Don't Close the American Mind

There is nothing 'open-minded' about using government to punish disfavored views.


Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. What comes to mind if you think about the word open?

It's probably a nice vision, right? A sweeping vista. The patio of a restaurant in Santa Barbara at sunset. A river that turns a final corner before pouring into the sea.

The vibes are no less congenial when applying the word more metaphorically. "Open your heart to me," Madonna promised, and "I'll give you love, if you turn the key." This contrast between openness and a prison-like alternative is a recurring motif. In The Open Society and Its Enemies, the Austrian philosopher of science Karl Popper posited that the free and vigorous exchange of ideas was the antithesis to, and antidote for, authoritarianism and totalitarianism.

One of the great complimentary adjectives in the postwar American lexicon has been open-minded. Like its kissing cousin free-thinker, this hyphenated exuberant suggests a dash of unpredictable sophistication, an attractive eagerness to try, accept, or at least tolerate unorthodox modes of behavior, conversation, and being.

Free thought is necessary to improve or surpass flawed but dominant ideas; open minds are needed to embrace the results. In 1776, monarchies outnumbered constitutional republics by several score to one (tiny San Marino), but that didn't stop the founding generation from willing an exemplar into existence. Ending the military draft and deregulating airlines (or "opening up" the skies) were libertarian pipe dreams in the 1960s and the law of the land by 1975. From Jesus to Galileo, Henry Miller to Bill James, prophets and pioneers are often greeted like heretics. It takes an open society, or at least an open subculture or two within it, to let their once-radical visions compete in the marketplace of ideas.

Gay people and gay rights activists should be among the first to recognize the critical link between open-mindedness and ending discrimination. It's difficult to fathom in this historic year of 2015, when the Supreme Court may be on the verge of legalizing gay marriage nationwide, but gay rights advocates were almost hopelessly outnumbered in living memory. For decades, just about the only glimmer of hope came not from courtrooms but in the arena of public debate.

As Jonathan Rauch wrote in the December 2013 reason, "Gay Americans were forbidden to work for the government; forbidden to obtain security clearances; forbidden to serve in the military. They were arrested for making love, even in their own homes; beaten and killed on the streets; entrapped and arrested by the police for sport; fired from their jobs. They were joked about, demeaned, and bullied as a matter of course; forced to live by a code of secrecy and lies, on pain of opprobrium and unemployment; witch-hunted by anti-Communists, Christians, and any politician or preacher who needed a scapegoat; condemned as evil by moralists and as sick by scientists; portrayed as sinister and simpering by Hollywood; perhaps worst of all, rejected and condemned, at the most vulnerable time of life, by their own parents."

In 1973, homosexuality was still classified as a mental illness in the industry-defining Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Fourteen states had laws criminalizing sodomy as recently as 2003. Though reason was editorializing in favor of gay marriage as early as 1974, Gallup didn't even poll Americans' attitudes about the subject until 1996, when it found that only 27 percent thought the government should recognize same-sex unions as such. Now that number has doubled, to 55 percent.

What changed? One key element was familiarity—gay people came out of closets, acknowledged their sexual preferences to friends and family, adopted kids, started showing up in popular entertainment, and eventually entered civil unions and even marriages. But just as vital were a plethora of open antagonists ready to engage in—and eventually lose—the public debate.

"Society benefits from the toleration of hate speech, and so do targeted minorities," Rauch reasoned. "History shows that, over time and probably today more than ever, the more open the intellectual environment, the better minorities will do. It is just about that simple."

But as the longtime minority view tips into what is looking like a permanent majority (young people in particular are far more accepting of gay marriage than their grandparents), that essential wisdom is in danger of being forgotten. Too many activists are now emboldened by their newfound political power to compel obedience and hound heretics rather than continue their incredibly successful long-term efforts at persuasion.

In February 2013, the Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery in Gresham, Oregon, owned by Melissa and Aaron Klein, declined to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, citing their religious objections to the ceremony. (In one of the case's many ironies, the state of Oregon would not officially recognize gay marriages until May 2014.) The newlyweds, despite suffering from no shortage of lesbian-tolerant bakeries in the greater Portland area, brought a complaint to Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries, which in turn charged the bakery with violating the state's ban on anti-gay discrimination in places that serve the public. Suggested fine: $150,000. (An administrative law judge was finalizing the dollar amount of the penalty at press time. The Kleins have since closed their storefront.)

