There can be little doubt that most contemporary First Amendment problems are caused by self-proclaimed liberals. If you doubt that or think the incidents I write about in my column are “isolated,” you are simply wrong. I’ve written about hundreds of these “isolated incidents” over the last several years.
But occasionally I have to write in defense of those who are about to be censored by forces from the right side of the political spectrum. I did that when a fellow Republican tried to shut down a gay student organization at a public high school. I also did that on two occasions where university professors faced termination for unpopular views in the wake of 911. Today, I write in defense of a group whose name is too profane for me to repeat. You can figure it out by merely swapping the first letters of the two words in the title of today’s column.
When the following video began to make the rounds on the internet, several conservatives contacted me for help in shutting down the organization responsible for creating the video (note: video contains explicit content).
It is easy to understand why people were upset by what they saw. The language is obscene, to say the least. Worse still, the proponents of “equality” insisted on using young children to hurl abusive profanity at their political opponents – an inexcusable and tasteless tactic, indeed.
But censorship is not the “solution” to the “problem” of offensive speech. John Stuart Mill correctly observed that there are two types of harm that arise from censorship. The first, and most obvious harm, is that censorship may deprive people of the truth. The second, and less obvious harm, is that censorship may deprive people of a greater appreciation of the truth via its juxtaposition with falsity.
Some conservatives in the anti-abortion movement understand the latter principle. They go to college campuses and show pictures of newborn babies next to pictures of the remains of a partial-birth abortion. The displays are offensive to many. But they can be very effective if done correctly.
Some liberals in the UNC-Charlotte Gay PRIDE group recently figured out that so-called offensive speech can be used to advance the arguments of the offended. But this can only happen if they resist the urge to engage in censorship. I had to teach them that valuable lesson last month on UNCC Conservative Coming Out Day.