Joy Behar had the misfortune recently of interviewing Joe the Plumber. Of course much of what he had to say was homophobic and ridiculous but he did make a point that often occurs in conservative conversation, which I believe is very much worthy of further conversation.
Wurzelbacher: Me being an American, I'm allowed to have that opinion and not be chastised for it. (emphasis mine)
Wurzelbacher: I served my country, um, and I—
Behar: So do a lot of homosexuals. If we would let them, more would.
Wurzelbacher: Well, that, that being said, I'm not, I'm not—what I'm saying, though, is I'm allowed to have my own opinion without being chastised for it. I, you know, my family's foughten for this country, I've foughten for this country—
Behar: Listen, listen Sam. Samuel—
Wurzelbacher: —therefore I deserve that right.
Behar: —you can have your opinion, and you're gonna get chastised for it. Just like I have my opinion [Wurzelbacher laughs] and I get chastised for it.
Freedom of speech is one of the most cherished ideals in America. Conservatives are often quick to invoke this right, when they spread their hatred and limited way of thinking. The love of free speech however, ends when it comes to a dissenting opinion. Wurzelbacher wants the right to his homophobic hate speech but it is a point of his heterosexual privilege that he refuses to believe that anyone should exercise their right to speak against his hate speech.
When conservatives claim to love free speech, what they are really promoting is group think. They wish to promote the idea that all expression should be in the service of dominate bodies and seek to label dissent as a form of heresy. The idea of free speech as a two way street is unacceptable to conservatives because the goal of such language is submission and not freedom. If you support free speech, then you must advocate for the right of someone to promote that which you would spend a lifetime fighting.
Even for men like Wurzelbacher, free speech is not truly free. His definition of freedom means a lack of consequence. Such line of thinking is counter to the very structure of society. In each decision we make there is always a consequence; it need not be negative to be understood as such. If one studies hard and achieves a good grade, it is a consequence of work. We are constantly reacting to the world around us and men like Wurzelbacher demand that this change, they are attempting to alter the very fabric of how we relate to each other.
The first amendment was not created to allow one group agency and deny it to another. It is about promoting an exchange of ideas. It is the conversations that occur between dissenting bodies that ferment change. If we are to listen to those that only repeat that which we believe to be fundamentally true, no gains intellectual or otherwise can possibly be achieved.
Wurzelbacher is not interested in change and growth because such action necessarily means the realization that though some bodies have been historically dominate, the tyranny of the majority does not necessarily represent a social good. Wurzelbacher is interested in promoting his White, male, heterosexual, cisgendered, able bodied point of view at all times.
We could easily dismiss the conversation between Wurzelbacher and Behar, because Joe clearly has idiotic tendencies. We are after all, talking about a man that argued against a tax cut for his class bracket , is openly sexist and homophobic, as well as dim enough to believe that a flat tax would be beneficial. Arguing with him is actually child's play, as various journalists have proven time and time again, however; we should not dismiss his reliance on privilege to prove his point. Men that are far more eloquent that Wurzelbacher use privilege to demand that their utterances remain above question, we simply do not recognize it as such because it comes wrapped in platitudes. If the concept of free speech is going to be maintained, it must apply to all and not just those intent upon creating a society of automatons.
Shakesville has a transcript and a good conversation on the interview between Joe the Plumber and Behar