Driving the Kleins into bankruptcy seems an odd tactic for changing their minds. Unless the goal is no longer about opening hearts, but rather enforcing new social norms by making examples out of nonconformers.

That's the ugly but inescapable conclusion from an episode in March, when online activists hounded a small-town Indiana restaurant called Memories Pizza into closure for a week—not even for discriminating against any customers, but because its owners told an inquiring reporter that in the 100 percent hypothetical situation of being asked to cater a gay wedding, the pizzeria would decline.

"The vast majority of people in this country are not going to stand by and watch that kind of activity unfold," the pizzeria owners' state senator, Jim Arnold (Democrat), told ABC 57 News. "If that's their stand I hope they enjoy eating their pizza because I don't think anyone else is going to." It is frightening to contemplate that any elected official-let alone one discussing his own constituents-would classify a disfavorable response to a reporter as the kind of "activity" a decent society can no longer tolerate.

This issue of reason is all about the concept of openness: the benefits of open trade and immigration ("Globalization Is Good for You!," page 30), the challenges of government transparency ("Big Data, Big Business, and Big Government," page 18; "When Open Government Slams Shut," page 24; "Cameras in the Court," page 70), and private end-runs around unresponsive bureaucracy ("Hacking Marriage," page 36; "Free the Seeds!," page 72). Much of the tension described in these pieces understandably focuses on the push-pull between citizen and state.

But openness is also a condition of mind and a habit of discourse. Abandoning it in the face of victory will create as yet unimagined self-inflicted defeats. If we want to keep "open-minded" as a compliment, we need to make sure we don't replace one set of intolerant laws with another. And we had better nurture a culture that appreciates the opportunity to debate, rather than driving disfavored opinion into the closet.

"In democracies, minorities do not get fair, enforceable legal protections until after majorities have come around to supporting them," Rauch concluded in 2013. "For politically weak minorities, the best and often only way to effect wholesale change in the world of politics is by effecting change in the world of ideas. Our position as beneficiaries of the open society requires us to serve as guardians of it. Playing that role, not seeking government protections or hauling our adversaries before star chambers, is the greater source of our dignity."

NEXT: Lego Store Detains 11-Year-Old Boy for Shopping Without Dad

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  1. Soros would approve. Good piece, Matt.

    Free thought is necessary to improve or surpass flawed but dominant ideas; open minds are needed to embrace the results.

    1. Fuck off shithead.

    2. your just an idiotic schmuck arent you? An economically illiterate schmuck

      1. Yes he is Murray. But he makes up for it by being delusional and border line psychotic.

        1. But he’s a neutral, politically unaligned classical liberal. You know how much people like that pimp George Soros!

        2. Puts me in mind of the Heinrich Heine quotation:

          Ordinarily he was insane, but he had lucid moments when he was merely stupid.

          Not the first time I’ve dragged that one out in reference to shreeek though.

          1. Thank you for this, PM.

          2. It was like the guy had seen forward in time and read Shreek’s posts or something.

    3. I wonder who approves of it more, Soros or the brothers actually helping foot the bill.

    4. Soros? The man who helps fund Media Matters and the SPLC?

      1. Soros knows what not having freedom is like, though. Not as well as the Jews he pointed the Nazis toward when he was a child, but he remembers that none of them returned from their trip to the “showers”.

        1. I don’t think Soros pointed out any jews to anyone. They had census records to do that.

          My memory is merely that he scavenged their discarded property. It’s a stupid thing to get pissed about, despite his statement that it was the happiest time of his life; he was a fucking kid.

          1. “Scavenged” and “Discarded”? Those are odd words to use when he stole the property of the people that were marched to death camps by the people he lived with.

              1. I’m tired of that bullshit argument. If the kids of Calumet, Colorado can resist an entire Russo-Cuban division while being an inspiration to Free America, then Soros could have at least sat idly by his godfather sent people off to be gassed to death. He didn’t have to steal the property left behind.

