Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Thinking Man's "Hate Speech"

Penn State Professor Philip Jenkins, Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies, will speak on his book "The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice" (2003 Oxford Press) on Thursday, March 27, 8-9:30 PM, 10 Sparks Building, UP.

Here's his thesis (quoting from the book):

"In the media, Catholicism is regarded as a perfectly legitimate target, the butt of harsh satire in numerous films and television programs that attack Catholic opinions, doctrines and individual leaders. Arguably, such depictions are legitimate expressions of free speech and stand within America's long tradition of quite savage satire, but the same tolerance of abuse does not apply when other targets are involved. It would be quite interesting to take a satirical or comic treatment featuring say, the Virgin Mary or Pope John Paul II and imagine the reaction if the same gross disrespect was applied, say to the image of Martin Luther King, Jr. or Matthew Shepard, the gay student who was murdered in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998. What sometimes seems to be limitless social tolerance in modern America has strict limits where the Catholic Church is concerned."

"Since the 1950's, changing cultural sensibilities have made it ever more difficult to recite once familiar American stereotypes about the great majority of ethnic or religious groups, while issues of gender and sexual orientation are treated with great sensitivity. At least in pubic discourse, a general sensitivity is required, so that a statement that could be regarded as misogynistic, or anti-Semitic, or homophobic could haunt a speaker for years, and could conceivably destroy a public career. Yet, there is one massive exception to this rule, namely, that it is still possible to make quite remarkably hostile or vituperative public statements about one major religious tradition, Roman Catholicism . . . ."


Kelly J. Bozanic said...

Prof. Reilly,

I am very sympathetic to this post. Having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for a number of years, I often experienced hostilities that struck me as a gross double standard. In our cultural climate of political correctness, it is all too frequent that this sort of "hate-speech" is effectually licensed.

Personally, I believe that this is part of finding equilibrium. At some point, the double standard will become so egregious that it will cause those impacted by this form of hate-speech to stand up and assert their rights. At least, this is my hope. For now, comfort has bred complacency. Thank you for highlighting this event.

Alison M. Kilmartin said...

Actually, this is similar to what we are seeing to some degree on the national stage as Senator Obama's pastor (Jeremiah Wright) is receiving attention for his black supremacist comments. The perceived double standard has become egregious to some, and their responses are being aired in a very public way.

Atom said...

Proponents of relativism ultimately trip themselves up when it comes time for them to be tolerant of speech they do not like.

The Catholic church has, historically, not always treated the gay community and other minorities in the most tolerant way. True tolerance is accepting those who do not accept, which is where almost every relativist stops.

As Nietzsche pointed out, this inability of relativists to accept those who do not accept exposes relativism as really another religion; it is an advocate for its own cause and an opponent to all others.

Yet, there is no stopping this movement. You can't have a whites only scholarship, or a men's law caucus, because those are racist and sexist. Yet my inbox is full of flyers for countless minority job fairs, scholarships for minorites, and minority law clubs. It bothers me that schools aim to have a "diverse" student body.

I thought the point of the civil rights movement and the struggle for equality between the sexes was supposed to make us color blind and indifferent to one's gender? I thought we weren't supposed to judge people by their race, sex, or religious creed? Shouldn't the best people get the job or be accepted to school based on their scholastic abilities rather than their race or sex?

Of course I'm seen as one of the 'majority' - white, middle class male, Christian background - but I would be insulted if I were chosen for a position because of my race or sex, and not because of the incredible amount of hard work I have done to get to where I am.

"Judge us not by the color of our skin but by the content of our character." ...I wonder where that went.

The attacks against the Catholic church are part of a larger attack on Christianity in general in America today. Christianity is seen as the oppressive majority, and thus the protections demanded by minority groups are not extended to the Church. With the dwindling numbers of Christians in America and increasing attacks on those of faith, it is clear that it is not equality and mutual respect that is being sought, it's a re-balancing where those formerly oppressed become the controllers of power.

-Adam Shoneck