All unprotected minorities must now consider how to live in an age of demagoguery. We Americans imagine ourselves as protectors of human rights, but experience shows that this is not true in enlightened Madison. You are only safe if you are a minority within the ruling majority. If the minority refuses to pay tribute and swear allegiance to the secular majority, the thin sheen of toleration and freedom quickly evaporate.
When I was in college I was taught about the intolerance of the Puritans and the bountiful toleration of the secular tradition. Only later did I learn that both were useful caricatures. It turns out that the natural and unavoidable vice of power is a loss of self-criticism. This is true of all humans, whether one is a Puritan or a Progressive. And there was a stunning lack of self-criticism in how Bratfest was handled by our Progressive friends.
One of the great fallacies of our secular landscape is the idea that secularity is neutral. It is in fact as preferential as the old Jim Crow Laws. The old segregationist could say, “I’m not against the Blacks, so long as they stay in their place.” The new secularist can say, “I don’t mind those that believe in God, the classical virtues, private charity or the organic family, so long as they are not allowed to speak in public or hold important jobs.”
It was chilling enough in the last months when Brendan Eich was fired as CEO of Mozilla for participating politically according to his faith and conscience. It was even more chilling when, here in Madison, Dane County Supervisor Carousel Bayrd said of the proposed speaker for a Bratfest stage, Bob Lenz, “He may not have been speaking about abortion, but (Lenz) is a very hateful person and should not be a speaker here in Madison.” Notice, we are not informed why we should not want to listen to Lenz. Instead, we are told that this man should not be allowed to speak publically in our city at all. And to the organizers of Bratfest, it contained the sub-text (backed up by real action): “or else…”
Ms. Bayrd said (perhaps in an unguarded moment): “…he should not be a speaker here in Madison.” This is directly equivalent to the level of arrogance Andrew Cuomo demonstrated when he said people who favor gun rights, traditional marriage and are pro-life “have no place in the state of New York.” Those who consider it a virtue to dictate to others have in the past been called dictators. However, it is not the dictatorial nature of the comment that concerns me, but its deceptiveness.
Apparently “being a hateful person” isn’t making a slanderous comment about someone without evidence or argument. Now, being “a hateful person” is having any association with any organization a name-caller might disagree with.
The intimidation of minorities- whether minorities of biology or of conscience- used to be called discrimination. But as Jason Jones joked recently on The Daily Show, corruption is, “billionaires spending money on s**t you don’t like” and free speech is “billionaires spending money on s**t you do like.”
One might ask, what will count as discrimination and bigotry in 2014? It’s simple. Bigotry and discrimination is when people intimidate, black ball and attempt to culturally silence and censor minorities you agree with and like. But what about bigotry and discrimination directed against people that you don’t like? Well, that’s not bigotry and discrimination, that’s bold and beautiful resistance against hateful people that shouldn’t be allowed to speak anywhere in our fair city. They are corrupt people whose businesses should be boycotted, who should be fired from their jobs, who should be rejected and silenced by the public, or who should be slandered without evidence or hearing in the media. You must not slander or intimidate the gay, but do what you like with the Catholic who actually believes in her Catholicism.
The true test of virtue in power is always restraint in the immoral uses of that power. Slander and intimidation are among the most telling examples of the immoral use of power. Even worse is when we as the public tolerate the violation of the core tenant of true pluralism.
Concerning the Mozilla episode, Andrew Sullivan, the openly gay, LGBT advocate and Progressive voice in The Atlantic lamented that the LGBT movement might be becoming too much like the religious right of the 80′s. “Will he (Eich) now be forced to walk through the streets in shame? The whole episode disgusts me- as it should anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society.” What he fears for the LGBT movement in particular, I fear for Madison style Progressivism in general. Is this the beauty of “accepting love” that is meant to persuade me to hike to the moral high ground of Madison Progressivism? Is this the intellectual potency of progressivism that resorts to punitive power brokering, open slander without evidence, and demagoguing the public debate by appeals to bigotry? Is this the epic tolerance of liberality that cannot bear to hear an argument form someone that it calls a heretic? Shall I hope in this movement’s impartiality? The great liberation has become an inquisition, causing progressivism to regress like a receding tide.
Culture will be determined by what we the public will endure. If we will be inflamed by such ignorance from public figures, we will elevate demagogues. If we will boycott and threaten people’s jobs, it will continue and accelerate. If we respond to power rather than truth, life will become more brutal rather than more contentious. If we cut off debate because we will not hear that which doesn’t tickle our ears, then we will become more divided as we become increasingly insular and ignorant. As G. K. Chesterton said, “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions” and “Impartiality is a pompous name for indifference, which is an elegant name for ignorance.” We as a people must morally come to terms with the discriminatory nature of privileging secularism and the obvious fact that Progressivism may be regressively leading us in the opposite direction of pluralism.