The New Shut Up Culture

Jon Schweppe
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Posted: Jun 16, 2015 12:01 AM
The New Shut Up Culture

(Disclaimer: The author of this piece is a white, middle class, heterosexual, Christian male. Please disregard all opinions below because PRIVILEGE.)

A friend texted me the other day about abortion.

Previously, she was very pro-choice. However, after reading up on the horrors of abortion and how women are negatively affected, she realized that she was actually pro-life. She told me she felt convicted in her new belief, but she was afraid to speak out about it because “people are too mean.”

She's right. People are mean. If she expressed her opinion publicly, there's no doubt she would be ruthlessly attacked and intimidated by those who disagree with her. That's life in 2015.

Mark her down as another victim of the new "shut up" culture.

When did this phenomenon begin? When did we decide that disagreeing with a powerful prevailing opinion is bigotry?

Dissent is as American as apple pie, baseball, and wars in the Middle East. It is the essence of free speech. We don’t agree on almost anything in this country, and that’s okay—we shouldn’t! Consensus is the enemy of progress. But more and more we see efforts to silence perceived minority viewpoints.

The Caitlyn Jenner saga is a great example of this. There was near universal approval of Jenner’s transition in the media, topped off by ESPN’s decision to award Jenner the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. And in the rare instances that athletes or other people in the public eye expressed concern over Jenner’s transition, the media was quick to pile on and destroy their reputations.

This all seems a little bizarre. We haven’t achieved consensus on the transgender issue at all. A CBS News poll last year showed that 59 percent of Americans oppose transgendered people choosing which bathroom to use. And last week, a social media firestorm emerged after Fallon Fox, a male-to-female transgendered MMA fighter that competes against women, gruesomely broke an opponent's eye socket after destroying her in a fight.

We have serious cultural questions to discuss. Should male-to-female transgendered athletes be allowed to compete in female sports, despite having the major advantage of spending their formative years with male hormones? It seems strange to have a culture so intent on cracking down on performance-enhancing drugs, yet unwilling to address how something this serious could impact the integrity in sports.

But that’s not the culture we live in anymore. This is the new shut up culture.

Don’t believe in man-made global warming? Shut up, you’re not a scientist.

Don’t believe in abortion? Shut up, it's none of your business.

Concerned about the cultural impacts of transgenderism? Shut up, you’re a BIGOT.

This isn’t helpful. It’s not productive. And let’s be honest — it’s not American.

Can we fix this? Please?

Here’s a start: let’s stop calling everyone a “bigot.” The dictionary definition of bigot is “a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.” When you silence someone’s voice because you disagree with it by calling them a bigot, you are actually the bigot.

Let’s have a conversation. Let’s respect other viewpoints. Let’s realize that not everyone believes what we personally believe, and that’s okay.

I personally don’t observe Ramadan, but that doesn’t mean I don’t respect the beliefs of Muslims. If you’re a secular progressive, and I’m a Christian who believes marriage is a religious sacrament between a man and a woman, you should respect that belief as well.

In America, we respect other viewpoints and acknowledge their right to compete in the marketplace of ideas. "Shut up" isn't how the game is played. If you don't like an idea, come up with a principled argument against it and go win the debate. That's how this country works.

All of us — conservatives, liberals, libertarians, even socialists — have a vested interest in a country that values the freedom of speech. Let's make sure we protect it.