              2. Matt spent three years living in Budapest? When was that?

                1. When he was Hungary?

          2. Soros said he betrayed his own people in his own book.
            So much for Progressive Revisionist History.

    5. Being open-minded is a good thing, but being so open-minded you brains fall out, is not.
      Western countries have become so “open-minded” they have no standards of behavior, no standards of ethics, no tolerance of differing opinions (i.e. pushing a PC agenda on those who disagree with you), no personal responsibility, almost total dependance on government…
      Our enemies see this as weakness, I can’t disagree.

  2. Too many activists are now emboldened by their newfound political power to compel obedience and hound heretics rather than continue their incredibly successful long-term efforts at persuasion.

    Never happened before.

    were forbidden to work for the government; forbidden to obtain security clearances; forbidden to serve in the military

    That’s a bad thing?

    1. It makes it difficult to change things from the inside.

  3. Unless the goal is no longer about opening hearts, but rather enforcing new social norms by making examples out of nonconformers.

    I realized that that was the plan the moment the supporters of SSM said they were treating it as a civil right.

  4. What comes to mind if you think about the word open?


    1. Sesame.

  5. “The Open Society and Its Enemies”

    Great books. Highly recommend.

  6. Holy heck. Being open by listening to and/or considering the opinions of others is the first step to losing the argument. What good is having the ability to muster an outrage mob if you don’t use it at the first sign of dissenting views?

    1. You laugh, but that’s exactly what a lot of progressives think.

      At first blush this seems like a great idea to the passionate person ? they’re sure to win all the arguments if they follow the books recipe! But the book’s recipe is not a recipe for winning arguments, but rather a recipe for preventing the reader from losing arguments ? from being convinced by the person they are arguing with. How? By preventing them from actually being able to consider the opponents’ arguments by removing the opponents’ language from the reader’s brain

      1. Nice little piece, thanks for that tarran.

  7. This is why the “libertarian moment” is a mirage – because large numbers of people, particularly young people, think that outrage mobs are perfectly acceptable means of enforcing social and cultural correctness.

    1. I’m fine with that. I’m just not fine with it being codified.

      People should remain free to vote with their feet. They just shouldn’t be able to prevent me from sidestepping their outrage so I can get my Chik-Fil-A on or buy a Christmas ornament from Hobby Lobby.

      1. But preventing you from doing that is their ultimate goal, because otherwise how will they hound Chik-Fil-A out of business? Since you’re not on the team to destroy CFA, you too must be an enemy of the people and likewise be destroyed.

        1. God, I want a Chik-Fil-A so bad right now.

          Protip: their waffle fries are best when salted and dipped in their Buffalo Sauce.

          1. I like to mix the buffalo sauce into the ketchup for fry dipping.

            Waffle fries are so superior to regular fries.

            1. *nodding vigorously*

            2. more surface area

        2. “…because otherwise how will they hound Chik-Fil-A out of business?”

          Well a hashtag, of course…duh!


    Speaking of closing the American mind, this woman seems to have no record on the internet beyond writing really appalling pieces at Thought Catalog about the need to restrict speech. She claims to be a “human rights activist” but no one I have seen seems to be able to figure out who she is or who is writing behind the pseudonym of Tanya Cohen.

    What say you Reasonites, is she trolling doing performance art to make the left look bad or is she a legitimate fascist? I honestly can’t tell.

    1. I posted that in the morning links, and Irish made the observation that this person has published a slew of identical articles, concluding that she’s likely just a troll. Made sense to me.

      1. The articles are very well written for a troll act. As horrible as they are, they contain some cogent arguments about how even western countries don’t recognize free speech and how the various human rights conventions if read literally demand that speech be restricted. The detail and the lack of your typical emotional appeal makes me think it isn’t a trolling act.

        Then again, most people on the left are so stupid and emotional, they are likely incapable of making their own case that well. So, maybe it is someone trolling.

        1. She’s on Kos as well. I think she’s a bona fide imbecile.

        2. Oh, I’m sure she actually believes in censoring speech, but she’s writing the most outrageous articles possible, over and over, to get attention. To me, that counts as trolling.

