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The Right Way To Disqualify Discourse

In the wake of the tragic shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado last month, the American Left immediately took the opportunity to attack conservatives who question or criticize the trans agenda.

Furious fingers were pointed at Matt Walsh, Tucker Carlson, and a host of others as it was claimed that their ‘words’ were directly responsible for the violence. But the progressive point here is not so much to silence these voices as to make an entire subject matter — an entire conversation — off limits in our society.

Now before we all huff and puff and excitedly claim to be free speech absolutists, it must be acknowledged that we do indeed disqualify some subject matters and conversations, and we always have. Some examples are Holocaust denial, or the idea that slavery was somehow good for black people, or the notion that some women deserve to be raped. As a society, we have rightly placed these ideas in a box of disqualified discourse.

What the Left is trying to do with the trans issue, however, is place any conversation that differs from their orthodoxy — that anyone, including kids, are whatever gender they say they are — into this disqualified box.

Central to the Left’s premise here is that much like the list of taboo topics above, doubting that men can become women or that children should have surgery to change the appearance of their gender, can cause harm and offense. Let’s grant them this, harm is a bit dubious but certainly people do take offense to discourse like that of Libs of TikTok or the radical feminists known as TERFS.

Then the question becomes whether trans skepticism belongs in the box of disqualified discourse. For this, we need a test.

Allow me to propose one.

When confronted with discourse that risks causing harm or offense we should ask ourselves —  and by ‘we’ I mean not only gatekeepers like outlets and editors, but also everyone in their own social lives — whether there is a compelling societal interest in having the conversation. There is no compelling societal interest in discussing whether the Holocaust was real; it is simply historical fact. There is no compelling societal interest in discussing whether chattel slavery was a moral abomination or whether women can be responsible for their sexual assaults. Having failed this test, they all belong in the box of disqualified discourse.

When this test is applied to criticism of the trans movement, even in its most aggressive and angry forms, it clearly passes — there is a demonstrable and compelling societal interest. After all, we have to make decisions about women’s shelters and prisons, women’s sports and whether children should be making permanent life-altering choices about their gender with or without their parents’ consent.

The Left’s answer is that their so-called ‘experts’ should make these decisions for us, that we have no say in the matter, but the implications are so broad, so far reaching that this simply cannot be accepted.

Even the most extreme forms of discourse that pass the compelling societal interest test should be tolerated in media, entertainment, and platform moderation. That is because hyperbole is a legitimate form of political and social discourse.

The controversial term “groomer” which many on the Left think is a slur, only entered the popular parlance in response to progressives’ ludicrous claim that Gov. Ron DeSantis was passing a “Don’t Say Gay,” law in Florida schools. The purpose of that lie was to shock Americans into an instant opposition to the bill, the purpose of the term “groomer” was to shock right back, making as clear as possible the worst-case scenarios that the law could prevent.

Would we be better off if all sides used less hyperbole, less shock and awe, and more dispassionate distillation of facts? Maybe, but that isn’t how our current discourse works. Especially in the age of social media, the outrageous and angering have purchase but also purpose. It can draw attention to social ills and can spark a desire for action.

A society’s discourse needs guardrails. If these guardrails are too narrow the flow of ideas gets clogged up in a censorious traffic jam, but if the guardrails are too wide our discourse has no direction, no shared goals, and no protections for speech that really can lead to harm. The compelling societal interest test is not a perfect solution, it is on some level subjective, but we should be able to see that things like criticism of the trans movement, or Critical Race Theory, have a societal value that things like Holocaust denialism simply do not.

There will always be a box of disqualified discourse, it is up to us to decide what it does and does not contain.

David Marcus is a Brooklyn based columnist and author of “Charade: The Covid Lies That Crushed A Nation”.

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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