How Ben Carson Is Not Like Hitler
Smart Kinsley column in TNR about the demonizing of Ben Carson (with whom I disagree on gay marriage, by the way, as I think that gay people should get the same right as straight people to marry the one consenting adult of their choice):
Carson may qualify as a homophobe by today's standards. But then they don't make homophobes like they used to. Carson denies hating gay people, while your classic homophobe revels in it. He has apologized publicly "if I offended anyone." He supports civil unions that would include all or almost all of the legal rights of marriage. In other words, he has views on gay rights somewhat more progressive than those of the average Democratic senator ten years ago. But as a devout Seventh Day Adventist, he just won't give up the word "marriage." And he has some kind of weird thing going on about fruit.
But none of this matters. All you need to know is that Carson opposes same-sex marriage. Case closed. Carson was supposed to be the graduation speaker at Johns Hopkins Medical School. There was a fuss, and Carson decided to withdraw as speaker. The obviously relieved dean nevertheless criticized Carson for being "hurtful." His analysis of the situation was that "the fundamental principle of freedom of expression has been placed in conflict with our core values of diversity, inclusion and respect." My analysis is that, at a crucial moment, the dean failed to defend a real core value of the university: tolerance.
The university's response was wrong for a variety of reasons. First, Carson isn't just another gasbag. He is director of pediatric neurosurgery at Hopkins. Pediatric neurosurgery! He fixes children's brains. How terrible can a person be who does that for a living? Yes, I know the flaw in this thinking: There is no necessary connection. As a character says in Mel Brooks's movie The Producers: "der Führer vas a terrific dancer." But Carson didn't murder millions of people. All he did was say on television that he opposes same-sex marriage--an idea that even its biggest current supporters had never even heard of a couple of decades ago. Does that automatically make you a homophobe and cast you into the outer darkness? It shouldn't. But in some American subcultures--Hollywood, academia, Democratic politics--it apparently does. You may favor raising taxes on the rich, increasing support for the poor, nurturing the planet, and repealing Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act, but if you don't support gay marriage, you're out of the club.
...The dean calls Carson's remarks "hurtful." They weren't hurtful to him, unless he's hopelessly oversensitive. The dean was just making a move in the great game of umbrage that has clogged American politics, where points are awarded for taking offense at something the other guy said. No one, when confronted with some opponent's faux pas, or some stray remark that can be misrepresented as a faux pas, ever reacts anymore with: "Who cares?" Instead, it's: "I am deeply, deeply offended by this person's remarks. She should drop out of the race immediately, or quit her job, and move into a nunnery to contemplate her sins. And we certainly can't let her speak at commencement because ..."
You don't like somebody's ideas? Throw yours into the ring. Don't try to yank theirs out.