The Sound of Silence

So, part one of my thoughts on the situation surrounding the Rosa Parks of our generation. You might have heard about this. For reasons unknown to me, Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson felt the need to expound on who would be accepted into heaven. He was quoting the Bible and then covered his ass with the “but it is not for me to judge.” So, A&E suspended him. Of course, he had some rather “poor thoughts” on race.

First, A&E has every right to suspend or cancel a show. It is their network. It is funny how the same people who feel a cake maker should be allowed to discriminate are outraged that A&E should suspend Robertson. But here is my concern about the situation. I am a bit uncomfortable with the attempts to silence people who say things we do not like.

Life is incredibly complex. There is a Tumblr called Your Fave is Problematic. Read through it. Sometimes it is informative. Sometimes it is more an excuse to rant hatefully about people someone doesn’t like. The truth is, everyone I follow in Twitter, Tumblr, etc are problematic. Sometimes? Social justice minded people are the worst. They go so over the top, they become the very same person as the people they are ranting against.

When someone says something we find offensive, we rightfully express our displeasure. But so often, we see major pushes to get celebrities fired. Let us be honest, in real life, nobody campaigns to get the bigots in day to day fired from the local grocery. Celebrities are in a unique place. Every public word they express can work for or against them. And hey, you have to accept you might lose your job.

The problem with the campaigns are…well, they really do not do anything. Phil Robertson is in a long line of teevee and radio stars who said something unkind that were met with demands to get rid of them. When they are fired, everyone declares success. They always seem to land on their feet and and the attitudes are still there. And no actual life changing discussions. And sometimes, the attempt to Silence works in reverse…how many attempts have there been to dump Daniel Tosh? Tosh is still around. And rumors are that Phil will, in fact, appear in January Duck Dynasty .

Silencing tends not to be about true justice or changing minds and attitudes. It is about convincing ourselves we won. Except, we don’t actually win. No, it is worse. Those folks we work to silence? They go on Fox News, the Church Circuit or wherever…they preach their message harder, they play the role of martyr and the people who believed them support them more aggressively than before. Their message is pressed on.

What the world does not need? More “martyrs” and “patriots” of the Phil Robertson and Sarah Palin vein.

The other thing? Silencing can very much be used against progressive voices. And that tide could turn unexpectedly. In the pat, progressive voices were silenced. Even recently, gays have been forced by family to go to rehabilitation to be “straight”. We should not pretend reversing against those that we disagree with is somehow good. Reeducation camps are not a neutral concept. Silencing is not a good thing in a free world. The message offered by progressives is better. The message offered by progressives is stronger, and silencing rarely has the desired effect.

Silencing allows the alternative messages to grow. They retreat for only a limited time, because silencing only addresses a single event…not an attitude. Standing up, speaking our piece is going to do more to make a better world than getting a redneck off TV could ever do.

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