Warren Nunn

Extremists/fundamentalists whose unpopular views sometimes cause public outrage now face extreme sanctions that reek of extreme fundamentalism.

We live in extreme times where public discourse is out of control. Rare is the situation where a person is able to find another willing debate partner who does not want to shout them down and even accuse them of hate speech.

We supposedly live in enlightened times with freedom of speech. But there are those who want to shut down speech they deem to be unacceptable and bay for the blood of those with whom they disagree.

They exercise the same type of religious fanaticism they would have you believe they are trying to protect the world from.

If there truly is such a thing such as free speech, why outlaw and punish anyone with an unpopular view?

Evelyn Beatrice Hall

Evelyn Beatrice Hall who said: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

It was an English woman, Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing under the pseudonym S. G. Tallentyre, who said: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Many would sagely nod their approval of such a sentiment except when it comes to taboo subjects such as vilifying someone over the colour of their skin, or denying the Holocaust, for example.

However, as repulsive as those opinions are, how can anyone claim to fully embrace free speech unless they allow the misguided individuals who utter such nonsense to have the right to say such things?

It’s right and proper to challenge such views but another thing to insist on severe sanctions against such individuals.

We are now at a place where even a hint of something that could be construed to be contentious sometimes results in an individual losing their job.

Megyn Kelly

TV personality Megyn Kelly was sanctioned for “unacceptable” statements.

A recent victim is American TV personality Megyn Kelly. In discussing Halloween costumes, she brought up the topic of what actually is racist behaviour when dressing up in character; wearing blackface, for example.

Those offended went into meltdown and Megyn’s employer NBC put her off air.

Does the punishment fit the crime though?

For starters, Megyn should have known better never to mention anything that could be construed as racist. On that basis, she is her own worst enemy.

What happened with slavery in America is beyond comprehension and is indefensible. The effects run deeper in American society than other countries where similar outrages were perpetrated on indigenous peoples.

At its roots, racism is ignorance of basic science because human skin colour is decided by the amount of the dark brown pigment melanin your DNA gives you.

Darwin gave racist ideas ‘scientific’ support

Starting with people like Charles Darwin … who should have known better … many have thought that dark-skinned people were “less evolved”. It was arrant nonsense when Darwin and his ilk proposed it and, yet, it still holds sway in the thinking of many.

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin’s views on dark-skinned people gave “scientific” credence to racist views.

No matter how much “education” or how many people are punished, some people are going to think strange things.

Racists will never be convinced they are wrong in the same way that flat-earthers will never concede any fact presented that attests to the planet’s shape.

You will never get through such thinking and it is fruitless to try in some cases.

Sure, keep pushing a considered and clear message but there is no need to punish people to the nth degree as has become the operating standard for what I see as secular fundamentalism.

I see secular fundamentalists as more like the Spanish Inquisition or the Pharisees of biblical times.

It’s all about controlling thoughts, words and actions. The Inquisition and the Pharisees hunted down those whom they decreed were heretics. People lost their lives. It was ugly and unacceptable.

These modern-day religious extremists aren’t defined by some organisation or group, but rather it’s more like groupthink.

Sterling banned for racist outburst

Back in 2014 we saw the insanity of the fundamentalists at play with two very different reactions to high-profile people. One was Los Angeles Clippers (a basketball team) owner Donald Sterling; the other was Indianapolis Colts (American football team) owner Jim Irsay.

An unacceptable racist outburst costs Donald Sterling his team; he was banned for life and fined $2.5 million.

Jim Irsay was caught drink driving and carrying illegal substances. The National Football League fined Irsay and suspended him for several games.

Both men made ill-advised decisions. However, to say that Donald Sterling’s actions called for such significant sanctions is far, far off the mark.

It reeks of extremist behaviour trying to combat extremist behaviour.

Sure, Sterling’s actions were extreme. He was a troubled man and was obviously in need of help. But, again, did the punishment fit the “crime”.

His “crime” was speaking in a vile and obnoxious way about dark-skinned people.

People all over the world have said similar things before and since Donald Sterling’s outburst.

What the fundamentalists are saying is that if you a person of “note” you will receive a penalty that goes way, way beyond natural justice.

Extreme sanctions deny natural justice

Such extreme sanctions leave no room for any justice. No light-skinned person (as I am) can put themselves in the thinking of an aggrieved dark-skinned person who would most likely see Donald Sterling’s punishment as “just”.

However, would that same dark-skinned person be as supportive if the reverse happened and there was a racist outburst from a dark-skinned individual against white people?

To suggest that such a thing would never happen is to misunderstand that all people are capable of thinking and making highly objectionable statements.

While the Donald Sterling sanctions were extreme, the penalties applied to Jim Irsay were measured and considered.

Jim Irsay was a troubled individual and took measures to address his situation. He was thought worthy of redemption whereas Donald Sterling was cast aside, declared persona non grata.

It’s baffling that a society can  demonize an individual for saying horrible things on the one hand, yet rightly work for restorative justice.

A career criminal may have destroyed the lives of countless people through robbery, violence, etc, yet Donald Sterling is deemed to be beyond help?

No-one is beyond redemption

No-one is beyond help and redemption; even the extremists who are increasingly making society an unpleasant place to live in.

The extremists can’t have it both ways. They want democracy, right? They want free speech, right? They want to have civility in public discourse don’t they? Well, then, they are going to have to put up with being “offended”.

I could let extremist, fundamentalist, secular humanists offend me but it would be a waste of emotion.

I trust that someone will read this and see that extremists try to impose their “standards” on both “sides” of public discourse.

You can’t defeat extreme views by imposing extreme penalties. It just makes no sense to shut down someone because they have offended you.

You would never accept the reverse.