In his August 21 Chicago Tribune column Steve Rosenbloom calls into question the “character” of new Chicago Cubs player Daniel Murphy simply because Murphy has declared his disagreement with the homosexual lifestyle of former player Billy Bean. Rosenbloom never bothers to explain exactly why Murphy’s convictions should be considered problematic, much less why his character should be called into question. Apparently, Rosenbloom was content to use cheap innuendo, which of course is irresponsible and lazy journalism.
Since when did it become morally objectionable to disagree with a person’s lifestyle choices? And given the fact that historically orthodox devotees of all three Abrahamic religions—Jews, Christians, and Muslims—have the same conviction as Daniel Murphy, Rosenbloom is effectively
questioning the character of billions of people. And all without a single argument. That is closed-minded dogma.
Perhaps Rosenbloom would insist that it is irrational or wrong to oppose homosexual conduct because same-sex orientations are innate, based in, say, a genetic disposition. There are two major problems with such reasoning. First, there is no evidence, scientific or otherwise, for this claim. The notion that people are “born that way” is a cultural myth which has taken hold only because it so conveniently fits the LGBTQ narrative.
Secondly, even if it turns out to be the case that homosexual attractions are innate for some people, it does not follow from this that homosexual behavior is morally appropriate. Not all desires need to be acted upon. Human beings are free to resist particular sexual desires, regardless of how strong they might be. We are not automatons or animals. To say that a person must act according to their same-sex desires is to affirm hard determinism, which is a deeply problematic view, since it implies that all of us are slaves to our strong desires and not culpable if we act on them.
Or maybe Rosenbloom would say that Murphy’s belief is somehow dangerous or threatening to LGBTQ people. But if mere disagreement with a person’s lifestyle is dangerous or threatening and therefore grounds for moral censure, then shall we also impugn the character of those who disagree with other lifestyle choices, from pot-smoking to NRA membership? This is a slippery slope to an Orwellian world.
In short, however Rosenbloom might try to rationalize his assailing of Daniel Murphy’s character, it is indefensible. And he owes Mr. Murphy an apology.
It should be obvious to everyone that our culture has turned decidedly in the direction of a gay-affirming stance in recent years. But the mere popularity of a view does not show that it is true. To reason from popular opinion is a basic logical fallacy—a fallacy that much of our culture has sadly embraced. And the tacit assumption that consensual sexual behavior should be exempt from moral assessment is not only historically aberrant but ethically foolish. It is indicative of a culture whose idol of sexual license has become its most ascendant god. Every culture ultimately makes sacrifices to its gods, and American culture is no different. Evidently, we are now even prepared to offer up our freedom of thought.
Admittedly, I know nothing about this story. But I’m failing to see how Rosenbloom is questioning Murphy’s or Christians freedom of thought? He may be naively rejecting their views, but how is he questioning his freedom of thought?
Good question, Xan. By freedom of thought I am also intending the freedom to reasonably express one’s thoughts, beliefs, ideas, values, etc. Classic forms of suppression of such expressions, of course, include everything from censorship to book burning. But other more subtle forms of suppression include threats, job discrimination, and character assassination, and it is this latter form of suppression of thought/expression that Daniel Murphy has experienced. Calling his character into question, as Rosebloom does in his article, potentially damages Murphy’s reputation.
Ah, I see. Sadly, on this broader definition, I fear the suppression of freedom of thought is (and has been) a pervasive phenomenon. Perhaps just a new manifestation with Murphy.
(I think I’d also prefer the narrower definition and just call it character assassination. But such is a mere verbal dispute, of course. There’s also the complicated question of when it’s character assasination. Do I need to provide arguments when denouncing neo-Nazis? So long as I have the arguments, is that sufficient? So long as I have the truth, is that sufficient? I think there are interesting, and no doubt perennial, questions here. Good food for thought.)
Those are excellent questions, Xan. I wonder if there are any philosophical articles analyzing the concept of character assassination or slander–what it is, exactly, and what the necessary conditions are for justifiable personal moral critiques which avoid slander, perhaps even if a given accusation is untrue. Hmm.
Future work, then! I wonder whether intent plays an important factor. Suppose that X is new to the baseball team and is a racist. Y writes an editorial questioning X’s character, his athleticism notwithstanding. Y provides no arguments — aside from evidence of his racism via quotation — that racism is wrong. She simply assumes as much. Is this character assassination? I want to say, “Not enough information.” It may simply be a legitimate point — X’s character is seriously lamentable — although here Y offers no defense of the serious moral wrongs of racism. One needn’t engage in philosophical argumentation all the time. On the other hand, Y’s intent may merely be to cause harm, to ruin X, etc. The aim is less to criticize than it is to harm. In this case, perhaps we have character assassination (it’s the intent that functions as a pivotal necessary condition). There are complications here. Sometimes a joke is racist regardless of the intent, but I this strikes me as a move in the right direction. Needless to say, it would render claims of character assassination somewhat (although not impossibly) difficult to identify, for one would first need to identify the intent. I shall say no more on the subject. 🙂