Sun | May 27, 2018

Daniel Thwaites | Going crazy over bans

Published:Sunday | February 4, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Since I will argue that Pastor Steven Anderson should not have been banned, it's worth acknowledging that there are some very persuasive reasons disallowing him, primary among which is that we already have enough troglodytic maniacs without importing them. Do we need anyone giving our countrymen additional reasons to kill each other?

But it is a mistake for Jamaica to ban the controversial parson. We should not join Canada, the United Kingdom, and whoever else, in this backward bulls**ttery and kowtowing to political correctness - even if that ban comports with my thinking.

In a free society, we have to grow accustomed to repeating the old saw: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." What happened to that?

Steven Anderson, a fire-and-brimstone preacher from the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Temple, Arizona, was on his way to the island, along with his 14-year-old son, to do missionary work. They arrived in Atlanta intending to catch a flight to Kingston, but was informed that he was barred.

The Gleaner pursued this strange and upsetting story and reported:

"The only statement out of the Ministry of National Security yesterday, when questioned by The Gleaner, was: 'The decision was made to deny him entry by the chief immigration officer because the pastor's statements are not conducive to the current climate.'"

 

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

 

"Not conducive to the current climate"? What does that mean? "Not conducive": unwelcome thoughts and ideas? An unpopular point of view? "The current climate": what climate is that? We ought to know who exactly took that decision, and there ought to be accountability for it.

When Walter Rodney wanted to come into Jamaica in 1968, it was determined by the authorities, I suppose, that it was "not conducive to the current climate".

The devil is in the detail. Does this pastor encourage people to hurt gay people, or does he merely hurt their feelings and upset them by advising that being gay, according to his religious thinking, is sinful? If it's the former, an arrest when he makes some such statement or incites violence would be a perfect response. And a few weeks in jail with Kid Ralph's successors might encourage him to think hard on some sharp points.

But if it's the latter, and he is espousing views held for generations, why should he be disallowed?

I'm well aware that drawing an analogy and making reference to Rodney, a darling case and cause of the 'progressives', will likely outrage or confuse many. But are the cases so different? Rodney was thought to be inciting violence and antisocial attitudes and behaviour, and an influential and powerful minority felt they would be under threat if he was allowed to speak his mind.

Similarly, the ban will serve to further publicise this man's views and give him the pleasure of being persecuted by the Jamaican State. That's hardly the way to handle this.

Which is not to say that I imagine a humourless and stern moraliser would fail to gather some audience. We have very many home-grown ones just like him, and they have their following. But with both the local and imported variety of this poisonous fruit, the best antidote to the toxicity is to argue against him, to show why he is wrong, and to make fun of him.

Meanwhile, it is sad, but not surprising, to see 'progressive'-thinking Jamaicans celebrate the ban. The progressives, secularists, and supposed free thinkers, are nowadays as severe and censorious as a bearded, musty, intransigent 19th-century vicar. It's part of an unmistakable trend, where a new ideology is being forcibly implanted with implacable rigour.

 

'Progressivism'

 

And that's another problem. 'Progressivism' is growing ever and ever more illiberal and dictatorial. It is a trend that is evident in the United States, where on college campuses and in the media, there are elaborate codes of how language can be used and what counts as proper ways of talking. There are, if not strictly illegal, at least punishable thoughts and expressions. It is done in the name of tolerance and diversity" and decency - all fine things, but being used to silence and marginalise those with opposing views.

Quite rightly, this trend has been dubbed the 'regressive left', although they think of themselves as the 'progressive left'. Typically, group identity based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or some other classifying ring fence is set out as the primary identity that anyone who shares that characteristic must adhere to, and worship, as a golden calf.

Those identities are then placed in a pecking order of victimhood, and it hardly needs saying that victimhood is among the highest of virtues.

Of course this isn't progressive at all; it is soft totalitarianism. And it should be resisted. We must retain the right to be rude, crude, outrageous. And we must retain the right to listen to pastors like Anderson, however silly stupid and retrograde their sentiments.

What's next? Will we outlaw the priests, rabbis, and imams of the world's great monotheisms, all of whom hold that it is sinful and impure to practise a gay lifestyle? Or will we dispute with them, be open to the real diversity of opinion, and try to change hearts and minds in the old-fashioned way?

Freedom of religion - the ability to believe whatever the hell you want - is the very cornerstone of the liberal order. Freedom of speech - the ability to say what you want - is precious. Why are we screwing with that?

- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.