Most of the editorials we read were admirably evenhanded about Phil Robertson’s remarks in GQ. His detractors acknowledge Mr. Robertson’s right to express an opinion, and supporters acknowledge the network’s right to cut his TV show. An example is Charles Blow’s piece in the New York Times.
The Times editorial uses facts to rebut Robertson’s ideas about racial discrimination. It is an excellent example of why freedom of speech is so important. Robertson also made insensitive remarks about gays. Regular readers know Jeremiah’s position on both issues – and the salutary effect of dialogue.
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
Rather than writing, “Phil Robertson is a racist maniac that must be stopped,” Mr. Blow gently corrects the misconceptions. This is an editorial that might actually change someone’s opinion.
We also read plenty of culture war stuff, about boycotting this or that, web content being taken down, and censorship on Facebook. Many people prefer to stifle views they don’t like, and punish those who express them.
Is it better for a Phil Robertson to freely spew his views so that we can freely address the real feelings of hatred and fear that afflict some fraction of our population?
Taking offense is one thing. Intimidation is another. There is evidence that organs of the central state – like Facebook, Google, and the IRS – engage in censorship and intimidation. A repressive government is not interested in dialogue.
The quote above is from the Times comments section. No, not Voltaire – the other one. It is vitally important to have people express these views, so that we can challenge them. The impulse to stifle has no place in a free society.
See also: End the IRS