Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought, Expanded Edition
I was rewarded for my obeisance. The book actually contained revelations to scores of questions I had on the Read full review. A compelling defense of free speech against its new enemies, who range from the mosques of Iran to the groves of American academe. Jonathan Rauch. This means we must place no one, including ourselves, beyond the reach of criticism; it means that we must allow people to err, even where the error offends and upsets, as it often will.
In this expanded edition of Kindly Inquisitors, a new foreword by George F. The very idea would have seemed preposterous. Any hate-speech law which might have passed would have targeted gay people in the name of defending children , not protected us. The case for hate-speech prohibitions mistakes the cart for the horse, imagining that anti-hate laws are a cause of toleration when they are almost always a consequence. In democracies, minorities do not get fair, enforceable legal protections until after majorities have come around to supporting them.
By the time a community is ready to punish intolerance legally, it will already be punishing intolerance culturally. At that point, turning haters into courtroom martyrs is unnecessary and often counterproductive. In any case, we can be quite certain that hate-speech laws did not change America's attitude toward its gay and lesbian minority, because there were no hate-speech laws.
Today, firm majorities accept the morality of homosexuality, know and esteem gay people, and endorse gay unions and families.
What happened to turn the world upside-down? What happened was this. In , the U. Army Map Service fired an astronomer named Franklin Kameny after learning he was gay. Kameny, unlike so many others, did not go quietly. He demanded reinstatement from the U. Civil Service Commission and the Congress. When he got nowhere, he filed a Supreme Court brief. In , it is ironically necessary that he fight the Americans, with words, in order to preserve, against a tyrannical government, some of those same rights, freedoms and liberties, for himself and others. In , Kameny led dignified gay-rights demonstrations, the first of their kind, in front of the White House and Philadelphia's Independence Hall.
Signs said: "Denial of equality of opportunity is immoral.
Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought
In , gays rioted against police harassment in New York. In , two gay student activists, Jack Baker and Michael McConnell, walked into a county clerk's office in Minnesota and asked for a marriage license.
Much, much more was to come. In ones and twos at first, then in streams and eventually cascades, gays talked. They argued.
They explained. They showed. They confronted. If the pervasiveness of bigotry was supposed to silence them, as hate-speech allegedly does, Frank Kameny missed the memo. If we still differ, then I am right and society is wrong; and society can go its way so long as it does not get in my way. But, if it does, there's going to be a fight. And I'm not going to be the one who backs down. Kameny and others confronted the psychiatric profession about its irrational pathologizing of homosexuality, bombarded the U. Civil Service Commission with demands that it end the ban on gay government employment, and confronted Christians with their hardly Christ-like conduct.
Frank Kameny lost every appeal to get his job back; the Supreme Court refused to hear his case. In , he launched a campaign to repeal the District of Columbia's sodomy law and lost that effort would take three decades.
He ran for Congress in and lost. But at every stage he fired moral imaginations. He and others saw Jerry Falwell and Anita Bryant not as threats to hide from but as opportunities to be seized: opportunities to rally gays, educate straights, and draw sharp moral comparisons. To appeal to a country's conscience, you need an antagonist. Suppression of anti-gay speech and thought, had it been conceivable at the time, would have slowed the country's moral development, not speeded it.
It would have given the illusion that the job was finished when, in fact, the job was only beginning. It would have condescended to a people fighting for respect. I am not naive about the bravery it took for Kameny and others of his generation to step forward. They were hammered.
They suffered severely. Kameny lived long enough to be honored by President Obama and, in , to receive an official government apology from the U. Office of Personnel Management, which by then was headed by an openly gay man. But most of us are not Kamenys. Most of us are also not Galileos or Einsteins, or Sakharovs or Kings. The good news is that most of us don't need to be. We need only a few Kamenys-plus a system that is very good at testing and rejecting bad hypotheses and at bringing forward better ones.
As gay people stepped forward, liberal science engaged. The old anti-gay dogmas came under critical scrutiny as never before. What took place was not just empirical learning but also moral learning.
How can it be wicked to love? How can it be noble to lie? How can it be compassionate to reject your own children? How can it be kind to harass and taunt? How can it be fair to harp on one Biblical injunction when so many others are ignored? How can it be just to penalize what does no demonstrable harm? Gay people were asking straight people to test their values against logic, against compassion, against life.
Gradually, then rapidly, the criticism had its effect. You cannot be gay in America today and doubt that moral learning is real and that the open society fosters it. And so, 20 years on, I feel more confident than ever that the answer to bias and prejudice is pluralism, not purism.
The answer, that is, is not to try to legislate bias and prejudice out of existence or to drive them underground, but to pit biases and prejudices against each other and make them fight in the open. That is how, in the crucible of rational criticism, superstition and moral error are burned away. I believe the hope of living in a world free of discrimination and prejudice is a utopian pipe dream, and is as anti-human and dangerous as most other utopian pipe dreams.
The quest to stamp out discrimination or bigotry or racism wherever it appears is a quest to force all opinion into a single template. I reject the premise-not just the methods-of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which calls on signatory countries to prohibit "all dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred.
Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought, Newly Expanded Edition | Cato Institute
Politicians and activists, however well intentioned, who would shelter us from criticism and debate offer false comfort. History shows that, over time and probably today more than ever, the more open the intellectual environment, the better minorities will do. It is just about that simple. So here is a reply to advocates of hate-speech regulation who wonder if, today, it really serves any purpose to let people go around touting The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The answer is yes, it does. We cannot fight hate and fraud without seeing them and debunking them.
John Stuart Mill, writing in On Liberty in , was right. Today I fear that many people on my side of the gay-equality question are forgetting our debt to the system that freed us. Some gay people-not all, not even most, but quite a few-want to expunge discriminatory views. Here is not the place for an examination of the proper balance between, say, religious liberty and anti-discrimination rules.