    2. I think she’s probably the real thing. If she was trolling, she would have accidentally included the rabid anti-Semitism that exists in those enlightened shitholes like Paris. No, she conspicuously adds in Maher as a “right-winger” and brings up Islamophobia while ignoring that anti-Semitism is more rampant throughout the world. That kind of oversight can only be legit since its fashionable on the left to be an anti-Semite right now…kinda like it was for the left 80 years ago throughout Europe.

      1. She’s not trolling. She wrote a response piece to one of her articles saying how she doesn’t understand how Americans could oppose “hate speech” laws and how unenlightened we all are.

        Because you know, we should all follow the advice of “human rights activists”, whatever the fuck that made up title is supposed to mean.

    3. Best comment on the article: “The future doesn’t belong to those who slander the 1st Amendment”

    4. A few of their writers are kinda cute.

      A couple are not cute at all.

      1. Ari Eastman and Brianna Weist would do quite nicely thank you.

        1. definitely Ari Eastman. Very nice.

          Judging by the company she keeps, however, probably a repugnant person in real life.



        Why Calling Someone a “Douchebag” is Hate Speech

        Maybe you should read a book sometime and shut your fucking privileged mouth, and then you’d realize that a little book called THE U.S. FUCKING CONSTITUTION makes no mention of the word “douchebag.” Look it up! Just as the Founding Fathers couldn’t have anticipated that you’d be able to buy baby-killing machine guns at Walmart, they had no idea that in the 21st century, people would be maligning cisgendered males by calling them “douchebags.” I’m also pretty sure that none of the Founding Mothers ever called any of the Founding Fathers a “douchebag,” either. This is a simple FACT. Deal with it. Period. Case closed. End of discussion. End of story. It’s even the end of the discussion you have after reading the fucking story.

        What the Constitution does protect, however, is the right of everyone, no matter how absurdly sensitive or mentally unstable or generally annoying, to have their feelings protected as if everyone was a baby bird shivering in a cold nest on a frosty winter’s morn. It grants the US government the right to seize someone’s person and property and throw them in jail for life if they make someone cry. Again?read the fucking Constitution, you stupid lowlife pieces of shit who deserve to die.”

        1. Well THAT certainly wasn’t hateful.

  9. So two companies were caught in the testing of antidiscrimination waters–I don’t think all gays should have to answer for that any more than all Christians should have to answer for the systematic oppression of gays you tally here. I guarantee you many of the open-minded folks here actually think the baker and pizza maker are the bigger victims in this narrative.

    Unless the goal is no longer about opening hearts, but rather enforcing new social norms by making examples out of nonconformers.

    Neither is the goal. The goal is to protect gay people’s right to engage in the commerce of their communities just as already applies to racial and religious groups, the sexes, and the disabled. People are still free to believe whatever dumb, hateful shit they want. Just don’t tell me that a Christian being uncomfortable for five minutes is a greater oppression than a gay person being told “we don’t serve your kind.” If there must be a conflict of social norms, then the bigoted Christians should lose.

    1. You clearly understand the principle at issue here and are just being deliberately obtuse. It’s tedious.

      1. The principle that the state should use its muscle to kick minorities out of establishments owned by bigots rather than protecting the right of minorities to equal access to commerce?

        1. The state should use its muscle to remove any person from the private property of another person that refuses to leave when asked to. They should also RESIST using their force to make another person work against their will for another person.

          The opposite position is a repudiation of private property rights and acceptance of slavery.

          1. Slavery is forced labor for no pay. Don’t exaggerate, it makes your argument look like that of an idiot.

            So just don’t say you’re for less government force. You simply choose to employ that force to kick black people out of the restaurants of racists and gay people out of the cake shops of homophobes. That’s fine, it’s consistent. What it isn’t is less government force.

            1. Slavery is forced labor for no pay.

              If only they’d stop at that. They actually charge you for the privilege of being enslaved now. $150k is the starting price. Ironically, a bankruptcy takes about as much time to fall off your credit report as a typical indentured servitude contract used to last.

