I have no idea who Dave Chappelle is. He could be a Marxist or a member of the KKK. And I don’t think it matters. A friend posted a statement on Facebook today that he copied from something called First Avenue & Seventh Street, in which they announced that they had canceled a show by Chappelle. The statement said, “We believe in diverse voices and the freedom of artistic expression, but in honoring that, we lost sight of the impact this [i.e., the Chappelle appearance] would have. We know we must hold ourselves to the highest standards, and we know we let you down.”
My response to this was, “If you claim to uphold diverse voices and the freedom of artistic expression, you don’t get to back down because of some alleged ‘impact.’ If you’re backing down, you’re NOT upholding diverse voices or the freedom of artistic expression, you’re just chickenshit.”
So then I got piled on by some young liberals, or progressives, or whatever they call themselves. I got roundly attacked. And why? Because I stood up for freedom of speech and called out a bit of rank hypocrisy.
It should be noted that none of the people who attacked me took the trouble to articulate their own views. They just attacked.
Apparently Chappelle is an outspoken homophobe or something. I’m sure I would probably disagree vehemently with his whole world view. I’m a socialist and an ardent supporter of gay and trans rights. But I’m also an ardent supporter of free speech. I’m quite sure that none of us is well served by a culture in which only a certain range of socially approved opinions can be given voice.
We need dissenters. Even when they’re dead wrong. Dissenters invite us to examine and articulate our values. When dissenters are silenced, we fall further and further into group-think. Our ability to learn, grow, and perhaps change is stunted. At the very least, we cannot act intelligently with respect to those we disagree with if we refuse to listen to them! We die.
The larger picture here has nothing to do with Dave Chappelle, whoever he is. Right now I’m editing a short book about this precise subject. It’s a book about how a contingent of radicals has taken over the Unitarian Universalist denomination at the national level. They mean well; they’re trying to combat racism. But their methods are deplorable. They try to silence anyone who disagrees with them. They use sneaky, underhanded tactics to try to force conformity. They lie about what they’re doing, and they stonewall you if you try to question them. To them, the ends justify the means. They’re fascists, is what it boils down to. Well-meaning left-wing social justice fascists.
It’s all part of the culture of victimhood and virtue signaling. Lukianoff and Haidt describe this at great length in their book The Coddling of the American Mind. The people I encountered today on Facebook are a classic example. They don’t understand the value of free speech, and they don’t want to understand it. They think anybody who voices anything but the approved view of homosexuality should be silenced.
This kind of thing is happening on college campuses too. It’s a big social trend, and it’s scary. But in the end it’s not very surprising. Most people don’t know how to think; they just react. That has always been the case; why should we expect that suddenly in the 21st century it would be any different?
Until a few hundred years ago, dissenters were burned at the stake. I’m fairly safe from that fate, at least.
Jim, when can you reveal the title and author of the book you are editing?
Jim, it is of important to your well-stated argument that you know that Dave Chappell is the son of Yvonne Seon, the first African-American woman to be ordained as a UU minister. Also, please take a look at Chapelle’s skit “Clayton Bigsby,” which is a touchstone for millennials regarding the absurdities of identitarian politics.