Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Metaphors, Skittles, and Free Speech

Earlier today on MSNBC, conservative radio host and Trump supporter Hugh Hewitt championed "metaphor" in his response to the criticism Donald Trump, Jr. (the candidate's son) has received for his comparison of US immigration policy regarding children to ingesting a handful of Skittles candy, some of which may be poisoned.

We don't want to live in a society, Hewitt nobly proclaimed, in which politically-correct thought police ban use of metaphors.

Now that's something which I, and I would bet any rational person, would strongly support.  A world without metaphor would be dull and dismal and limited indeed - because, as Marshall McLuhan liked to say, punning on the poet Robert Browning, one's reach must exceed one's grasp, or what's a metaphor?

But Hewitt's proclamation is incomplete, to the point of being disingenuous.  For surely Hewitt would agree that we must be free to criticize and denounce metaphors, when we find them dehumanizing. Surely Hewitt is not saying that sons of Presidential candidates, or anyone for that matter, should be able to tweet whatever they want in some kind of zone that protects them from scathing criticism?

As repulsive as so much of the Trump campaign has been, I would never advocate or even imply that he and his ilk should be silenced.   I agree with Louis Brandeis that "the remedy to be applied [to falsehoods and fallacies] is more speech, not enforced silence".  Surely that applies to demeaning metaphors.

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