Dr Caplan:

This requires a response. You do yourself a disservice and myself by this posting.

You have noted, “I have left some incredibly nasty messages free of redeeming content up there so that people can see some examples of how virulent and mindless are some of those with whom both you and I have to deal”. Exactly. You have made my point. There is no need to delete these virulent messages, just as there was no need to delete the messages in the homophobia blog. In fact, as you say they are examples of what we need to deal with. That is precisely what I have been trying so hard to say and you haven't been listening. I have the impression you have been reacting to being questioned or criticized, rather than listening.

I did not ever suggest in any of my comments here that I am 100% opposed to censorship or 100% in favour of free speech under all circumstances. I did not suggest in any of my comments that I was opposed to anti-harassment legislation. I did not ever suggest that I was opposed to actions that can be taken to make places of work or education free from noxious attitudes, beliefs or commentary. I have never referred to the right of ‘free speech’ in any of my arguments because I don’t believe that anyone has an unlimited ‘right’ to free speech.

I do my best not to see issues as black or white.

These are all incorrect assumptions that you have made about me as a result of my objections and criticism regarding the deletion of the specific postings to your specific blog for the specific reasons I have outlined. I have argued that in these specific circumstances that deleting these specific comments to your blog was an over-reaction on your part, that there was no need to delete them and that it would have been useful, even beneficial, to have kept them and highlighted them for educational purposes.

In other different contexts and circumstances I have advocated even more vigorously for far more severe consequences than mere censorship of comments or writings such as these postings. I am personally very aware of the ravages that beliefs and writings of these kinds can reap in other circumstances. To suggest that I should “listen to people whose loved ones killed themselves because of being exposed to homophobic venom” is an unfair, astonishing, presumptuous, disrespectful and insensitive suggestion to make. Homophobia, heterosexism and pure unadulterated, unmitigated anti-gay hatred have not ever been theoretical, intellectual or academic abstractions in my life. You have no idea of the personal risks I and my friends have taken to combat these social evils. You have no idea how many people I have known and loved who have suffered and died as a result of various forms of “homophobic venom” including someone I loved who was refused AIDS treatment many years ago. You have no idea how many gay men and lesbians I have known personally who have been arrested or beaten. The young men being hung or tortured in Iraq or Uganda right now, today as I write, are my brothers. The women who are being raped or stoned to death are my sisters. The gay children who commit suicide because of anti-gay bullying are my children. You have no idea the restraint it takes for me not to react violently (verbally or otherwise) when I encounter the ugliness of heterosexist or homophobic venom. You have no idea how tempting it is for me to silence these people, lock them up and throw away the key, or to treat them as cruelly as they have treated the people I love – my people.

I try to be better than they are.

The fact that you and I likely desire the same socio-political goals on most issues, does not mean that I cannot disagree with you strongly on the methods used to achieve these goals. As ‘hateful’ as bigotry, discrimination and prejudice are, I don’t believe that we are entitled to use any and all equally or more ‘hateful’ methods to try to eliminate it.

I have never called you a tyrant. If I believed that was the case, I would have. This is the blogosphere that we’re talking about. It’s a PT blog for adults for goodness sake – mostly thinking intelligent adults. As a PT blogger you don’t have the ‘power’ or authority to be a tyrant in anyone’s life. Similarly the PT blogosphere is not a place where a reader are truly oppressed. Offended yes, but oppressed no.

What I have said is that tyrants of all stripes use censorship as a form of control and subjugation. That is just a historical fact which we must remember. I have said that censorship can be more evil and tyrannical than the evils of hate, discrimination, prejudice and bigotry. This is also true of torture, banishment, lobotomies, medical experimentation, imprisonment and so on, all of which have also been used by tyrants through the ages to impose what they think is right, and to prevent what they have perceived as dissent, heresy, obscenity, treason and so on.

I believe that as persons seeking freedom and liberation,that we must resist the temptation to use any of the weapons of tyrants to achieve that freedom and liberation or we run the very real risk of being tyrants ourselves. We must remind ourselves of the fact that censorship and torture etc are the weapons of tyrants. Whenever we as liberationists unnecessarily or over-eagerly resort self-righteously to the strategies of bullies or tyrants, the outcry from those opposed to our ‘political correctness’ is justified. Far too many people on our side of the political spectrum just do not seem to understand this.

You noted, “My hope is that you will use your considerable energy and intelligence from here on out against those who really are your enemies rather than on those whose approach to responding to hatred differs in only some respects from yours”. Although of far less importance and impact, I expect this is exactly the kind of rationalization provided by George W Bush about any of the allies of the USA who voiced any objections to his administration’s use of torture or Guantanamo prison as part of America's war to defend democracy and freedom from terrorism.

You are far better than this.