This morning I read an article by Helen Pluckrose in Aero Magazine entitled The Problem with Intersectional Feminism. It’s but one of many recent articles exploring free speech issues on campuses here and abroad. My sense is that we are struggling with the challenge of being an inclusive society while also being a society that enables individuals to speak openly about ideas that seem contrary to our goal of inclusivity.
The most obvious example, of course, is what to do about Islam. Can individuals express concerns about the teachings of Islam without being “Islamophobic?” I immensely dislike the term Islamophobia, and quit worrying about being accused of it some time ago. I listen to and read podcasts and articles by ex-Muslims who differentiate between the need to respect Muslims, the people, and the need to be free to criticize Islam, the religion. I’m with them.
Historically (well, recent history), people have been able to criticize Christianity without fearing for their lives. We’ve been able to leave religion behind without fearing death by fatwa. We might still be disowned by families or religious communities but that’s different from fearing death for our decision. Families can soften up over time, but death is permanent. Death for apostasy, honor killings, etc. are still a feature of Islamic societies, and it’s fair to worry about those values seeping into our societies if we’re not free to criticize Islam.
Beyond the challenge of Islam, I fear for the safely of free speech on campuses, in resistance movements, in leftists organizations in the west. Must I now sign onto the orthodoxy of intersectional feminism in order participate in the resistance to Donald Trump? Frankly, I don’t track the intricacies of academic feminist debates, but I’ve observed the efforts to “de-platform” speakers in various settings with alarm. Who are these people who now decide the limits of free speech? How did they get the power they now seem to have? Yikes!
Help, please! I need some reassurance that I’m not alone in my little blue bubble. I’m reading Demagoguery and Democracy by Patricia Roberts-Miller. Essentially, she describes rhetorical efforts to rigorously enforce an us vs them view of the world. Could a politician today get elected without this sort of rhetoric? If not, we are in serious trouble. Political solutions must sort out conflicting interests without making villains of opponents. Our government has been paralyzed for years because of the constant demonizing of opponents. We can hold dark views of our opponents, but rhetoric must be toned down. We can’t reject ideas outright because of who voiced them.
Here’s an example. Tax policy is currently up for grabs in the US Congress. Donald Trump wants to cut corporate tax rates. I loathe Donald Trump; must I also reject the notion of lowering corporate tax rates? I hope not, because I’m open to that idea. Republicans have suggested changing the mortgage interest deduction. Must I oppose that idea? I hope not. It seems absurd to me to allow unlimited mortgage interest deductions, even on second homes.
Here’s a science example: I’m not afraid to eat GMOs! I hate the “GMO Project Verified” icon I now see plastered all over products throughout my grocery store, mostly on products that have no GMO alternative. I consider the “fear GMOs” movement to be seriously anti-science, and I value science. But speaking favorably of GMOs alienates most of the people I associate with. It’s blasphemous to support the science! That’s not good, folks.
I could go on, but I hope you get the point. I don’t want to be afraid to voice my health, science, or political opinions because they’d be considered blasphemous. The concept of blasphemy is simply that ideas can be too dangerous to allow them to be spoken or written. I’m a blasphemer. Will you join me?