We live in a time where a careless word. or thought, can literally ruin your life. Tom Flanagan’s recent verbal misadventure underlines just how prickly, for lack of a better word, the (figurative) environment has become for speaking with less than 100% attention to every word, especially on a ‘hot button’ topic like child pornography.
Flanagan, from all I can gather, was literally ‘confronted’ with a convoluted, multi-part question, covering at least three distinct subject areas, by a disgruntled activist of some kind. In an apparently hasty attempt at thoroughly addressing every part of the “question”, he observed that he “[had] some grave doubts about putting people in jail because of their taste in pictures.”
The comment has been construed as everything from a libertarian argument in favour of a ‘freedom’ to watch child porn, to a characterization that it amounts to a ‘victimless’ crime. Admittedly, the latter interpretation might have been a logical inference from Flanagan’s (additional) reported remarks, but it is a huge leap to the conclusion that he was ‘endorsing’ child pornography as harmless or neutral in a societal context.
Flanagan has paid an enormous price for a few poorly-considered comments; fired from a CBC job, vilified and castigated by every social commentator of every political stripe and now a target for self-righteous venting by every F-Book slack-tivist in sight, he has become an overnight pariah.
If you needed any further evidence that a speech ‘chill’ was now firmly in place, you probably don’t need it now; there are topics that “intelligent” people will avoid entirely, except perhaps entirely in their own heads, or sound-proof rooms. Here’s just a partial list of topics that come to mind: abortion, homosexuality, Islam, aboriginal rights, global warming and ‘conservative’ ideology.
I sense our future conversations will become refreshingly controversy-free, largely because we’ll avoid entirely subjects which perhaps deserve to be talked about, but just aren’t worth the personal risk.