19 May 2015

When the Right Emulates the Left On Censorship and Why It’s Wrong

The Right Was Wrong on the Iwo Jima Parody T-Shirt
An athletic apparel maker has pulled a t-shirt and apologized after the shirt’s design caused a massive uproar.
The shirt evokes a popular image from the Battle of Iwo Jima, a key victory in World War II which thousands of US marines paid for with their lives.
Only instead of soldiers raising the US flag, the shirt produced by Under Armour depicted teens raising a basketball hoop.
It understandable that satirizing what is considered by many to be an image associated with the sacrifices made by American servicemen would elicit outrage. The design was indeed tasteless and offensive.

The problem is that when we on the right use that offense to justifying pressuring companies to censor themselves, we are emulating the very behavior we so often deride of the left.

The right often scoffs at the regular reports of leftist outrage. Every day it seems some new controversy is born when some group or another becomes offended. G
enerally these groups include feminists, social justice warriors, members of the LBGT community, or leftwing minority groups. These groups are constantly demanding everyone else change their behavior, because they believe they have a right to not be offended.
Let’s be clear: you have no right to not be offended and if you are offended your only real recourse is to ignore it.
It’s a consequence of free speech; someone will always be saying or doing something that could cause offense to someone else.

We cannot demand others conform to our sensibilities, we may only choose to exercise discernment over whether or not we buy a product, visit a store or website, or otherwise associate ourselves with whatever has offended us.

Here’s the unpopular part: that includes Christians, veterans, police, or any other group the right identifies with. To be fair, Christians have long tolerated jokes and insults and generally tend to ignore these things rather than react. But the military, in particular, is a sensitive topic on the right.
Be sure to understand, I have nothing but respect and admiration for the veteran community. I really dislike those that disparage the men and women who have served and I feel that vets should be, in general, treated with more respect than they are.
I, too, found the shirt that parodied Iwo Jima to be insensitive and disrespectful. I would have never have purchased such a shirt and I would likely have admonished anyone I know personally who did.
I would not, however, seek to censor the company that made it. I value free speech far too much.
Freedom of speech is, after all, one of the rights which the men and women of our Armed Forces enlist to protect. Voltaire once famously said “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
This should be the maxim of the veteran community, a focus on preserving the rights of the people, and not on how the people use those rights. Many will use free speech in distasteful ways, but that doesn’t subtract from free speech’s value.
There was a reason it was the 1st Amendment of the Bill of Rights—free speech is intrinsic to a free society.
Let us not repeat the behavior of those who are constantly offended and demand the world alter itself because of it.
Remember that freedom has caveats, and one is that individuals may not appreciate freedom, nor see the irony in using it to parody the very people who have secured it for them.
We definitely should, however, withhold our dollars and support from places we find offensive.
That’s voting with your dollars in the market place of competing ideas.

You certainly don’t have to buy a shirt from Under Armour. You could instead buy a shirt from a veteran owned company like Art 15 Clothing to show your support of the military. That’s the beauty of free markets, you have the choice.

Everyone has different values, and thus we cannot have a diverse society and censor everything that causes offense. The results would be Orwellian. It is important to remember that offensive speech is exactly the speech we need to defend.
Just as the right has rallied to support those who choose to draw Muhammad, because of the issue concerns free speech, we must also recognize the rights of people to say things we don’t agree with.
Because speech which offends no one, needs no protection.


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