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Port: Moral bullying of Chappelle's show in Minnesota

People who truly value "diverse voices" and "artistic expression" would allow Dave Chappelle's show to go on. Those who object to what the comedian says should be told that they need not buy a ticket, because "diverse voices" doesn't mean "all the voices except the ones I disagree with."

Dave Chappelle will perform in Fargo on June 23. Special to The Forum
Dave Chappelle
Special to The Forum
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MINOT, N.D. — It is fashionable, for our modern censors and prudes, to append to their calls to silence speech and expression they find objectionable an apologia of sorts extolling their support for the exact opposite of what they're trying to accomplish.

They're all for free speech, they say. They support artists and unfettered expression, they say.

And then they add a "but."

So it went with First Avenue, a famed venue in Minneapolis that caved to a moral bullying campaign on social media and canceled a scheduled performance by comedian Dave Chappelle, who has drawn the ire of the LGBTQ community for what they allege is "transphobic" content in his performances.

"We believe in diverse voices and the freedom of artistic expression," First Avenue's announcement of the news, posted on Instagram, read.

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And then came the "but."

"[B]ut in honoring that, we lost sight of the impact this would have," they continued, as if the latter clause wasn't in complete conflict with the former.

The pedants will argue that Chappelle isn't being censored. His performance will go on, albeit at the Varsity Theater in Dinkytown , a venue that apparently really does "believe in diverse voices and the freedom of artistic expression."

Apologists for this sort of puritanism will argue the First Amendment only protects us from government restrictions on speech.

They're right, of course. A private venue caving to the demands of a howling mob of latter day Savonarolas and inhibiting, if not outright stopping, the artistic expression of someone like Mr. Chappelle is perfectly constitutional.

But.

That doesn't make it right. The First Amendment isn't just a law. It's a philosophy. One we're obliged to live up to if we want to live in a free society.

People who truly value "diverse voices" and "artistic expression" would allow Chappelle's show to go on. Those who object to what the comedian says should be told that they need not buy a ticket, because "diverse voices" doesn't mean "all the voices except the ones I disagree with."

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There's a double standard at play here, too. If we were talking about a performer who mocked and provoked another group of people, like Mormons or the pro-life movement, the show would have gone on, and it wouldn't have mattered how many Latter-day Saints or Right to Life activists spoke up.

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And that would be how it should be.

I will acknowledge that there is an upper limit to this sort of thing. If a venue like First Avenue were refusing to play host to a Nazi rally, or a Holocaust denier, I think most of us would say "good for them" and move on with our day.

But Chappelle isn't in that category. At least, no reasonable person thinks he is.

What we're left with is yet another example of progressive, "woke" activists flexing their cultural muscles, showing they are capable of diminishing the speech of even A-list performers like Chappelle, all without spending a lot of time considering whether or not they should.

It's a frustrating spectacle to behold.

I'm sympathetic to the LGBTQ movement, and when we're talking about things like housing discrimination, or employment discrimination, or harassment, I'm on their side. But those odious situations aren't the same as a performer saying something provocative on stage.

I wish more people who align themselves with the LGBTQ cause could tell the difference.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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