I often think about a certain scene near the end of Robert Bolt’s “A Man For All Seasons.” Thomas More is on trial for treason (a phony charge stemming from More’s refusal to acknowledge the king as the Supreme Head of the Church), and he has just been delivered the fatal legal blow due to testimony from a former friend. His one-time confidant Richard Rich claims that he heard More making treasonous statements — a false allegation that seals More’s fate and sends him to the gallows.
As Rich is leaving the courtroom, More notices a medallion hanging around his neck. More is informed by the prosecutor that Rich’s medallion signifies an appointment to the position of Welsh attorney general. More, in horror, declares: “For Wales? Why Richard, it profit a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world … but for Wales!”
More could not believe that Rich would give up his soul and betray a friend for such a paltry payout. He is wrong to forfeit his integrity for any reward at all, but it is all the more pathetic and indefensible that he did it just for the sake of being made a bureaucrat in Wales.
There are many people in our culture who are giving up their own integrity and dignity for even less impressive perks than that. The cowards of our day will renounce almost any belief, no matter how deeply held, just to avoid mean comments on Twitter. But the compromise never actually pans out. At least Richard Rich was given the post he was promised. These days, those who forsake truth and dignity in the hope that people will be nice to them on the internet always discover, inevitably, that people still won’t be nice to them on the internet. They sacrifice their soul for an “atta boy,” and then nobody even says “atta boy.” They are left empty-handed without a reward, and without the dignity they sacrificed for its sake.
This is the harsh reality Mario Lopez has discovered this week. Lopez caved almost immediately after suffering blowback for making the objectively correct claim that three-year-olds shouldn’t be allowed to choose their own gender. He did specify three-year-olds, we should emphasize. It isn’t like he claimed that transgenderism is, in principle, a self-contradicting pseudo-science (which it is); rather, he asserted that toddlers probably aren’t in a good position to make these sorts of determinations about themselves. His statement was not only true, but was exceedingly modest, to boot. It was not an anti-transgenderism rant, despite how the media portrayed it. It was a polite and highly qualified observation about the psychological limitations of very young children.
As we have seen, though, any departure from radical left-wing talking points — however slight and cautious — will be met with outrage. Lopez was subjected to misleading headlines and angry tweets from the woke mob for about 12 hours before he fell to his knees and begged forgiveness. He renounced his belief in biology and his opposition to child abuse in one fell swoop, all in the hopes of quelling the mob and securing his status as a c-list celebrity. But it didn’t work. It never does. The outraged think pieces kept pouring in. The woke mob kept up its attacks. And now comes word that executives at NBC might fire him from his job on “Access Hollywood.” All of this, even though he apologized, and even though his original comment was as self-evident, innocuous, and inoffensive a comment as can possibly be.
If we are not motivated to stick by our convictions just out of a basic passion for truth and dignity, maybe we should be convinced on more utilitarian grounds. We might as well stick by them because abandoning them won’t save us anyway. If the mob comes for you because of a truth you have spoken, there really is nothing to do but hold the line. If you raise the white flag, they will smile and listen to your groveling apology — and then they’ll proceed to gut you anyway. You will never be forgiven for the offense you caused them. They will never forget. The minute you utter an unutterable truth, you are an enemy. Nothing will change that. You might as well embrace it, take the lumps, and keep your dignity.
I am tempted to say to Mario Lopez: “It profit a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world … but for Access Hollywood?” But he doesn’t even get “Access Hollywood.” He doesn’t get anything out of the bargain at all. Cowards never do, these days. So, why not have a little courage? You literally have nothing to lose anyway.