Picking up where I left off, yesterday, the web that journalists and activists are spinning around Maine’s Republican Governor Paul LePage is part of a much bigger strategy that Americans of all political species should resist. Unfortunately, many of us are caught up in the same web, and it’s developing to the extent that it will make it impossible for us to communicate.
Here’s a pair of paragraphs from a Daniel Payne essay arguing that the American people are ultimately to blame for the censorious noises that our politicians are making:
Some poll numbers suggest [that the culture of American free speech is as endangered as the policy]: two-thirds of Americans, for instance, think people who engage in “hate speech” are “more dangerous” than the people who would censor it. Among younger Americans—millennials—the polls indicate a staggering opposition to freedom of speech: out of 800 students polled at colleges across the country, more than a third believed the First Amendment does not protect “hate speech,” with a third also claiming the First Amendment is “outdated;” more than half believe colleges should have speech codes to police the speech of students and professors.
Forty percent of millennials, meanwhile, think government should be able to censor “offensive statements about minorities.” Indeed, millennials appear to be the most censorious generation alive. As older generations die off or become less politically active, we can assume that more and more anti-free speech millennials will make up a larger and larger share of the electorate.
Think of the power that comes with being in a position to define what “hate speech” is. It’s certainly not treated as an ideologically neutral concept. LePage, for one, observed in his controversial press conference that nobody had challenged the propriety of the politicians who’d branded him with the inflammatory name, “racist.” Similarly, the other day I noted that the white race is treated as somehow intrinsically different than other races; it’s OK to behave as if we’re all alike and all mutually culpable, for instance.
It’s also telling that LePage’s Democrat attackers have been striving to join the “racist” bullet with the “homophobe” one and hit the governor with both barrels of their rhetorical shotgun. Having had such success binding people up with the threads of racial division, progressives are quickly weaving the stickier, more-intricate threads of sexuality and orientation.
Rod Dreher picks up the theme, in a post titled “We Have Been Warned.” Writing about how no number of good deeds and charitable, compassionate attitudes will save religious believers who lack “purity on LGBT issues,” he goes on (all emphasis in original):
… There is no intention on the cultural left of being tolerant in victory, and never was. They are going to bounce the rubble and tell themselves that they are virtuous for doing so. This past week, I saw a Facebook comment in which a liberal said that Livingston Parish, where nearly everyone lost their home to the flood, was once the headquarters of the Louisiana KKK, so to hell with them, they deserve what they get. This is how it’s going to be with us.
I find that even at this late date, it is difficult to get ordinary Christians, including pastors, to understand the reality of what’s coming. You should believe David Gushee. He has done us all a favor here. He and his allies — that is, the entire American establishment — are going to do everything they possibly can to eliminate any place of retreat. When people say that if the Left has its way, there will be no Benedict Option places left to retreat to, I agree. That does not mean they will succeed, at least not at first, but it’s just a matter of time. This means that we will need the Benedict Option more than ever. The Ben Op is not about escapism; it’s about building the institutions and adopting the practices required for the church to be resilient, and even to thrive, under harsh conditions. The church will be under unprecedented pressure, legally and socially, to capitulate. But it will be possible to resist, though not without paying a high cost.
As unjust as it may be, though, forcing religious believers to flee to secured catacombs is not the limit of the damage that our increasingly intolerant society will wreak. If we can be shot with linguistic bullets like “bigot” and “hater” because of the beliefs we hold on matters of the nature of mankind and morality, when we’re out of the way, the radicals will have a clear shot at researchers whose statements aren’t of belief but of findings. First fall those who raise concerns about the disposition of our souls, but next fall those whose work might lead them to unpopular conclusions about what is good for our health, such as the research work that Maggie Gallagher describes here:
This week, a major new report from the scholars Dr. Lawrence B. Mayer and Dr. Paul R. McHugh demonstrates how far our views on gay and transgender issues are shifting from scientific reality, as well as common sense. The simple fact is that sexual orientation, while not necessarily chosen, is not genetically determined (for otherwise identical twins would share the same orientation which, we know, they do not). We aren’t merely “born that way.” The mystery of sexual desire has not yet been pierced by scientific knowledge.
