Thursday, July 26, 2012

No Free Speech on the Freedom Trail

According to the mayor of Boston, Chick-Fil-A can’t open stores there because they’re run by Christians who think homosexuality is a sin.  This is because the owners of the chain made their opinions clear in an interview.  Please stop acting shocked that some Christians don’t approve of homosexuality.  This isn’t new.  You don’t have to like it.  I realize that gay is fashionable (forgive me if that seems a tad redundant) and that politicians like to score points by siding with gay rights activists.  But that doesn’t excuse abuse of power.

Personally, I don’t agree with the opinions of the Chick-Fil-A owners.  I have friends who are both gay and gay married.  I don’t see why so many people have a problem with it.  But that’s not the point.  Everyone gets to have their opinions.  I know that strictly speaking the first amendment only applies to the federal government, but the spirit of the first amendment is about creating a free market of competing ideas.  The ones that suck will eventually go out of style; we don’t need government intervention.  The mayor isn’t in the business of enforcing the U.S. Constitution, but he should at least pretend to know why it exists.

But I’m not sure very many people truly understand how the first amendment is meant to be applied.  It lets us speak out against people who annoy us.  We can change their minds; we don’t have to hurt them or intimidate them.  When we do speak out these days, we’re more likely to troll the offenders on the internet than to say something intelligent.  That’s free speech, but it’s juvenile, weaksauce free speech that just makes the country dumber.  We also frequently intimidate their sponsors or business partners in an attempt to shut them down.  That’s just cheap backstabbing.  We refuse to take the ideas we don’t like head on.  Decent people should try to avoid being stupid and gutless.

This is a disturbing trend in America these days.  How many people have we seen crushed in this way?  Major media figures who have lost jobs because they annoyed the wrong people include (in no particular order): Helen Thomas, Juan Williams, Bill Maher, Don Imus, and Pat Buchanan.  And Rush Limbaugh just barely dodged that bullet.  Some of them said things that I thought weren’t a big deal.  Others said things I thought were kind of stupid.  Still others said things I found truly offensive.  But I didn’t start crying and screaming at their bosses to fire them.

I remember something from when the Supreme Court recently overturned the Stolen Honor law.  The opinion (totally paraphrasing, don’t expect me to memorize this crap) said that when confronted with speech we don’t like, the solution is “counterspeech”.  That’s something we all need to think about.

If you don’t like Chick-Fil-A, tell them you won’t frequent their store.  Tell your friends not to eat there.  Pass out flyers.  Or whatever.  Counterspeech.  That’s how adults solve problems.  Don’t get some government guy to shut them down or prevent them from opening.  Don’t try to intimidate them out of business.  Just make it clear that they won’t get your money.  If Chick-Fil-A believes they won’t find enough customers in Boston, they won’t go there.

Any son of the South (like me), knows that you can’t get proper fried chicken if it doesn’t pass through Christian hands.  In the same way, proper bagels must pass through Jewish hands, and proper hummus must pass through Muslim hands.  Otherwise, you’re just getting a cheap knockoff.  Next time you have truly good fried chicken, odds are that the person who made it isn’t a fan of gay marriage.  If that bothers you, just don’t eat fried chicken.  Or just don’t eat the good stuff.

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