Shouting "Hate!" In A Crowded Theatre
Poor Rush Limbaugh. The conservative King of Talk Radio was dropped recently by an investment group looking to purchase the lowly St. Louis Rams. After some racist comments were attributed to him - comments which he denied and challenged his accuser to prove - he became too much of a distraction and hinderance to the deal, and was shown the door.
Watching the saga unfold, it got me thinking. It seems that the only sin for which one is vilified anymore is racism (or "hate" as it is now more commonly referred to. More on that later). I am old enough to remember Douglas Ginsberg was forced to withdraw his nomination to the Supreme Court because his past casual marijuana use had come to light (pardon the pun) and when Presidential candidate Gary Hart dropped out of the Democratic primary because it was discovered he was fooling around on his wife.
My, how times have changed.
Nearly all of the Seven Deadly Sins are passe' (with the exception of murder) and are now considered either irrelevant or none of the public's business. Louisville Basketball coach Rick Pitino has admitted to impregnating a woman (not his wife), paying for her to abort the child, and then arranging to have one of his coaches - an employee of the University of Louisville directly supervised by Coach Pitino- marry the woman. It only came to light after she tried to blackmail Pitino and extort a ton of money from him. The coach is still employed by the University of Louisville, which has publicly stated that it sees no reason that his private dealings should cost him his job.
And how angry do you think Judge Ginsberg feels about being dropped for smoking pot when President Obama has admitted to not only regularly smoking marijuana as a youth but also experimenting with cocaine? The country let out a collective "Meh. Who cares?" when Obama's drug use was revealed.
But not so with "hate." Unkind words and even thoughts have been elevated to national crisis status while other misdeeds have become more acceptable and mainstream. It has progressed (or regressed?) to the point of becoming ridiculous. For instance, many colleges have instituted speech codes, outlining which type of speech is free and which kind will get you kicked out of school. Nearly all of these rules seek to protect feelings of the audience. Feelings. Not bodily persons or property. Feelings. Institutions of higher learning are places for children to become adults by being exposed to the world. They should not be places for our young adults to be coddled by the nanny establishment and shielded from people who may say things that are rude, crude, and socially unacceptable.
A few years back, Dr. Laura Schlessinger came under heavy fire for her criticism of homosexuality. Dr. Laura (as she is known) has a popular radio show, in which she dispenses tough advice which is based upon her sense of religious morality. She pulls no punches and sometimes the listener can be very uncomfortable listening to her show as she lays into callers. Many of her liberal critics wanted her pulled from the air. Their argument always started thusly: "Just as it is illegal to shout 'fire!' in a crowded theatre...." and got more asinine from there. Shouting "fire!" is dangerous because it leads people to act rashly and suddenly to preserve their own well-being, and can cause a dangerous crush of people trying to save themselves. No stampede was ever incited by some yahoo going into a crowded theatre and yelling "homosexual!" But still, people try to silence those with whom they disagree by using fire in the theatre example.
This attempt to shut up opponents nearly always bypasses the arguments central to the disagreement and heads straight for the motives. "Racism" doesn't carry the punch that it used to, so it has been replaced with "hate." It also covers a wider range of politically-favored groups such as women, minorities, homosexuals, etc, and so is more useful a tool with which to bludgeon. If the motives of the opponent can be sufficiently discredited, then the argument they are making becomes irrelevant, and they lose the right to speak freely. they are, after all, haters, and why should they be afforded the right to spew their hate?
See, once we were OK with come restrictions on free speech at school and at work (sold as a way to make the classroom and workplace a more positive place), it became an invitation for more restriction. And it doesn't just happen with the Left trying to silence the Right. Conservatives have been trying for years to get a constitutional amendment banning flag burning. Burning the American flag is the ultimate anti-American political statement. It is political speech and should be protected by the Constitution, not outlawed by it. At the same time, I am all in favor of those who burn Old Glory receiving the Rick Monday treatment, since they would seem to be inviting it.
So, is what happened to Limbaugh a great tragedy? Hardly. On the contrary, it is the perfect result of the perfect free enterprise system at work. A man who makes a living through political speech is considered by others to be too controversial to do business with. Rush shouldn't complain. He should be happy that somewhere, at least, the free market system works, unfettered and unencumbered by the government. Even if it means that he gets shut out of owning the Rams.