Editorial

Trigger warnings, safe spaces, snowflakes and the cult of the über offended

Friday, August 18, 2017

“America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship! You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours,” President Andrew Shepherd in the movie “The American President.”

Our way of life is based upon free speech, otherwise known as the “marketplace of ideas” and the U.S. Supreme Court has protected the First Amendment numerous times. It is a most fundamental building block of the American culture and zeitgeist and upon IT are built all other freedoms and rights. Without it, there is no America and there is no freedom!

Today, many ignorant people are attempting to destroy it. I don’t think many realize that with its death, America’s heartbeat flatlines. America is not just a geographical location, it is an idea…an idea that humans can be free and practice self-rule by allowing dissent and by winning the battle of ideas.

I am terrified that our inalienable, God given rights of free speech and dissent will be lost. Particularly when we see more and more hypersensitive crybabies (and even the national media) attempt to silence anyone that doesn’t agree with their “fundamental changing of America.” They want to regulate any ideas, words or symbols they don’t like rather than defeat those ideas on merit. Their freedom literacy is appalling because it is impossible to take away one person’s rights (no matter how repugnant their words or motives may be) without chopping away at everyone’s freedom.

Another foundational safeguard of the republic is protection of a numerical minority from the tyranny of the majority through mob rule.

I recently saw a picture on Facebook that said, “Good morning America, what are we offended about today?” How sad! Most all of us were taught, or should have been taught, at a very young age that we may not like what another person says, but that we should fight to the death that person’s right to say it. That is what Americans do.

“Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Life is hard and sometimes people are brutal, but an ugly retort, scathing criticism or even obscene insult is not as bad as a punch in the mouth! Words are not the equivalent of assault or physical violence.

If you don’t like what someone says, get over it sweetheart – that’s America! Don’t throw a hissy fit. Don’t tear down the republic and the rule of law. Prove them wrong through the marketplace of ideas and by example.

“Microaggressions,” according to New York University’s Stern School of Business professor Jonathan Haidt, “are small actions or word choices that seem on their face to have no malicious intent but are thought of as a kind of violence nonetheless.”

Words are not microaggressions – words are words and ideas are ideas. Dangerous as they may be to a person’s worldview, that is all they are. So called “microaggressions” should never be regulated by thought police, storm troopers issuing citations or worse for dissenting viewpoints. While it is immoral and embarrassing to be racist, sexist or judgmental, it is not illegal. It is only a crime when it crosses the threshold of real, legal incitement.

According to Washington University law scholar Gregory Magarian, incitement is “a statement that the speaker knows or should know is likely to directly cause imminent unlawful action.”

Neither an American flag, a vitriolic dissenting political statement, an expression of faith nor a celebration of one’s heritage would rise to that level. Passionate words may get angry and loud, but they do not on their own “directly cause [trigger] imminent unlawful action.”

Students were arrested at Kellogg Community College for handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution and Southern Methodist University recently decided to relocate a memorial to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks over concerns that students might be “triggered” at the sight of American flags? But don’t think for a second that these encroachments on free speech are not local as well. Though we were taught that all Americans have freedom of speech from “sea to shining sea”, Arkansas State University limits it to a handful of “free expression areas.”

By thinking of words as violence as opposed to merely ideas, we kill the “marketplace of ideas” and become card carrying, violent, childish, overly emotional snowflakes in the cult of the über offended.

The best response to so-called micro-aggressions is NOT macro-aggression, but rather defeating bad ideas with better ideas. Win the debate based upon merit and example. Members of a civilized society are defined by their ability to peddle in ideas and solutions, questions and suggestions and the free trade of expression.

Anything that stifles the free-flowing, undiluted, honest and open exchange of ideas is not only immature – it is un-American. We don’t need trigger warnings or safe spaces that create snowflakes from the cult of sweetness. We need honest, informed, mature members of society that are engaged in improving the world we live in today while protecting every one of our God-given liberties. A foreign army will never take our freedoms from us. If we lose them, it will be because we simply gave them away.

thenry@blythevillecourier.com