Thursday, March 08, 2007

The New F-word and Old N-word

Bruce Thornton on the word police and hyper-sensitivity:

The other glaring problem with this obsession with hurt feelings is that it is politically selected, just like those phony claims of “diversity,” which usually means creating a multicolored herd of the politically like-minded. Just about every university in this country insults the beliefs of Christians, Republicans, athletes, white males, and conservatives on a daily basis. Anti-Semitism, thinly camouflaged as “anti-Zionism,” is indulged constantly. The culture of white Southerners is mocked and demonized with glee. No one pays attention to complaints about this insensitivity. Nor should he (apologies to any women offended by my sexist use of the masculine pronoun). Part of being an adult is learning to deal with a world in which you, your beliefs, and your feelings are no more important than anybody else’s. What’s objectionable is the double standard and the censorship, particularly glaring in a university, supposedly the bastion of free speech and free thought, no matter whose ideological or political ox is gored (apologies to any oxen who are offended by this metaphor).

Most importantly, however, this obsession with individual feelings is incompatible with democratic freedom. A political system that allows large numbers of citizens to participate in public debate is necessarily raucous, insulting, and often vulgar. Just look at ancient Athens, where the level of political invective and insult makes our political campaigns sound like a Jane Austen novel. That’s why elitist snobs like Plato disliked democracy. When you give average people free speech, the debate is going to be rough and tough. If you want to participate, you have to be able to take it. The only alternative is some sort of control by an elite that always ends up stifling the expression of ideas and serving a narrow political interest — exactly what we see today in our universities and media. I learned this lesson the few years I was condemned to my university’s Academic Senate. As soon as the debate on an issue started getting close to the truth, someone would jump up and start squealing about “civility,” and nothing useful happened.

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