The Atlantic’s Jonathan Rauch finds the positive side to negative commentary.
The November 2013 edition of The Atlantic Monthly features a short essay by Jonathan Rauch entitled “The Case for Hate Speech: How Anita Bryant, Jerry Falwell, and Orson Scott Card have advanced the cause for gay rights.” Rauch’s jumping off point is the opening of the film adaptation of Card’s Ender’s Game and the gay activists who are boycotting it. Card is well known not only for his sci-fi novels but his homophobia. As a writer who has “been advocating gay marriage and gay equality for more than 20 years,” Rauch obvioiusly is down with the boycotts, right? Wrong.
In his concise and engaging essay, the Atlantic contributing editor lays out a compelling argument that hate speech is actually beneficial to the causes it attempts to quash. This isn’t news to anyone with an idiot uncle who won’t shut up at Thanksgiving, but Rauch’s take on the subject is well worth your time. I’ll risk being branded a spoiler and tell you this much, grossly paraphrased: When the whackadoo on one side of an argument is screaming things like what you see in the photo above and his adversary is making reasonable points, the latter has the opportunity to influence change. After an anecdote Rauch shares wherein he is accused of being “the most dangerous man in America…because he sounds so reasonable,” the author states: “Despite the caller’s best efforts to shut out what I was saying, the debate he was hearing—and the contrast between me and my adversary–was working on him. I doubt he changed his mind that day but I could tell he was thinking, almost against his will.”
“We [have] to replace bad ideas with good ones,” Rauch later says, and I can’t think of a better directive for all of you who choose to participate in The Good Men Project’s conversation. When you get a chance pick up the new Atlantic, give the article a read, then swing back by and let’s talk about it.
photo D.C. Atty / Flickr