I’ve always been in favor of freedom of expression, but lately I’ve become a free-speech absolutist. It takes all sorts to make a world and I’ve met a lot of them over the years, and I can stand pretty much anything anyone says about anything — until someone says to me, “You can’t say that.” At which point my inclination is to punch his lights out. I do this not just because I’m a violent psychopath with a hair-trigger temper, but to make the important point that in societies where you’re not free to speak your mind — to argue and debate — the only way to express disagreement is through violence.
But the Shut-up-he-explained Party is making great strides in the free world, too. The Latina actress Maria Conchita Alonso was recently fired from a San Francisco production of The Vagina Monologues because she made the mistake of appearing in a commercial for a Tea Party political candidate. “We really can’t have her in the show,” the producer Eliana Lopez told KPIX-TV. Which would be an Oscar-winning line if she were appearing in a George Clooney movie about blacklisted screenwriters in the 1950s. But in the 2010s is just business. Jonathan Kay, my former editor at Canada’s National Post (I seem to be having a lot of disagreements with my editors these days), felt that Daniel Korobkin should not have been in the party that accompanied Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Israel. Rabbi Korobkin’s sin was to have “praised” Pamela Geller, the “controversial” New York blogger and anti-jihad crusader. Actually, he didn’t praise her. A year or so back, he gave a masterly demonstration of “moral turpitude and pharisaical narcissism” (as David Solway put it) all about how spiffingly marvelous Islam is and what splendid chaps his two Muslim teachers at UCLA had been — and, after 15 minutes of oleaginous multiculti boosterism, said, “And now here’s Pamela Geller.” But Korobkin committed the crime of being in the same room as Pamela Geller, and, therefore, the prime minister of Canada should not be permitted to be in the same room as him.