When debate becomes “intolerant”
To paraphrase Fulton Sheen, the modern world is not suffering from intolerance. It is suffering from tolerance. In a turn of events which is as bizarre as it is predictable (thanks George Orwell!), tolerance is now shutting down debate.
In today’s Daily Telegraph, Miranda Devine enumerates some recent attempts to stifle debate about same-sex ‘marriage.’
The intimidation and silencing of contrary voices in the same sex marriage debate is despicable and desperate.
The forced resignation of Mozilla’s CEO Brendan Eich after he was discovered to have once donated $1,000 to a political campaign against same-sex marriage is a case in point.
So is the taxpayer funded SBS’ refusal to run a gentle 30-second advertisement in favour of traditional marriage during its Mardi Gras coverage.
And the compulsory mediation Toowoomba physician David van Gend was forced to attend after he wrote an article saying a baby deserves both a mother and a father.
The latest targets of militant gay thought police are the Italian designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, who told an Italian magazine this month: “The only family is the traditional one.”
The condemnation was immediate, with an outraged Sir Elton John calling for a boycott.
It takes gay people to come out and say what straight people are too intimidated to say.
On Facebook last week, I posted a couple of lines on the Dolce & Gabbana media storm which elicited quite an impassioned, and increasingly tedious, comment thread.
For the most part, the online ‘debate’ was civil. There were a small number of comments which were mildly offensive, but instead of starting a flame war, the aggrieved parties protested and got on with their lives. In the world of Facebook and Twitter, that’s a real gift!
Nonetheless, I terminated the whole thread when one commenter started accusing another commenter of homophobia. I happen to know that the alleged ‘homophobe’ is a gay man, who lives with his boyfriend, and sympathises with some but not all of the queer agenda. His accuser is a heterosexual who apparently sympathises with much more of the queer agenda. This is what ‘tolerance’ has come to. Straight people calling gay people ‘homophobes’ because they are not sufficiently radical.
The good news in all of this is that I received many private Facebook messengers from participants and onlookers both. These private dialogues were much more constructive and, I must say, also more interesting, than the public thread.
The lesson I learnt from this? Although the public debate I started occasionally strayed into the offensive, and often strayed from the rational, people apparently noticed that my contributions were neither offensive nor irrational. Moreover, my remarks, which related nothing more than long-standing and sound Catholic doctrine, elicited surprise and curiosity. That’s the beauty of Catholic orthodoxy. It may not be universally acclaimed — much less accepted — but it is always intriguing.
I don’t like polemics. Which is to say I do like polemics — because who doesn’t? — but I don’t like that polemics can harden people against ideas. I’ve dedicated my life to not only serving the Truth, but also sharing the Truth, so I avoid polemics. But I think I should be less wary of provocative debate. In fact I think the need for the latter is growing.
Down with tolerance. Long live debate!