Many, if not most, men would bristle at the suggestion they are homophobic. Pre-judging a person is itself unmanly. Yet, at the same time most heterosexual men, at least 85 to 90% of males in the U.S., would admit to being terrified, if not revolted, by the idea of sexually-oriented (not the same as physical) contact with another man.
That’s why the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s “homophobic” complaint about a Snicker’s candy bar ad that aired during the Super Bowl is both galling and laughable—the epitome of politically-correct antic hay that defines modern American society and culture. In the ad, one guy sticks a Snickers bar in his mouth as he works on an engine. Another guy, unable to resist the proletarian bonbon, chomps down on the other end. A contest ensues to devour the candy bar, wherein, predictably, their mouths touch and, just as predictably, they freak out. Comedy, to paraphrase Twain, is built on exaggeration and stereotype because, guess what, human behavior is largely stereotypical. We guffaw because we recognize the stereotype that is cloaked or denied; in the case of the ad, the natural anxiety heterosexual men feel about intimate contact with another man.
Despite being one of the top-rated Super Bowl ads, Masterfoods USA has issued the standard “sorry we offended” apology and yanked the ad from the Snickers Web site. Perhaps we have ceased to be angered or awestruck by the tyranny of unelected Watchdog groups. But think about it! Boiled down, the complaint of the Alliance is a complaint about a depiction of men behaving like men. Power-drunk, these groups are no longer satisfied with reining in slander, prejudice or discrimination. Their objective is behavior modification and the creation of a new standard of social “norms”.
Increasingly, public and private institutions are acting on behalf of watchdog groups, implementing action plans to meet this objective. Take Michigan State University’s “early intervention” program euphemistically called Student Accountability in Community (SAC). The program mandates “accountability training” (i.e. behavior modification) for any MSU student observed practicing “power-and-control tactics” in their interactions with other students. The list of behaviors that may trigger mandatory training includes comments or remarks interpreted as sexist, racist, homophobic or generally insulting to instructors. In one example cited in a seminar about the program, a girl was sentenced to training for slamming a door in the face of her boyfriend during an argument. According to a column written by attorney Greg Lukianoff appearing in the Detroit News, the SAC seminar included a graph suggesting a direct correlation between students who engage in practical jokes and students who commit assault and rape.
What astounds is the nonchalance with which institutions enact these thought-control programs—sensitivity training, anger management, etc.–and a sheep-like society that abides by them. Yet, as Lukianoff points out, derogatory remarks and rude behavior (often a matter of interpretation) may not be nice, but are protected by the First Amendment. As Voltaire is reputed to have said: “Monsieur, I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Voltaire seems to have understood instinctively, that what begins with speech ends with thought and the corruption of a free society.
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