            2. Slavery is forced labor for no pay.

              Oh, well in that case, I’ll put a gun to your head and force you to mow my lawn with a pair of scissors. I’ll give you a dollar when you’re done.

              So just don’t say you’re for less government force.

              I’m support legitimate uses of government force, which I believe protecting the private property rights of people falls under.

              You simply choose to employ that force to kick black people out of the restaurants of racists and gay people out of the cake shops of homophobes.

              I choose to employ that force to remove ANY person from the property of ANY OTHER PERSON if they refuse to leave. Sometimes that means a racist or a bigot will have the state protect their private property rights.

              It’s called being principled, asshole. You know, kinda like “hate speech is free speech”.

              What it isn’t is less government force.

              When government force is reserved for only legitimate uses, there will be considerably less government force.

              1. I’m support legitimate uses of government force

                I doubt Tony can even comprehend that idea, being that he feels that all uses of force by government are legitimate because, well, it’s government.

              2. You must know that this argument is circular. It’s OK to use government force for this purpose because that’s a legitimate use of government force!

                1. Defending an individual’s liberty and his rightfully-obtained property from an overt aggression by another is most certainly a legitimate use of force. I can think of no exception to this.

            3. Slavery is forced labor for no pay

              So slavery never existed in the South, since slaves were provided food, shelter, and clothing. In fact, slavery has never existed anywhere by your definition.

              1. Tony thinks that only those forms of compensation blessed by the great clergy of gov’t are legitimate.

                If you fixed my broken window and I gave you a chicken, well that’s slavery in Tony’s eyes I guess.

                Slavery by its proper definition is forcing someone to do labor that they don’t want to do. If he admits that then he admits he is pro-slavery by his own arguments.

        2. equal access to commerce?

          Oh, so you want to abolish Obamacare provisions that forbid insurance companies from selling across state lines? Because they limit equal access to commerce…and I’d reckon women and minorities are hardest hit.

          1. What provisions would those be? Do you have the slightest fucking clue what you’re talking about?

            1. Is my access to commerce not being limited when people in an adjacent state have policies available to them that I do not? Why is my access to that transaction limited arbitrarily by the federal government?

            2. What provisions would those be?

              Probably these ones

              The most important differences between the PPACA compact provisions and earlier interstate sales provisions are that the PPACA requires all states to comply with a minimum level of insurance regulation, and cross state sales would not be permitted in a state unless that state affirmatively joined a compact with one or more other states.

              1. Which has always been the case, minus the minimum requirements. This didn’t come about because of the PPACA.

                1. The PPACA, being the law of the land, is what I’m addressing. If you want to discuss historical comprehensive health care bills, please feel free to bring one up…

                  …as soon as you pull it clean out of your asshole.

        3. At least be consistent with your own premise – trespass /= provision of services

        4. ‘Neither is the goal. The goal is to protect gay people’s right to engage in the commerce of their communities…’

          Even if it means destroying lives. Collateral damage for the cause.

          ‘The principle that the state should use its muscle to kick minorities out of establishments owned by bigots rather than protecting the right of minorities to equal access to commerce?’

          You’re not only a naked authoritarian…

          You’re evil too.

      2. You clearly understand the principle at issue here and are just being deliberately obtuse.

        No, I don’t think he does. That’s because Tony doesn’t think. He feels. His brain only engages to reverse engineer some justification for his fragile emotions. You cannot reason someone out of a position they arrived at by emotion. It simply cannot be done.

        1. He’s floating around here so much that I would have to think he’s picked up the general ideological framework.

          The purpose of his posts like this is to try to highlight some pragmatic point about how voluntarism doesn’t result in unicorn farts 100% of the time as some people are meanies. I think he (it?) understands the principle but naively thinks that picking and choosing actions to comply with the oppressed-group-of-the-month requirements will be a better alternative. That of course misses the reality that public opinion and group think (which is all that this sjw-Facebook-john stewart “right thinking” is) historically results in terrible outcomes when not restrained by a respect for individual rights.

          1. The only principle Tony understands is might makes right. Since government is might, that means it’s always right.

            1. That would really be an unfulfilling and confusing way to live – never knowing how to feel about an issue until you learn about the personal lives of the the parties involved.

