This week’s WGAY submission covers the op/ed piece by Lane Hudson, “Free Speech Or Discrimination?”
Although I consider the 1st amendment to be essential, I do not consider free speech an absolute right that trumps all others. Whether the WMATA ads are sufficiently offensive to deserve attention is part of the confusion.
Suppose a group of masters and slaves from our friends in the BDSM community decided that, to further the private mutual enjoyment of their alternative sexualities they want the Government to provide formal recognition to masters and their slaves of their relationship of indentured servitude. A campaign is launched and part of the outreach effort is a bus ad.
The ad I have in mind says “Let DC vote for slavery” and is accompanied by a graphic of a cracking whip and a rusty iron chain. Maybe a nice slave collar too. With spikes. Symbols of the genuine love between a master and a slave. Maybe a little BDSM flag logo in one corner. And the Black Rose URL in small print at the bottom (br.org in case you want to hook up).
I think if such an ad went up we would see a real level of outrage in the District. And not because of the BDSM element. I do not believe WMATA could not find some reason not to run the ad, even it it came down to not wanting their buses to be abused by an angry public.
At the same time, slavery (at least in modern BDSM circles) is not at all the same type of commercial exploitative relationship that existed in the American past. In the 20th century, masters like the late Jack McGeorge (see Wikipedia & Google if you didn’t know Jack) have successfully led a redefinition of the concept as an ethical eroticism for those who seek the experience without undesired and unnecessary exploitation and brutality. Making slavery legal would add a whole new dimension, though…
You may recall that, a couple of years ago, Mid-Atlantic Leather used “Bound in Brotherhood” as the slogan for one of their midwinter celebrations. That’s the spirit, even if “slave/master” is one of the more socially extreme expressions, especially when chosen as a permanent lifestyle.
I do not pretend to know who is right on this issue. I have my opinion that free speech is not an absolute right, but recognize that it is always difficult to decide, if it is not absolute, who is qualified to impose boundaries. Ultimately, deciding what speech is free is a community decision. Standards will evolve over time as public comprehension of secondary issues grows. Sometimes it is necessary to lead the public to a deeper understanding of the negative societal effects of the more subtle forms of hate speech. And that has become the focus of popular outrage against the WMATA marriage-vote ads.
Full Equality Now DC is supporting an open forum for presentation of viewpoints and discussion this evening at 7PM at MCC DC, 474 Ridge St. NW (corner of 5th, 2 blocks from Mt. Vernon Sq. Metro and a short walk from the Eagle).
Try it, you’ll like it!
The problem isn’t the Metro accepting the ads, it’s that the ads are misleading. There will not be a vote on the rights of anyone in the city because the city charter forbids such a referendum.
We need to put up an ad that explains that. The right to marry has been established by legislative decision and approved by the mayor. It is no more subject to the will of the people than reestablishing segregation would be subject to the will of the people.