Tuesday, May 27, 2008

In the name of free speech: sit down and shut up!

I read this at PZ's place, who got it from here. A Ford dealer in Mojave, California went on the radio with a radio spot that included, among other things, this jem:

"But did you know that 86% of Americans say they believe in God? Since we all know that 86 out of every 100 of us are Christians, who believe in God, we at Keiffe & Sons Ford wonder why we don't tell the other 14% to sit down and shut up. I guess maybe I just offended 14% of the people who are listening to this message. Well, if that is the case then I say that's tough, this is America folks, it's called free speech. None of us at Keiffe & Sons Ford are afraid to speak out. Keiffe & Sons Ford on Sierra Highway in Mojave and Rosamond, if we don't see you today, by the grace of God, we'll be here tomorrow."

I won't go into the basic error, that "believes in god" does not equal "believes in the christian god."

No, I'm looking at the strongly implied claim that he can have free speech, but people he disagrees with (or who disagree with him) do not, or should not, have that same right.

Just for a second, imagine this: replace the 86/14% bit with these:

"You blacks should just sit down and shut up. This is a white nation."

"You jews should just sit down and shut up. This is a christian nation." Oh, wait, that's the claim he's basically making already, even though it's a lie.

"All you uppity women should just sit down and shut up. This is a man's nation."

Anything wrong with those?

Or how about this one: "All you damn gays should just sit down and shut up!" Actually, from some christians, this would be a vast improvement over "Let's go kill us a faggot!"

But atheists and other unbelivers? We're only minority it's unabashedly alright to discriminate against. Blacks? No. Jews? Hell, no. Women? Don't even think about it. Muslims? Only if you're a Republican speaking head. Atheists? Sure! Everyone knows that there's nothing stopping atheists from running amok, raping and killing to their empty little heart's content, whereas the devout have the word of Yaweh/God/Allah to prevent all that.

Of course, it's surely Satan confusing things by making atheists 15% of the national population, and only 0.2% of the prison population.

But, I fall away from my main point. Free speech, to be free speech, has to go both ways. You have to have the right to say what you want to say, or feel needs to be said, but so does everyone else. "I talk, you sit down and shut up!" isn't free speech, it's a form of dictatorship.

I get e-mails that say the same thing. Long, rambling, bigoted e-mails, refusing this or that right to others, and they all end with this line, or something very much like it:

"If you agree, pass it along. If you don't, delete it."

What's that mean? Boiled down, it means just what the Ford dealer in Mojave, CA meant: "Free speech for me, but not for you."

Special rights for me, not for you.

Any rights I claim for me, whatever rights I decide to let you have, for you.

And that ain't free. It isn't American. It's Christian.

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