Even worse for the Left’s ideology, their research shows that we do not have any solid evidence of the mental-health benefits of hormonal or surgical gender reassignment for adults, much less for children. But what really shocked me is that we have no evidence of the relative physical risks and benefits of these long-term powerful medical interventions. We are experimenting on our own children — and in the case of public schools now encouraging kids to shift genders — other people’s children.
Gallagher’s primary concern is that the Left is seeking to lock conservatives out of the political process entirely, but let’s keep to the people and the effects on them. If the medical research is so thin, why would public school systems, as in Rhode Island, be putting into place policies that will tend toward schools’ facilitating such treatments, often conspiring with children to hide their inner turmoil and decisions from their parents?
One might speculate that the broader goal — beyond pushing a sexual ethos and progressive view of identity — is to separate children from their parents, to remove that barrier to top-down social control. LePage talked about the government’s role teaching children about the dangers of drugs so that they don’t grow up to be users, but the Left has its sights not on particular behaviors, but on the ability of an ideological government to raise children to its tastes. There’s a reason such intervention is a common feature of dystopian novels.
The strategy not only gives progressives a more effective route to promulgate their beliefs, but it’s self reinforcing, giving the government more opportunity to absorb society based on the territory it just absorbed. As David French writes, referencing the same study (emphasis added):
What’s even worse — what’s downright insane — is that some on Left want to end the debate. They want to keep selling their moral vision to the public without any competition. Here’s their vision, in a nutshell: Consenting adults should be able to do what they want with their bodies, and the resulting physical or emotional harm is either reasonably tolerable or can be alleviated through a combination of government programs and public re-education.
That is, the predictable damage that we know, by the very existence of the traditions that we’re rapidly discarding, aberrant behavior will cause will produce new excuses for the government to make people dependent on government and new justifications for suppressing the statements of anybody who might try to bring the public’s attention to the scam.
Bringing us full circle, Kevin Williamson argues that these areas that we’re being made hesitant to discuss out of fear of branding seem conspicuously to be areas in which somebody on the inside benefits from division while also hiding the responsible parties for some of the damage done to our society:
[Ta-Nehisi Coates] is wrong about a great deal, politically, but he is honest, politically, for instance reminding his fellow progressives that what was happening in the FDR-to-LBJ years was not a story of backward southern “conservatives” standing in the way of progress but a marriage between progressivism and racism, an ugly alloy first forged by Woodrow Wilson, the godfather of American progressivism.
That is a conversation that we do not have very often, which is strange. The African Americans who by most measurable metrics have it the worst are those who live under effective single-party rule conducted by spotlessly progressive Democrats in large American cities. Around the time he was signing that famous civil-rights law, President Johnson unveiled the Model Cities program, under which vast federal resources would be marshaled in the service of urban-renewal efforts dreamed up by the top progressive intellectuals. The focus of that program was . . . Detroit. Race is an enduring issue, but it also is a racket: For every Ta-Nehisi Coates, there is an Al Sharpton. All those conversations about race we’re allegedly not having have kept David Duke, Louis Farrakhan, and countless diversity-and-sensitivity consultants away from honest work for a generation.
Again, he writes elsewhere:
We know how to fix bad housing policy; in truth, we know how to fix a great many bad policies (education, public safety) afflicting Detroit and Cleveland, too. But the problems in those cities are not entirely unlike the housing problems that beset San Francisco and New York. The bad public policies that keep those cities down benefit somebody – somebody keeps those cities’ failed institutions in place, somebody resists reform, somebody evades accountability and helps others do the same.
These themes keep coming up — honesty and accountability — in interacting ways, making this a big, challenging topic, indeed. If we can, for the moment, take a shorter lesson from it all, perhaps we can resolve to stop being swept up in the righteousness and start questioning those who seem to be doing so well for themselves in our divisive society. And most of all, let’s start understanding what others are trying to say. That would be compassionate, and I daresay it’s exactly the activity with which we’re supposed to fill our lives.