a book and putting it in a shop window?

      Two, isn’t “hateful” in the eye of the beholder? Many Muslims consider satire hateful, if it’s directed toward them. Should we outlaw satire – the court jester of free speech – because it might hurt someone’s feelings?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s