In American football, a rare and highly prized commodity is the dual threat quarterback. For those not familiar with the game, the term simply means a quarterback (the player who touches the ball first at the start of every play) who is equally competent at both running and passing the ball. Such players are extremely rare. Perhaps the most famous and successful of these was former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, who broke numerous records as a player. After six years and tens of millions of dollars in playing payments and endorsements in the NFL, Vick was charged with and jailed for a multitude of animal cruelty offences related to a nationwide dog fighting operation he financed. Despite being jailed for what most would consider obscene animal cruelty he was immediately signed to a new NFL team on a multi-million dollar package after his release from prison. Another perhaps more famous (albeit for other reasons) dual threat quarterback is Colin Kaepernick. He remains unsigned by an NFL team, despite being at the top of his game, after having been hung out to dry for the misconduct of being the first player to kneel in protest during the national anthem at NFL games. The actions of each player, when examined through this frame, would indicate that there is a great disparity in the punishment of both players, but it begs the question – which is the greater crime?
The recent kneeling controversy in the United States highlights the growing art of weaponised offence as a response to political disagreement.
Political correctness, the most sclerotic influence on modern day politics, has until recently been an affliction owned by the political Left. The practice of using bodies like the Human Rights Commission or social media to diminish the livelihoods of those whom we politically disagree with has been ubiquitous on every single controversy, particularly on those of identity politics for the best part of 20 years now.
Whilst the election of Trump was seen as a decisive victory against political correctness, the President’s rhetoric and willingness to use the full thrust of his office to attempt to disrupt the lives of the peaceful dissenter is a new form of ‘right wing’ political correctness.
The first amendment of the United States constitution, and free speech more generally, is the single most important right conservatives should fight for. As was pointed out many times in the 18C debate, which endlessly plays on a loop within the broader discussion of the culture wars, we must preserve the right of people to say and do things which do not incite violence that we do not like.
I am not in favour of the protests, nor the use by the protestors of what is essentially a song celebrating the nation of America and what it stands for. After all, the national anthem represents the nation and people of the United States of America, not its government. The act of kneeling is indeed disrespectful and not behaviour that should go ignored.
But Trump’s hyperbolic response is eerily reminiscent of the response to Dr Pansy Lai’s anti-SSM ad in Australia. Disagree, and I will come after your livelihood. Sure, the issues are not particularly similar, but the principle remains, and the Right’s embrace of a tit for tat mentality is not limited to Trump.
Free speech is for the dissenter, not the majority, and whilst you may abhor and find offensive the practice of kneeling for the national anthem, if you are to maintain and fight for the principle of being for the dissenter, for free speech, then you merely need to rationally and logically repudiate the protest, both its theory and practice.
The flag burners, Anzac day protester and change the daters of our nation need not be silenced, arrested or fined, merely rationally repudiated. Should we on the right preach free speech whilst doing our best to weaponise our own offence and disdain to the morally exhibitionist, irrational virtue signalling of the Left, we risk losing everything we have fought so dearly for. As Kant said ‘Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.’
If the universal law is to weaponise your disdain of the ideas of others to pursue them through legal action or their livelihoods, we risk creating a world where the polemic, the peculiar and the differences of opinion which are the fabric of the rich tapestry of our society are no more.
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