Sunday, January 15, 2017

More free speech

My friend and debate partner has said many times that the answer to free speech that is offensive is more free speech, presumably by offering arguments and stories from the opposing (community building) view. An example of this idea is to keep Confederate memorials and add to them counter-memorials that tell the stories of those hurt by the racism of the Confederacy.

More than a year ago I wrote a post commenting on what Melissa McEwen of Shakesville said. Because she is promoting progressive views (and is a woman) messages attacking her are pervasive. A legitimate response is to refuse to engage. She says by extension it is legitimate to ask an institution to refuse to host a speaker known to be offensive. Her reasoning is something like this: I know I’ll be attacked. I know people I care about will be attacked and will be hurt. I know whatever I say will not stop the attacks, will not change the mind of the speaker. More free speech won’t do any good. I refuse to put myself and those I love through the pain.

My debate partner replied with the expected defense of “more free speech.” I didn’t post his reply because at the time I was preparing for my father’s memorial service.

Recently, Kim Burrell did a homophobic rant. Jason Michael, writing a viewpoint article for Between the Lines, described how he was instrumental in getting Burrell uninvited from the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

There was the usual commentary about the “missed opportunity to talk” to do the more free speech thing. DeGeneres could have offered a safe space for that discussion. Michael replies:
But I see things differently. I believe the time for talking is done. You simply cannot have a meaningful conversation with someone who calls gays and lesbians "perverted." Those are not the words of someone wishing to have a positive exchange on the topic and possibly be enlightened. Those words amount to only one thing: hate speech. And it should not be tolerated. Not on Ellen's show. Not on any television program. Not anywhere in the country.

The time for that kind of talking is over. If you cannot speak to me respectfully then you cannot speak to me at all. You don't get that privilege. If you're going to call me names, you'd be better off keeping that nonsense to yourself.
Michael concludes:
If you attack us, we will attack back. If you dare denounce our moral turpitude, we will come after your livelihood. We will no longer be your patsies. Preaching our demise will no longer fill your collection plates. There are too many of us now. Too many who've come too far to turn back.

This is 2017, and we will no longer debate our equality. Instead we will demand you recognize it. That,to me, is the message Ellen sent by disinviting Burrell to her show.
Sorry, friend, I’m with Michael on this one. Does Kim Burrell have the right to say what she thinks? Yes. Does she have a right to say it on Ellen’s show? No. There are consequences to hate speech.

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