I guess if I want to be in with the cool kids in the blogosphere, I need to talk about Dinesh D’Souza’s new book, The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11. The problem is, with a title like that, I don’t care. It says everything necessary to dismiss the book without further contemplation. I haven’t read it, nor will I. But Mr. D’Souza’s first column for Townhall.com warrants a comment.
As I returned home to the United States, I wondered: are these students right? I don’t think American culture as a whole is guilty of the charge of moral depravity. But there is a segment of our culture that is perverse and pornographic, and perhaps this part of American culture is the one that foreigners see. Wrongly, they identify one face of America with the whole of America. When they protest what they see as the glamorization of pornography and vice, however, it’s hard to deny that they have a point.
“They hate us for our freedoms” is a tired slogan, but it takes an especially perverse anti-liberty sentiment to add on “they’re right to hate us for that freedom.” It’s absurd and should be shunned from the public sphere of ideas by everyone. Unfortunately, not everyone hates assaulting the Constitution. (There’s a nuance involving freedom in quotes, but that makes no sense because we’re talking about consensual choices.)
I think Mr. D’Souza’s mistake becomes clear here:
Groups like the ACLU have taken the approach that pornography rights, like the rights of accused criminals, are best protected at their outermost extreme. This means is that the more foul the obscenity, the harder liberals must fight to allow it. By protecting expression at its farthest reach, these activists believe they are fully securing the free speech rights of the rest of us.
There is no flaw in what Mr. D’Souza attacks. All rights must be protected at their extremes. Whatever limitations the majority desires still leaves the minority grasping to retain what inherently belongs to everyone. The right to not do something must include the corresponding right to do that something. No one will fight publishing “the bunny is grey.” But when the bunny starts attacking the chickens in the coop with a machete and blood and feathers are flying all over the page, someone must defend it when the moralists come charging to society’s rescue.
Mr. D’Souza believes that whatever is an outlier, especially if it’s repugnant to most, must therefore be unworthy of protection. Unfortunately, there are principles of rights and liberty that are more vision-impaired than Mr. D’Souza’s belief that his 20/20 analysis is enough.