BARLOW: The convenience of suppressing speech with labels

October 10, 2015

As a public relations professional, sometimes I really wish I was a liberal. I mean, it’s so easy to do. If someone disagrees with you on any topic, call them a name and debate screeches to a halt as conservatives scurry away for fear of being labeled.

If someone believes that a country should protect its borders, say they are anti-immigrant. If someone thinks police officers have a difficult job and deserve the benefit of the doubt when confronting an armed suspect of color, say that black lives don’t matter to them, even if the officer in question is black.

If someone thinks that the decisions of one group of people shouldn’t force another group to abandon centuries of closely held religious beliefs and be compelled not only to be quiet about said beliefs, but to participate in ceremonies that are anathema to their beliefs, call them a bigot. It’s so simple, and it will immediately inoculate you from having to explain your position.

I mean, the last thing you’d want is for the public to have a legitimate debate about whether one should consider the actions of an armed youth when determining the culpability of public safety officials during a violent altercation. We don’t want the public to consider that police officers aren’t psychics, don’t have the invulnerability of Superman, and have families themselves that love and depend on them to come home safe. Not at all. Every youth is a saint, and cops should be able to diffuse every situation non-violently.

As if cops weren’t bad enough, we most certainly don’t want the public to consider what national security really means in light of the fact that we have a huge, porous border where untold millions of undocumented individuals are flooding into our country and posing a legitimate security risk. Even when faced with evidence that some of these individuals are violent criminals, we can easily stop the debate by calling any practical person who might see this as a problem anti-immigrant, and can preemptively strike any of our opponents by calling anyone even mentioning the racially-sterile phrase “illegal alien” racist.

When it comes to religion, it gets trickier. We want to use religious phraseology when we talk about “loving your neighbor” and “turning the other cheek,” but we don’t want people to exercise said love in a way that might tell their neighbor to “repent of their sins” and “seek God’s forgiveness.” So if this happens, we will simply misuse the word bigot and throw it around like the old man who used to throw around butterscotch candy at the end of my street.

We also want to fondly remember religious leaders practicing civil disobedience when they perceived a legal injustice, but we can’t allow civil disobedience for a religious reason to manifest for causes we disagree with. So we’ll make fun of their appearance and past to discredit them. If that doesn’t work, we’ll twist the meaning of the separation of church and state to tell people that their religious beliefs are fine, as long as they keep it to themselves, while we force them to conform to our secular religion of political correctness.

It would all be so easy, but I can’t do it. It has never bothered me when someone disagrees with me, so I’ll continue to encourage, not censor, debate. As a community, a country, a civilization, we should all encourage the open exchange of ideas. History is replete with the stories of what happens when we don’t.•


Barlow, a Republican strategist, was a press secretary for U.S. Rep. Chris Chocola and a spokesman for Mayor Greg Ballard and the state Family and Social Services Administration. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.


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