America is a country of strivers. Alas, having attained so much success, many Americans now strive to be offended. Polite agreement to disagree is gone. Now people log on to social media where they discover words that offend their delicate sensibilities. Then they make sure everyone knows they are aggrieved. Sometimes the perennially offended even win a trophy for their troubles -- such as the scalp of ESPN analyst and former Major League Baseball pitcher Curt Schilling.
In August, the network suspended Schilling for posting a tweet that likened Muslim "extremists" to German Nazis to illustrate that a small segment of a population can do a lot of damage.
This month, ESPN fired Schilling for sharing and commenting on a Facebook post of a photo of a supposedly transgender woman with this caption: "Let him in! To the restroom with your daughter or else you're a narrow minded, judgmental, unloving, racist bigot who needs to die!!!" Schilling commented: "A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don't care what they are, who they sleep with, men's room was designed for the penis, women's not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic."
Schilling apologized for the "Muslim extremist" line, but after ESPN canned him for the Facebook post, he came out swinging. On his blog, 38 Pitches, Schilling called out "all of you out there who are just dying to be offended so you can create some sort of faux cause to rally behind." He added that he always treats others like human beings first. He doesn't dislike or hate Muslims and clearly feels he has a right to distinguish between most Muslims and Islamic extremists. That is, he was reasonable.
Schilling did not take on ESPN for its double-speak announcement on his termination -- "ESPN is an inclusive company," began the statement on his termination -- directly. (Note to ESPN: "Inclusive" should mean you don't exclude people for holding contrary opinions.) He, however, did correctly observe that the forces who pay tribute to "tolerance" and "acceptance" can be the most intolerant themselves.
It's disappointing that ESPN didn't notice how incongruous the network looks for touting its inclusivity while kicking a divergent opiner out the door. It didn't matter that Schilling is a sportscaster, not an elected official. It's hard to believe that the sports network would have canned Schilling for using the same photo and language to defend laws that allow transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their choice. From all appearances, ESPN fired Schilling for unapologetic opposition to laws that end bathroom gender barriers -- a mainstream position two years ago.
What happened to shrugging at an opinion with which you disagree and leaving it at that? That notion is history, as communications executives seem to have convinced themselves that they are not censoring dissenting opinions but rather protecting the innocent from crude speech.
Twitter took that phony stance, too, when it announced a "Trust and Safety Council" in February. "Twitter stands for freedom of expression, speaking truth to power, and empowering dialogue. That starts with safety," CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted. Lo and behold, the social network muzzled conservatives such as anti-feminist Robert Stacy McCain, who didn't hurt anyone.
Mayhap the folks at ESPN and Twitter believe that conservatives are mean whereas liberals are not. Sarah Palin's email inbox probably says otherwise. I would say the real difference between the right and the left is that folks on the left believe they have a right to be shielded from unwelcome opinions. Ergo, they demand safe spaces at universities to coddle students who say that certain opinions "trigger" fear. While conservatives have had their eyes opened on that score, corporate America -- in this case, ESPN and Twitter -- has taken on the job of shielding liberals from pointed critics.