The Social Agenda of the Left and the Morality Muzzle

This endless expansion of sexual categories is a necessary consequence of what is now the fundamental tenet of modern sexual politics, and perhaps a key element of modern politics in general: That a person’s attitude to sex is the primary criterion for assessing their moral standing in the public square. If you say that sex has intrinsic moral significance, then you set it within a larger moral framework and set limits to the legitimate use of sex. In doing so, you declare certain sexual acts illegitimate, something which is now considered hate speech. This constant coining of new categories of sexual identity serves both to demonstrate this and to facilitate its policing.

via LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM? OMG! | The American Conservative.

There is a flag that needs to be set into the ground here: it should be possible for us as a society to have an honest debate about the morality of a sexual act without one side demonizing the other.

If we fail in that, we are not simply surrendering to political correctness. We are losing freedom of speech and freedom of religion all in one swoop, and thus losing what it means to be American.

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Author: David Wolf

An adviser to corporations and organizations on strategy, communications, and public affairs, David Wolf has been working and living in Beijing since 1995, and now divides his time between China and California. He also serves as a policy and industry analyst focused on innovative and creative industries, a futurist, and an amateur historian.

6 thoughts on “The Social Agenda of the Left and the Morality Muzzle”

  1. Ahem.

    Freedom of speech does not, and never has meant, freedom from the consequences of speech.

    There are already several ideas, are there not, which any person defends at peril of their public reputation? Ideas like slavery, and antisemitism, to name but two? Any person, of course, has the *right* to publish, preach, or state that rape is “just boys being boys” (to quote a certain religious figure of recent infamy) — but it doesn’t follow that person also has the right for their reputation to remain untarnished, having so opined.

    The idea that there is any inherent “immorality” in two consenting adults doing whatsoever they should choose in private is, I would suggest, very soon to be added to the list above. We could call it the “ideas that are so self-evidently harmful that it’s none too soon that our culture has rejected them wholesale” list.

  2. Shannon, you misinterpret my argument. I am not arguing that we should not accept the consequences of our publicly stated opinions. I am arguing for some perspective and proportionality in putatively punishing people for their opinions, which I suggest we have lost. There are certainly some issues that are beyond reasonable debate. But there are issues that you may consider beyond the pale that I feel should be open to discussion. Where we draw that line is where you and I disagree.

    For example, I believe that there is immorality in certain sexual acts because they cause harm that extends beyond the acts themselves. I believe, for example, that prostitution is immoral. I also believe that adultery is immoral. I recognize, however, that there are those who hold other opinions, and that living in an American democracy means that there are limitations to the extent that I can impose my opinion on others. I may not like the people who hold those opinions, but I recognize their right to hold them.

    For that reason, I can argue that, independent of the legal right for someone to commit a sexual act, we should tolerate an open discussion as to its morality. And I should be free to make my statements about the immorality of a sexual act without being accused of hate speech, which is in many states a crime. Brand me a neanderthal if you will, but you do not help your argument by resorting to the ad hominem, and you narrow the definition of free speech in the process.

    As to whether anti-Semitism is beyond the pale, it is no longer beyond the pale so at some of our more august institutions of higher learning. Check out the recent study conducted by Trinity College and the Brandeis School of Law. Also look into the recent debates at UCLA.

  3. Please point out my ad hom, and I’ll apologize. If you cannot, on review, find any then I’d appreciate you noting this.

    “Adultery” isn’t against the law because, among other reasons, it is impossible to define. You could argue that people who have promised each other not to engage in any act they should decide to mutually reject, who then engage in that act, have acted immorally. In fact that’s an argument I’d make myself! But what is adultery? If “forsaking all others” was explicitly and with the consent of both parties left out of a couple’s marriage vows, then whence adultery? There was a very famous coreligionist of yours who — if the accounts be accurate — tried to stretch the definition of adultery to thought crime, which I’m sure you’ll agree is clearly nonsense, if for no other reason than without freedom of thought there can be no freedom of speech.

