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Conservatism Daniel McCarthy Guns Liberty Politics US Politics

On guns and porn, morally elevated citizens should tell the busybodies to buzz off

March 30, 2018

12:27 PM

30 March 2018

12:27 PM

Will foreign pornographers be the last defenders of the Bill of Rights? America is going through one of its periodic seizures of moral grandstanding, with gun owners and supporters of the Second Amendment now deemed so unclean that one may not even have commerce with them. Under pressure from Twitter mobs and activist bullies, companies ranging from Delta Airlines to Google and Walmart have curtailed their firearms-related activities. Delta has scrapped a seldom-used discount for NRA members. Google has banned instructional firearms videos from YouTube. And Walmart has decided that while citizens between the ages of 18 and 20 might fight and die in far-off lands while serving in the armed forces, neither veteran nor civilian will be permitted to buy a gun at America’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer before turning 21.

Walmart doesn’t just want to keep guns out of the hands of certain segment of law-abiding adults. It also wants to make sure no one can get offended by sex – and so Cosmopolitan, the raciest of women’s magazines, will no longer appear in the retail giant’s checkout aisles. Good corporate citizen that it is, Walmart proves just as responsive to a group once known as ‘Morality in Media’ as it is to the gun-control lobby. Nannyism is a safe course for big business because it gives busybodies on both sides of the political spectrum what they crave – a chance to feel important by pretending to be other people’s saviours.

Strange bedfellows result from all this. Where are the makers of videos about how to modify firearms to go when Google bans them from YouTube? The creators of InRangeTV, one of the channels adversely affected by Google’s changes, have announced they will start hosting gun-related instructional videos on PornHub, the largest pornographic website on the Internet. The site was founded by a Canadian and developed to the point of market dominance by Fabian Thylmann, a German entrepreneur. Whether the expressions of Second Amendment rights that the left considers illegitimate really will combine with some of the expression of First Amendment rights that the right consider illegitimate remains to be seen. Certainly there is an alternative to letting pornographers become the last redoubt of unpopular constitutional liberties, and that alternative is for more morally elevated citizens to step into the breach themselves and tell the busybodies to buzz off.

Unfortunately, that is not the direction in which society is going. Boycotts and other private forms of economic sanctions are all the rage right now, and while such things may notionally be free-market activities, their point is very much to deprive opponents of a voice in debate and even of their livelihoods. Advertisers swiftly abandoned Laura Ingraham’s radio show after David Hogg, a student who survived the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and has since become an anti-gun activist, urged his followers on Twitter and elsewhere to contact Ingraham’s sponsors, in retaliation of her mocking of his grades and university prospects. Ingraham was wrong to go after Hogg for his academic record, and she apologised. But Hogg did not accept her contrition, and the moral extortionists whose attentions he focused on Ingraham might not have stopped even if Hogg had been forgiving. Social media mobs are like piranhas, and America’s major corporations might as well be cow carcasses.

There is a critical difference between simply avoiding a company’s products when you find its sponsorship choices distasteful and setting out to use corporate America’s cowardice as a weapon to cut out your political enemies’ tongues. Arguments, even bad ones, are usually best met by other arguments, not by tearing down the speaker’s platform. That’s the ideal, anyway. The cold reality is that the only guarantee of freedom is a dispersal of power, which means there is a benefit to freedom even in having some power in the ‘wrong’ hands – be that, depending on your point of view, the hands of conservatives or pornographers or gun owners.


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