The thing you have to realize is that I’m way more opinionated than this blog might lead you to believe.
After all, I do spend a fair amount of time talking politics here, and expressing my opinions on social issues, but the fact of the matter is that more often than not I wind up keeping my metaphorical mouth shut rather than open it up and invite comment. Not because I’m not secure in my opinions, or because I think they’re perhaps out of touch, or flawed in some other way.
No, mostly just because I don’t want to have to deal with the sort of idiots that inevitably swarm around any divisive issue and attack anyone whose opinion diverges from their own.
I mean, I could write a thousand words about just how ridiculously stupid the very notion of “mansplaining” is, how emblematic it is of the sort of cancer that has overtaken progressive thought. But then I’d have to deal with people who think that I’m mansplaining something to them.
Little do they know that I’m writing this while manspreading. Admittedly, at my own desk, and in no small part because I destroyed my left knee yesterday, but still.
So I don’t bother.
I mention occasionally that my Drafts folder is where current events go to die, but that’s only half of it, in truth. Possibly even less than half, since my reluctance to draw fire over my opinion on current events is the bulk of why I tend to lag behind the curve on actually finishing up those pieces. I can write from emotion, and sometimes those posts are shockingly popular (to me at least, bearing in mind that this is a tiny little blog that I do in my spare time and my reach is, to say the least, minimal) but the instant I start thinking rationally about a topic, I start weighing the risk/reward ratio of self-expression on the matter.
And that’s a shame.
Because there’s very little I say here that could be judged as truly controversial. My biggest sin, in the eyes of some folks, is that I tend to look at all sides of an issue, rather than just picking one and shilling for it. Which I suppose is fair enough, since their biggest sin in my eyes is doing exactly that.
I just happen to be right, and they happen to be blinkered ideologues, but fair is fair.
And even more dreadful than the world being deprived of my questionable wisdom is that my aversion to catching rhetorical flak is hardly what one would call a unique character trait. I know far too many people disinclined to comment on things solely because of the reception they’re afraid they might get, and all too often, for no good reason. And by that I don’t mean their fear is unreasonable; their opinions might very well get them raked over the coals by offended idiots. The irrational part is that what are often very middle-of-the-road opinions can garner an absolutely disproportionate response.
“But it’s not censorship unless a government does it!” they scream.
Which is a crock of shit. In a democracy, any kind of democracy, speech we restrict is what the majority wants restricted. Censorship in such a state is a formality, at best, a way that the majority gets to avoid the process of doing what people are doing right now in functionally every public forum accessible to them. Instead of screaming at each other, they can just circumvent the issue and lock up people who say the wrong things, after all, rather than dragging them out into the harsh light of the majority’s (or in this case, vocal minority’s) disapproval.
The list of people who have lost their jobs for saying the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time, and not even particularly controversial things, is shocking. But no company wants to deal with the kind of PR nightmare that happens when one of your employees draws the ire of a thousand pissed-off activists with plenty of spare time and a Twitter account.
So people keep their mouths shut, sewn tight rather than risk the sort of exposure that could cost them everything. The activists focus their ire on the few who are willing to speak, and life goes on.
But we lose. All of us. A climate of fear that silences dissent creates a world where we are not truly free. Yes, speech can have consequences. But when did “nuke the site from orbit” become the default response to any divergent opinion? When did campaigns to get people fired, destroy their lives, and forever brand them with the mark of Cain become the norm?
We lose those voices, those opinions, and while the smugly self-righteous ideologues amongst us might declare that they were opinions without value, voices without merit, we still lose out, because the discussion falters, and the dialogue falls apart. The middle wants nothing to do with the war, and so remains silent, and as a result there can be no resolution to the conflict.
Just new battlefields for the veterans of a thousand culture wars.