A few years back, I penned the opening salvo for a free speech blog at the request of friend and fellow scribe, Rita King. It was aptly titled “Free Speech Must Stop” and its premise was primarily focused on prefiguring what the loss of free expression might be when measured against the preponderance of babble that passes for commentary and the general state of the ill informed who find it necessary to utter it. Of course, I put myself right in the mix—fully admitting that I had and still have nothing binding to add to the vox populi and was relieved, nay, proud to admit so.
I took more shit for that essay than most of what has appeared here weekly for 15 years and my guess at the time (beyond the fact that I put the damnable thing in my fourth book, Midnight For Cinderella) was it pierced a main nerve. No one likes to hear that their opinion is not only insipid but also mostly lost in the grand din; the irony of such a statement posted on a blog was not lost on me. These were the days of blog infancy, to which Ms. King should have been lauded; instead of receiving a half-bright invective wrapped in amplified wise-assery.
Since then, wise-assery and dumbness has reigned supreme on the internet, most of it veiled in the obligatory cowardice of anonymity.
At least, I could argue, my dumbness went to press with my name heralding it.
What could not be imagined then was the explosion of social media and its affect on recording every burp of every public and private figure and in some cases high-profile political types. More than ever we are deluged with opinion. Some of it warranted and well considered, and a whole lot otherwise. But through it all there seems to be this hidden obligation to express the most banal to the most heinous of thoughts for all to absorb. Almost none of it appears to come from a place where a scintilla of fact or rational thought is involved.
Don’t get me wrong; dullards are a dime a dozen and have been offering their two cents far longer than the evolution of technology could more or less legitimatize them. But things have truly become unchecked, almost anarchistic, and sheds a great deal of light on the level of our intellectual barrenness or what Jim Morrison once mused as “a shortcut to thinking.”
The act of imbecilic regurgitation has certainly reached the halls of our “esteemed” leaders, as in the most recent unfounded implications by Senate majority leader, Democrat Harry Reid, a 24-year veteran of the United States congress, who walked to the floor of the Senate and claimed to have heard something from someone who knows another unidentified guy mention that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney did not pay taxes for a decade. This on the heels of a two-week McCarthyesque harangue by Republican congress woman, Michele Bachmann, (who also sits on the Foreign Intelligence Committee) accusing members of the State Department of having direct ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Neither of these charges has been remotely substantiated by anything resembling evidence. Yet these “professionals” conjured the need to brazenly express it, as if by simply doing it would lend it gravitas.
Now, we’ve written volumes in this space over the years dissecting the outrage stemming from the “controversial” yammering of radio showboats like Howard Stern, Don Imus or Rush Limbaugh, the comic stylings of (you name it) and the usual lyrical musings of the faux revolutionary set. Rarely someone hits a nail as straight as say a Lenny Bruce or George Carlin or Bob Dylan or Edward R. Murrow, much less Mark Twain. Mostly it’s the spastic hammering away at one sacred cow after the other to get ratings and keep jobs, all of which is celebrated here as a blessed right, but hardly worth noting.
It’s the easy targets for which I take umbrage; Bill Maher riffing on people seeing the Blessed Mother in a potato chip or the relentless pounding by everyone on Sarah Palin’s inability to never appear coherent. Taking potshots from the cheap seats on the internet, making shit up for shock value or making a buck is all well and good, but my respect is saved for those who tread against the grain, deny the force of the tide beyond mere grandstanding.
Take for instance the case of Chick-fil-A CEO, Dan Cathy, who last week expressed his distaste for same-sex marriage (a 50-50 polling proposition that has yet to win a deciding vote by citizens of any state) citing the “arrogance” and “audacity” of this generation (not sure which one specifically, the man’s a baby boomer) to deny the will of God. Unlike Reid or Bachmann, Cathy has proof; the Holy Bible’s book of Leviticus. Although the Bible lacks credible insight into the actual mindset of a monotheistic being than the Qu’ran or Dianetics, and is no basis of law, we must assume Mr. Cathy believes in the immutable truth that according to Leviticus 20:13; “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
But everyone uses that Leviticus bit—33 lousy words out of thousands—but what of the other immutable laws set down by the will of God? Take for instance a woman who is raped being forced to marry her rapist. Let’s say for argument’s sake Dan Cathy quoted that nifty tidbit of God’s will, which is as legitimate a sentiment as the one he uttered about the popular and easily identifiable same-sex thing. You think there would have been people lined up to buy tons of chicken in support of free speech?
That would have impressed me. I might have even been on that line. For no other reason, but the man treads the road less traveled.
I wonder where talk show God-man Mike Huckabee falls on the side of rapists marrying their victims to fulfill the will of God?
Free speech advocates and God-fearing Christians everywhere would like to know.
What if Cathy had cited Leviticus 20:10 about the killing of any man who cheats on his wife? Hell, since lust and masturbation are considered cheating that pretty much wipes out the male population of this country. How about my favorite, “Any person who curseth his mother or father must be killed” from 20:9. My guess is by the time you’re ready there would be bodies everywhere.
Also, it stands to reason if Cathy is sold on expressing his support for the persecution of homosexuals, certainly his right, then he also believes very strongly that those who are handicapped (deemed “lame” or “blind” five thousand or so years ago) or those with “flat noses” should be denied salvation.
Chick-fil-A supports the damnation of the handicapped!
Now, my friends; that is some heady free speech.
Saying gays are going to hell is like people protesting war. It’s the rhetorical equivalent of shooting the proverbial fish in the barrel. Hitler is bad. Star Wars sequels blow. Yeah, yeah.
Give me the all the stuff, not the populist, rabble-rousing nonsense, and maybe this whole free speech thing can work after all.