Once I was at a bible study class at a local synagogue, and the subject of hate speech came up. My fellow Jews have been a target of bigotry for, oh, a few thousand years now, and some fresh hell had been reported in the media. One of my classmates suggested that all anti-Semitic speech be banned from the airwaves, internet and print. Nope, says I, let ‘em talk: silencing them won’t change their minds, and I want to know where they are.
You may recall that the ACLU defended the free-speech and assembly rights of an American Nazi group to march in Skokie, Illinois over the protests of Jewish citizens, including a good many Holocaust survivors. Yet, since that event in 1978, the ACLU has become known in some circles as a bunch of elitist liberals who simply enforce “political correctness.” Defending the Constitution and the Bill of Rights has become incorrect, and being nice has become political.
Never too concerned with being nice is Huffington Post blogger Roland Martin. In defending comedian Tracy Morgan’s “comedy” routine about stabbing his son were he to find out his offspring were gay, he said, “Sorry, if I’m being honest here and not focusing on political correctness.” Whenever someone plays the PC card, it’s code for “I wish I could trot out my hateful, bigoted, destructive opinions, but somebody might point out that I’m an ignorant douche-bag.”
Hateful talk is the moral equivalent of yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theatre. People get hurt. But go ahead and say what you like, and I’ll vigorously defend your right to do that. Gay-bashing? Be my guest. Anti-Semitism? Gei gezunt.* Sexist pig? Make my day. Just be ready for a reaction to the damage you are doing to the world.
*Yiddish: go in good health.