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Freedom to Degrade

April 18th, 2009

This is an important question: how free are you to insult someone? It depends a lot on the insult and where you are. First of all, you have to be sure that you’re not defaming; what you say has to either be true or a matter of legitimate debate. Second, you have to be sure that your speech is not going to lead to personal injury or harm. And third, it has to be in the correct forum; you can’t attend a college class and then stand up every day and declare that Bill Jones over there is a pervert.

It gets sketchier when you start talking about what a person is and what that means about their character, morality, and even their legal and civil rights. For example, if I made the claim (which I do not, so please don’t jump to conclusions) that Christians are foul, amoral hypocrites with a long history of oppression, murder, and deviance, and therefore should not be given any special privileges like tax exemptions for their churches, and perhaps should even not be allowed to practice their religion–well, I don’t think that would be tolerated for very long. Sure, I could blog on it, write books on the subject, talk to people about it in certain public venues, maybe even become a well-known advocate. But I don’t think that this freedom would extend to allowing my kids to expound on such views freely in their classrooms at my urging; I am pretty sure that such speech would be shut down, especially if it were planned and orchestrated at the national level and carried out by thousands of students in schools everywhere.

And yet, we have religious advocacy groups demanding that they be allowed to do just this type of thing–and that not being allowed to do it is a double-standard which curbs their rights. In fact, they claim that preventing them from doing this is a blow against tolerance itself. The subject is homosexuality, and the religious groups want to go into classrooms and talk about how vile, sinful, and wrong it is, and advocate that people who practice it are harmful and that laws giving these people special rights (equal rights for people conservatives don’t like are usually referred to as “special” rights) should be repealed. How they present this:

It’s sad, but many public schools have, in the name of “tolerance,” stifled free speech and true diversity by silencing students of faith, and those with conservative perspectives.

This isn’t true tolerance. True Tolerance means a free and respectful exchange of ideas.

The good news is, thanks to TrueTolerance.org, there’s something you can do about it.
Make your voice heard—and balance out the bias—by giving your school officials
helpful legal facts and social science data. Click the links below to see how easy it is.

Got that? Bashing gays is “tolerance,” the “free and respectful exchange of ideas”; it’s a matter of faith and perspective and free speech should allow gay bashing to be carried out in classrooms around the country.

Essentially, groups like this one are horrified by the idea that our young people are becoming tolerant of gays, and they want it stopped now. They want the power to spread their word that homosexuality is wrong, wrong, wrong, and don’t listen to those evil gay advocacy groups telling you that gays are just normal people who should have the same rights as everyone else. That’s the distilled message, of course, but it is accurate. And they are not satisfied to do this in their churches, on their web sites, and on the radio and television airwaves. No, they have to be allowed to go to classrooms and make their case to all young people, or else what they have is not free speech, and what we are is not tolerant.

They have a whole lot of materials on their site which do the usual creationist/pro-lifer/intelligent-designer/pro-prayer-in-schools whitewash job of cherry-picking facts out of context and making religious dogma look empirically fact-based. None of it holds up under close scrutiny, of course, but this is about “faith,” not facts, so it’s no surprise that it wasn’t thought out too carefully. What is presented is nothing more than a sheen to fulfill a visceral desire. Those who believe simply accept it from word “go,” and all too many people will climb on board because they are not equipped to see beyond the sincerity the disinformation is delivered with.

So maybe somebody should, in Flying-Spaghetti-Monster style, create an equal but opposite movement in the other direction–maybe calling it “True Faith” or something, and using similarly cherry-picked data to make the claim that Christians are dangerous and should not be tolerated–heaven knows that whoever did this would have a much richer field of information to fill in the blanks.

I doubt that the fundies behind “True Tolerance” would tolerate such “free speech” for very long at all.

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  1. April 19th, 2009 at 05:22 | #1

    Trimming just the first sentence off of their entry message?


    I am not at all certain how to balance the need for a level of tolerance that allows them to live their lives safely versus the right to go to school without being indoctrinated with whatever the ‘correct’ beliefs currently are. But to pretend they have no real concerns, and even to hide what their concerns are when you quote them is simply your own brand of intolerance.

