It’s not possible for me to write about First Amendment issues and refrain from weighing in on the current Confederate flag controversy that is brewing down in South Carolina. Many of my students and readers have asked for my take, so here it is. I will start with an empirical prediction of what I think will happen. I’ll follow that with my opinion about why I think it will be bad for the country.
First, there will be the successful effort to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina capitol. The move will spread to other states like Mississippi where they will adopt a new flag sans the Confederate flag that is currently superimposed in the corner. Once all evidence of the Confederate flag is removed from state capitols, the flag banning movement will enter a second phase.
In phase two, they will remove it from the Confederate gravesites. Those who previously said that we shouldn’t endorse racism will say that we cannot honor those who died defending it. There will be no need to prove that these soldiers actually were motivated by racism. Evidence will be irrelevant. The removal will be symbolic.
In phase three, they will remove the Confederate flag from historical sites like Fort Sumter. After all, the federal government manages the site. Flag banners will say that we can’t ask taxpayers to fund speech that is deemed offensive by many.
Finally, in phase four, the political left will ban the Confederate flag altogether. These flag banners will be the same people who believe they have a constitutional right to burn the American flag. And they will smugly justify the ban under the guise of eliminating hate speech.
When the government is finished trying to ban all reminders of slavery many will proudly proclaim our nation to finally be free. But we will not be free. In fact, we will have harmed the nation in at least four distinct ways.
1. We will have diverted attention from what really ails the black community. If our nation really wanted to stop the senseless killing of black people, we would not ban the Confederate flag. We would ban Planned Parenthood. Put simply, flags don’t kill people. Abortion doctors kill people. And they kill black people disproportionately with the help of Planned Parenthood, which gets its help from the federal government. So long as we talk about flags, we distract ourselves from the statistical reality that more blacks are aborted every week than have been lynched in the entire history of America.
2. We will have deprived ourselves of the capacity to identify the idiots among us. Personally, I think people who display the Confederate flag are jackasses. That's why I don't favor banning individual ownership of the Confederate flag. I like to know where the jackasses are so I can avoid them. If any leftists are reading this and applauding, you might want to hold your applause. My reasoning also applies to COEXIST stickers.
Put simply, banning symbols of idiocy does not rid us of idiots. It simply lulls us into a false sense of security by making us believe we have won the war on idiocy. In the process, it invites both censorship and intellectual atrophy. Neither of these traits is admirable in a free society.
3. We will have invited inconsistent standards and selective outrage. Next thing you know, Amazon will start to ban the sale of Confederate flags and memorabilia. But they will continue to sell Soviet flags and Nazi memorabilia. (I wrote that several days ago. Sorry for the slow trigger finger on the prediction. This has already happened).
4. We will have rewarded bad behavior. Three lunatics currently dominate our news cycle. The first one thinks he's a woman. The second one thinks she's black. The last one claims to be a real Southerner. We should not treat them like celebrities by showering them with attention. We should treat them like we treat other lunatics. Either lock them in asylums or give them tenure.
When we allow deranged lunatics to change our laws and our practices we elevated them to a position of importance they simply don’t deserve. If banning flags and whitewashing history was a bad idea before a lunatic killed several innocent people, then it is still a bad idea today. I think history will prove me right on this one.