PC Culture got it wrong, but not because it went too far in subduing hate speech. It got it wrong because it didn’t go far enough.
American culture, particularly White American culture, has a mistaken obsession with the First Amendment. So let’s whip that bad boy out, slap it on the table, and go over it inch-by-juicy-inch:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Right off the bat, we have this gem:
Congress shall make no law…
The First Amendment exists to protect us from governmental interference in our religious choices, in the speech that we make, in the press, in our ability to gather in protest, and in our ability to let the government know we aren’t happy with them. Initially, this was narrowly interpreted to be a limitation on the Federal government, but later on, it was expanded to include state governments in those limitations.
Basically, you can worship whatever gods you want, you can say whatever you want, you can print and publish whatever you want, etc., and neither the Federal nor any State government can prosecute you for it. There’s a few limitations, of course. Yelling fire in a crowded theater is thrown around as an example, but you’re also up shit creek if you incite violence, utter false statements of fact, publish child pornography, or a few other exceptions to that First Amendment protection. In those cases, the First Amendment isn’t a defense, and yes, the government can go after you if they want.
But the First Amendment doesn’t protect you from a shifting culture. It doesn’t protect you from being shamed for speech that is deemed culturally unacceptable. It doesn’t protect you from being called a racist when you’re being racist or a sexist when you’re being sexist. In fact, just as much as you’re allowed to spew all the bullshit you want, liberals, aka PC culture, are allowed to call you out on that bullshit, and shame you into silence.
But see, that’s where we’ve fucked up. We haven’t been shaming anyone into silence. Fuck… one of the most hateful, violence-inciting, false fact stating asshats to grace the national stage just got elected president for fuck sake. You can say whatever the fuck you want, and we, on the left, for a good long time, have tolerated that bullshit all in the name of being open-minded and wanting to reach people.
Oh, there were a few decades when people were shamed for being openly racist in public. But I promise you, as a white woman who has spent most of my life surrounded by white people, the racism did not go away. It just went behind closed doors. White people were only racist around white people, where they made jokes and opined about the good old days. Then Donald Trump showed up and made it acceptable to be hateful, to be racist, to be sexist. I’ve gotten in more shouting matches calling out people for blatant racism in the last year than I did in the entire ten years previous.
Some of that is my own work on myself and my own biases and a growing awareness of the festering poison of white supremacy in the U.S., but a good deal of it is that the racists are more open about being racist now. Whereas ten years ago, white people were afraid to say the “N word,” now, they openly scream it at black children walking down the street.
And this, I fear, is because “kill them with kindness” liberals didn’t go far enough in shaming the racists out of existence, and this was done in the mistaken notion that the First Amendment means that “everyone is entitled to their opinion.” This belief that even if we don’t agree with those opinions, we must tolerate them and let them be expressed.
There’s a huge problem with this. Opinions are not fact. And opinions should not be used to justify restricting the freedoms and humanity of others.
I hate peanut butter, but I don’t think it should be banned just because the smell of it makes me gag.
Opinions are not statements of fact, but in this post-truth society, they are all too often treated as such.
I will not tolerate opinions that are factually wrong.
Climate change isn’t an opinion, it’s a sound scientific theory almost on the same level as gravity. It’s observable, and 97% of scientists that actually study the shit agree that it’s a big fucking problem.
I will not tolerate opinions that are hateful.
Hatred of immigrants, Muslims, blacks, women, LGBTQ+ persons, etc., are opinions that don’t deserve an ounce of respect, and they should not be tolerated. Not in the name of free speech, not in the name of open-mindedness, not in the name of anything.
Fuck tolerance. What we tolerate persists. What we tolerate festers and rots and becomes a poison. What we tolerate destroys us.
We spout “tolerance” as this high-minded ideal, that we should tolerate diversity, but fuck that sort of tolerance, too. Because I don’t want to tolerate diversity, I want to celebrate diversity. Because to say we’re “tolerating” diversity is to say we’re just putting up with it. That maybe we don’t really mind that diversity being around, we just don’t want it around us.
And that darlings, is the attitude of all those white people who voted for Trump. “I don’t hate them, I just don’t want them around my family.” Them being anyone who isn’t a White American Christian, and because liberals don’t want to hurt those white people’s feelings, we are fucked for the foreseeable future.