Another day, another witch hunt — this time in duplicate. “Twin brothers David and Jason Benham,” CNN reports, “have lost their opportunity to host their own HGTV show.” On Tuesday, the pair was gearing up for their new role; by sundown the next day, the network had announced tersely that it had “decided not to move forward with the Benham Brothers’ series.” And that, as they say, was that.
HGTV’s mind was allegedly changed by a post on the blog Right Wing Watch, where the duo was described as being “anti-gay” and “anti-choice.” That post, David Benham told Erin Burnett yesterday, “was too much for them to bear — they had to make a business decision.” How sad. Certainly, the Benhams hold some heterodox views. They are not merely opposed to abortion and gay marriage, but critical of divorce, adultery, Islam, pornography, “perversion,” the “demonic ideologies” that have crept into the nation’s “universities and . . . public school systems,” and the general culture of “activist” homosexuality, which, David contends, is inextricably tied up with a wider “agenda that is attacking the nation.” But so bloody what? They were tapped to host a home-improvement show, not rewrite the Constitution.
Per Right Wing Watch’s rather hysterical indictment, the brothers’ main crimes against humanity are to have “led a prayer rally,” talked a few times on the radio, written a few articles, and — shock! — been involved in “protests outside of abortion clinics” and “at a 2009 LGBT event.” In other words, to have taken to the public square and to have spoken — an activity free societies have traditionally tended to cherish. Did they bring their views into their work environment, impose them upon their employees and their clients, or physically threaten anybody who disagrees with them? Of course not. “We’ve been running a successful real estate company for the last eleven years, and we help all people,” Jason Benham told CNN. “There is no discrimination.”
Jason’s brother, David, concurred, explaining that,
we love all people. I love homosexuals. I love Islam, Muslims, and my brother and I would never discriminate. Never have we — never would we.
Fair enough. But, as the likes of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Alec Baldwin, Paula Deen, Dick Metcalf, and Phil Robertson have recently learned, these days one doesn’t need to actually do anything in order to become persona non grata. Before he was defenestrated for the high crime of having donated to California’s Proposition 8, Mozilla’s short-lived CEO, Brendan Eich, made it clear that he considered it his responsibility to ensure that his company remained “a place that includes and supports everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, economic status, or religion.” It counted for nothing.
Predictably, the boycott-and-divest Left is thrilled by the scalp. “You can be plenty offensive and stay on TV as long as your show’s a hit,” Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams lamented this week. Nevertheless, she continued, “thanks to social media, it may be becoming a little harder to be offensive and actually get on TV in the first place.” “I guess,” she concluded, “we’ll call that progress.” That’s one word for it, certainly. Another one might be “McCarthyism.” Americans with unfashionable views do not have a right to have television shows. But, as Twitter’s David Burge likes to point out, “nobody had a right to be a Hollywood screenwriter in 1948” either.
As a rule, the term “McCarthyite” is too lazily and too readily thrown around. Here, though, it is somewhat appropriate. At its root, McCarthy’s contention was that because free nations are vulnerable at their edges, they are on occasion justified in persecuting their radicals. Today’s inquisitors take a similar approach, Erin Ching, a student at Swarthmore College, telling reporters in Februrary that “what really bothered” her was “the whole idea that, at a liberal arts college, we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion.” More specifically, Ching objected to “tolerating conservative views.” Why? “Because that dominant culture embeds these deep inequalities in our society.” And so, it must be repressed.
Future students of language will wonder at the period in our history in which it was said with a straight face that diversity required uniformity, tolerance necessitated intolerance, and liberalism called for dogma. Of late, we have been told that Brandeis University is simply too open-minded to hear from a critic of Islam, that Mozilla believes too vehemently in “freedom of speech” to refrain from punishing a man for his private views, and that a respect for the audience of a show about duck hunting demands that we suspend a man for expressing his religious views in an unrelated interview. “Never,” David Benham confirmed in an interview with CNN, “have I spoken against homosexuals, as individuals, and gone against them. I speak about an agenda.” Later, he added that “that’s really what the point of this is — that there is an agenda that is seeking to silence the voices of men and women of faith.” Say, now where might he have got hold of that idea?
— Charles C. W. Cooke is a staff writer at National Review.