    That said, your wish for the freedom to make “statements” without being “accused” of something is….a little odd, given that we’ve agreed “consequence free speech” isn’t a thing. And by implication, your wish for unrestricted free speech gives others the freedom to accuse you of whatsoever they should choose to utter — with the legal and social consequences of their actions bearing upon them also, naturally (for accusations that are libelous, or simply rude, for example).

    There are lots of “statements” (e.g. “I find all babies quite ugly”) one wouldn’t make upon meeting someone’s newborn that would be quite acceptable at the local bar. Likewise, discussions that label other people’s sexual preferences as “immoral” need to be, at minimum, and for precisely the reasons of the impossibility of mutually agreed definitions I gave an example of above, carefully shared.

    I apologize that I’m not able to follow your arguments regarding the very disturbing study you referenced (which I was able to find easily because it was very widely reported, and the reported behaviors very widely condemned). I thought I made it extremely clear that I find antisemitism utterly repugnant in all its forms.

  4. First, Shannon, the “you” in my point about ad hom was the non-specific “you” and not aimed at your good person. My apologies for sloppy writing and any offense I might have caused.

    At the same time, your accusation that I argue for “unrestricted free speech” indicates that you have misinterpreted my argument. I did nothing of the sort: I argued that the social restrictions on free speech have now gone too far. As I suggested in my comment above, you and I agree that there should be reasonable limits on speech, but we disagree on where to draw the line.

    Second, I would be grateful if you could identify by name my coreligionist who wanted to make adultery a thought crime. Regardless, his case makes a larger point that has long been obvious to my stiff-necked people: the way to kill a bad idea is to allow it into the debate, not suppress, vilify, or (if accused of a hate-crime) arrest its proponent.

    My point about Anti-Semitism was this: you may find it repugnant, and I may see in its re-emergence an existential threat, but our feelings must not place open debate about its precepts beyond the pale of discussion in this country. What I have learned is that the proper response to such Anti-Semitic spew is not to attack the individuals who carry the ideas, but to attack their arguments. Anti-Semitism debated openly robs it of legitimacy. Anti-Semitism suppressed does not eliminate the bacteria: it only forces it into dark corners where it festers and grows more virulent. Anti-Semitic acts are crimes. Anti-Semitic words are not, nor should they ever be.

    To my main point, the same applies to discussions about the morality of sexual practices. We should all agree that a proponent of prostitution should not be branded a misogynist, but debated. An opponent of gay marriage should not be branded a homophobe and publicly humiliated, but debated. And someone who suggests that libertinism, however legal, undermines our social institutions should be allowed the courtesy of debate rather than suppressed.

    Branding the carrier of a “bad” idea with the ad hominem at the outset is not democratic, open minded, tolerant, or intelligent. It stifles debate, suppresses open discussion, and serves to isolate people from society because of their beliefs. I am of the opinion that good people can have bad ideas just as evil people can have good ideas. The underlying precept of our nation (and my faith) is that ideas do not make people bad or good: actions do, and that in open debate the good ideas will out. We all need to grow thick skins, sharpen the points to support our beliefs, and give the character of our opponents the benefit of the doubt.

  5. Thanks for the clarification — appreciated.

    I like this latest version much better and can find no serious disagreement with it, save for the mild exceptions I’ve already noted: freedom of speech cuts both ways, and obviously includes ad hom dismissal of any argument, no matter how uncontroversial, and in many times and places it is simply not an appropriate behavior to exercise one’s — we can both come up with examples of that I’m sure!

    WRT your coreligionist, I was referring to one Jesus H. Christ. Who allegedly expanded the definition of adultery thusly: “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

    I ❤ this: "We all need to grow thick skins, sharpen the points to support our beliefs, and give the character of our opponents the benefit of the doubt." And I fully agree.

    1. Thanks for that.

      As to my co-religionist, I am no expert in the teachings of Rabbi Yeshua ben Yosef, but I can say that this particular teaching did not find its way into Jewish law. In Judaism adultery is an act, not a thought. The heart and mind are the real battlegrounds between good and evil, and the victor is decided by what we do, not what we think.

      Keep smiling, and stay warm.

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