  2. Luis
    April 19th, 2009 at 06:16 | #2

    Why would that be weak? The sentence, or rather, question, was, “Concerned about the pro-gay agenda in your child’s public school?” Trimming the sentence did not alter the meaning that followed, nor did it change the context at all. In fact, I made it quite clear that they were against gay-tolerant attitudes in public schools. The reason I trimmed the sentence was because it was not a statement, but a question–it was superfluous and broke the tone between the intro and the quote. The URL was included in the message, nothing was hidden. And knowing the first sentence makes not a whit of difference to the commentary that preceded or followed.

    So, what exactly was “weak?” I think you were simply looking for something to criticize, and that was about all you had to go on.

    I am not at all certain how to balance the need for a level of tolerance that allows them to live their lives safely versus the right to go to school without being indoctrinated with whatever the ‘correct’ beliefs currently are. But to pretend they have no real concerns, and even to hide what their concerns are when you quote them is simply your own brand of intolerance.

    Let’s see. You suggest that not criticizing gays prevents them from living their lives safely. In what way? Are the straight kids going to get raped by the gay kids and get infected with AIDS that way?

    Or do the kids get turned into gays? Hate to break it to you, but you can’t be “indoctrinated” into being gay from gay tolerance in schools. Maybe you can be scared into hiding in the closet if you are already gay, but if you’re straight, then not living in an anti-gay environment is not going to lead to Academy Award parties and Judy Garland fetishes. And the gay “agenda” being pushed in the schools is little more than kids being told that it’s not a bad thing to be gay, that you don’t have to be afraid of gays, and that gays have been rather strongly discriminated against in years past and this should stop. (Yes, I know, it’s horrible.)

    The converse of this is that we don’t allow our kids to hear that being gay is OK–in other words, we endorse and legitimize the long-held anti-gay sentiments fed to kids. I grew up in the SF Bay Area in the 70’s, and still all the kids were just as scathingly anti-gay as anywhere you can imagine; “fag” was an ultimate insult, and any kid who was actually gay would have been subject to taunts, harassment, beatings–the whole nine yards. So forgive me if I do not shy away in horror at the idea that kids are being “indoctrinated” into thinking that being gay is not a disease, something to be feared, shunned, made fun of, or hated.

    I know you won’t like this, but gay is the new black. Turn the dial back fifty years and substitute one for the other, and there’s not a whole lot of difference, just a few variations necessitated by the nature of what is being discriminated against. Blacks weren’t prevented from marrying each other, but there were miscegenation laws; blacks didn’t hide ‘in the closet’ because they couldn’t. The two populations were and are not equivalent, but how the majority society treats them is.

  3. April 19th, 2009 at 06:33 | #3

    You portray them as wanting to go into schools and ‘gay bash’. Dropping that first sentence makes it look like that. But it is not what they are talking about.

    They are complaining about the indoctrination of their children, and they are right.

    As you are a product of your times, so am I. I went to school during the initial prominence of the PC movement, which was censorship by other means.

    Making kids safe in shool is one thing. Forcing beliefs, any beliefs, onto them is another. They are using the exact same peer pressure exclusionary tactics against the religious kids as have been used against the gays. It is wrong when done to one group, it is wrong done to the other.

    And if “we don’t allow our kids to hear that being gay is OK”? Nobody can keep you from telling your kids whatever you find fitting. It’s what you can tell their kids they are concerned about.

  4. D.
    April 20th, 2009 at 07:19 | #4

    > Blogmaster
    This is a kind of a footprint of visiting your website by accident, so you can just ignore this message;

    Well, if you accept tolerence to an extreme extent, then what do you talk about?

    I joined so many discussions in the past about gender equalities, living styles including the choice of not working/studying, and the sad consequence was that those discussions just made my own life completely boring.

    Gender issues may seem relatively simple, but the fact is that when the discussion reaches the point for the people who are neither male or female (ie: people who has XXY, XYY genes), the discussions just becomes a surprise provider, and lead to boringness.

    As for living styles, I don’t care whether the person goofs around for lifetime if he/she succeeded enough property to live.

    I would say that each person has his/her degree of tolerence, and that is probably derived from the person’s background.

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