Between this website and elsewhere, I’ve been called a racist half a dozen times this week because I think the current rush to eliminate the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia (incorrectly called the Confederate Flag) from public consciousness is a perfect example of moral hysteria and self-righteous bullying.
Here is my reasoning: the flag hurts nobody and censoring it achieves nothing. Whatever it meant in 1963, it means something else today to people who like it, and they should be left in peace and not lectured.
The legitimate counter argument that according to polls 60% of American blacks find it offensive does not move me: that might be grounds to not fly it in certain public spaces, like over the statehouse of South Carolina, but half-a-century has passed since it carried a pro-segregation meaning, so one could go either way on that sort of thing.
The possibility of a certain percentage of blacks being offended is not grounds for moral panic: it certainly is not grounds to censor the Dukes of Hazard or other such idiocies. I find lots of things disagreeable that I don’t want to ban or censor:
The majority of people accusing me of racism (five of the six) of course have been white, which I should have expected. The impulse towards Puritanism tends to be strong among some strains of white folk.
The main problem with the argument from offense is that it is a passive aggressive form of coercion. If someone runs up to you screaming I AM OFFENDED BY YOUR BEHAVIOR STOP IT RIGHT NOW OR I WILL HAVE A HISSY FIT, the proper response is to keep doing whatever is so offensive, because the argument from offensiveness is only an attempt to control your behavior. It is a thinly veiled exercise of power. It is bullying, and nothing more.
When you encourage such people by cowing to their demands, they just develop more extravagant sensitivities and their displays of offense become more and more outlandish, and things that nobody ever thought were racist until five minutes ago are now censored:
The tactic of accusing someone of racism is designed to end the discussion without having to make an argument. It renders all opposition suspect and illegitimate by the mere accusation.
The other day I was called a bigot, not because I am against gay marriage, but because I am ambivalent about it. Ambivalence is not allowed, only acritcal cheerleading is permitted. The knee-jerk name-calling over insufficient enthusiasm is cultish.
The totalitarian impulse behind that kind of argument is obvious. Don’t give into the bullies.