Cultural Facism: The War on Unpopular Opinion
In 1915, the mainstream view of black Americans was about as poor as it ever was. The KKK was wildly popular, and millions of publicly respected men joined up. And, around this time, courageous men and women set about to change the culture. Over the next 50 years it became harder and harder to say blatantly racist things in public, and this change came at tremendous cost to the changers. Some were killed. Some were beaten, others were jailed.
Likewise, gay rights blossomed in this country somewhat later. Immensely courageous men risked death to be "out".
Lately though, my generation of 20-40 year olds, steeped in a culture of tolerance, seems to be subscribing to the same dangerous type of cultural facism that Strom Thurmond and George Wallace indulged in in the 1940's and 1950's. Unpopular opinions are to be stifled, those that hold them are to be personally attacked and destroyed, and only the cultural orthodoxy may remain.
Whenever anyone calls something "dangerous" it is essential to answer the question, "dangerous to whom?". Often politicians will call something "dangerous" when it is only dangerous to their political success, and it would be generally beneficial to everyone else. Not so with stifling unpopular opinion. This kind of cultural facism is a dangerous weapon to both the victim and those that wield it. Opinions change, cultures shift, and an entire generation found itself on the wrong side of a cultural divide after the Civil Rights Movement. There is no reason the young people gleefully performing character assassinations today won't be the victim of the same tactics a few years down the road.
Creating a vicious monoculture is a great way to get ground up and spat out yourself. For this reason it is in everyone's best interest to make sure the holders of unpopular opinions are safe from having their lives destroyed by an angry mob.
Unfortunately, the legacy of truly courageous souls like Martin Luther King is being bastardized and misused to enforce cultural conformity at the expense of, ironically, other people's freedoms. Believing themselves to be latter day civil rights warriors, they have more in common with the people on the other ends of the fire hoses and dog leashes than they do with the courageous people marching on Montgomery. It requires no courage whatsoever in the popular press to support any kind of historically oppressed minority; the song of tolerance has no cost anymore.
And so, we see the unfortunate spectacle of a single fundamentalist Christian bakery in Oregon standing against the wind of millions of furious cultural warriors. Death is wished upon them publicly, people argue for laws to prevent them from expressing their unpopular views, many argue to shut them down forcibly, and civil suits were eagerly taken up by courts. Ultimately, they had to shut down. And, all the while, the modern-day Bull Connors blast anyone that might support this tiny minority of two bakers, patting themselves on the back for establishing their brand of tolerance.
So what's the litmus test? How do you know who's being abusive, and who is being oppressed? The immediate answer is to look at whose opinion in less popular. Who would face retribution from the cultural orthodoxy for expressing their opinion? If bashing gays requires no courage, the gays need protection from the angry mob. If bashing gay-bashers requires no courage, then it is the gay bashers who need protection.
Replacing one rigid, violent cultural orthodoxy with another is not progress, although the cultural facists would like to believe that it is. It is the worst kind of irony to become the monster one claims to be fighting, and the primitive witch-hunts we see today where individuals are attacked in the name of tolerance tell us that this nightmare has already come to pass. Of course, the cure is simple; live and let live, in the name of liberty and tolerance. Even the racists.