I really hadn’t been planning to comment on the Duck Dynasty brouhaha. But conservative gadfly Mark Steyn (a very funny, witty man even if you disagree with his politics) has described the actual strategy of GLAAD and its allies with a pithy phrase that I think describes wider circulation – “de-normalizing dissent”.
OK, let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Judged by his remarks in Esquire, Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson is an ignorant, bigoted cracker who reifies almost every bad redneck stereotype there is. His religion is barely distinguishable from a psychotic delusional system. Nothing I am about to say should be construed as a defense of the content of his beliefs.
On the other hand, Steyn has a point when he detects something creepy and totalitarian about the attempt to hound Robertson out of his job and out of public life. True, nothing GLAAD has done rises to the level of state coercion – there is no First Amendment issue here, no violence or threat of same in play.
But what GLAAD and its allies are trying to accomplish is not mere moral suasion either; they’re trying to make beliefs they disapprove of unspeakable in polite society by making the consequences of expressing them so unpleasant that people will self-censor. In Steyn’s well-chosen phrase, they’re trying to de-normalize dissent.
This is a fun game. Do I get to play? I think anyone who speaks of communism or socialism in less opprobrious terms than they would apply to Nazis should be considered morally equivalent to a National Socialist and shunned by all right-thinking people. Let’s remember the hundreds of millions of genocide victims and de-normalize that advocacy!
What? You don’t think that’s a good idea? You think even odious dissent should remain part of the conversation? Then welcome to the ranks of Phil Robertson’s defenders. Unless you’re a blatant partisan hypocrite.
Steyn likes to say that the right way to react to people who try to de-normalize your dissent is to push back twice as hard. I agree. So I give you my favorite Twitter hashtag of the day, to be applied to GLAAD any time it tries this kind of public bullying: #ButtNazis.
Don’t let the #ButtNazis fuck your free speech up the ass while pretending they’re on a lofty mission of moral uplift. Trying to publicly shame and humiliate Robertson, OK; trying to get him fired and shunned, not OK. The former would have been education; the latter was an ugly power play intended to establish GLAAD as arbiters of what can and cannot be said.
All freedom-loving people should reject such attempts, and I am heartened to see that even many homosexual public figures are doing so. (Camille Paglia’s reported description of GLAAD’s behavior as “Stalinist, fascist” struck me as particularly apt.) GLAAD’s influence is going to greatly diminish after this, which is as it should be.
I hope this fiasco will serve as a warning to other activist organizations that there is a line between persuasion and suppressive bullying which they cross at their own peril. Myself, I promise to continue putting the defense of free expression over any form of partisanship.