My copy of Mark Steyn's Lights Out arrived today. Mr. Steyn came under attack by the Human Rights Commission in Canada after an excerpt of his book America Alone was printed in Maclean's, a Canadian news magazine. Steyn was accused of being a racist and diseminating hate speech. His book was neither racist nor hateful but why let facts get in the way when there's free speech to be pummelled?
The word "racist" is now interchangeable with "shut up!" It is thrown out there when ever someone wants to end a conversation that for whatever reason, the name caller is uncomfortable with. Unfortunately, too often the tactic works.
Not always. When someone like Jeanne Garofalo says that people who participated in Tea Parties are racists "pure and simple", the accusation is mainly laughable (particularly when she follows up with a dissertaion on brain functions). But, the accusation becomes much more dangerous when used by nice people.
Nice people use the word "racist" to stop conversation because they genuinly believe that it is mean to offend anyone. The result is that we can not have an honest conversation about Islam because an open exchange of ideas might hurt someone's feelings.
What nice people seem to be incapible of answering is how they decide who does and doesn't have the right to have their feelings protected. Currently, hurting the feelings of Christians or Jews is good/Muslims bad. Gays are protected but woe to the Miss America contestant who believes that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Rather than picking and choosing shouldn't we in the United States use the First Amendment as our guideline? It could result in the KKK holding a rally in your town square, but honestly, when was the last time you witnessed a Klan rally and what was the reaction from your fellow citizens? It was free speech that tamped out the Klan and Neo Nazis and other fringe groups. Shutting down debate cheapens society. Using the word "racist" indescriminately simply dilutes it's meaning.