              I think I can relate – back as a youngin when I thought I was a conservative – not having a principled framework was very unsatisfying and arbitrary

              1. It does have the advantage of never having to be logical or consistent.

                1. It’s also an easier way to live – give your decision making capabilities to others and follow it blindly removes the requirement for actual critical thought or ever having to question ones beliefs ever again.

                  By listening to Top Men for a lot of people – is much safer and easier to agree with whatever the “right” people say they should think than to actually go through the process of critical thought.

                  It’s also much easier in that by actually researching, analyzing, and deciding for yourself what your opinions are necessitates defending those positions.

                  So much easier to say, “it’s common sense and obvious that ________, everyone knows this and already agrees” then reply to any detailed inquiries with “I don’t really follow that closely” or something else to prevent ever actually having to defend any opinion.

                  Leaves more time for Kardashian (sp?) watching.

                  Of course it’s intellectually weak and as somene else one said, an unexamined life is not worth living.

                  But in today’s society conflict aversion, fear of being ostracized, fear to question authority, and other traits learned through societal pressures have turned many people from being innately curious humans into nothing more than useful idiots.

    2. I guarantee you many of the open-minded folks here actually think the baker and pizza maker are the bigger victims in this narrative.

      The bigger victim? They’re the only victim.

      1. How can you say that!? The pizza people said they’d *hypothetically* not serve a gay wedding ceremony.

        Do you know how hard it is for hypothetical gay weddings to get pizzas? Its like problematic in so many dimensions i don’t even. Pizza is a *right*


          I would vote for that in a jiffy.

    3. There is no right to other people’s property. The property owner pays their taxes just the same as the potential customer, so one can not hold that over the other’s head.

      Where the separation comes in is, who owns the property in the store? The business owner of course. The building and the items in it belong to the owner. So no, you cannot just waltz up to someone and say hey I wanna buy that and you must sell it to me or else.

      I don’t understand why you support people behaving like wild animals and refusing to leave private property when asked.

      People should be able to deny service to anyone for any reason.

  10. No shout out to Allan Bloom… tie-in to the fact he was closeted gay, himself?

    I am disappoint

  11. The one thing that comes to mind is the quote:

    “An open mind is like a fortress with its gates unbarred and unguarded”

  12. A Madonna quote, Matt?


    1. He really pushed that one right over the borderline.

      1. This whole piece is like a holiday from the rabid anti-free minds crap that’s become the norm in the mainstream press.

        1. I just thank my lucky stars that Matt doesn’t preach all the time



            1. I was told by a xian-scientist with a bad case of the flu to keep an open mind. You just have to make sure it’s not open enough for your brain to fall out.

      2. And into the groove.

  13. I love when I’m told from hacks, dumbasses, charlatans and naturopaths to keep an ‘open-mind’.

    Try these shark cartilage vitamins! But they won’t work if you don’t keep an open-mind!

    /goes back to reading book on the Montreal Expos.

    1. That was a great team that got screwed by the strike year.

      First game I ever saw was in the big O

      1. You from Montreal?

        Yeh, 1994 was brutal. What a team they had going.

        1. No – but was up there with family as a kid. In Vancouver now.

          Long suffering Rockies fan actually. What a grind this year’s gonna be.

          1. From ’77 to ’94 at the Big O were memorable years for the Expos.

            Those players left quite an impression on the city. Carter, Raines, Dawson, Cromartie, Wallach, Guerrero, Martinez, Brooks, Scott, Grissom, Wetteland, Valentine, Sanderson, Rogers, Perez, Parrish, Wallace Johnson, Smyth, Galarraga, Speier etc., etc.

            And of course, Youppi. Whatever the fuck that thing is.

            They’d regularly visit my old high school. My sister loved them even though she isn’t into sports. You can’t go too far without someone not looking back fondly on them.

            So much so that the Habs honor them with a banner and even had a ceremony for Carter before a game.

            1. They were ‘Nos Amours’ loved by both solitudes.

  14. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ??????

    1. “Math is hard” — Talking Barbie

  15. My mom makes $70 every hour on the computer . She has been fired from work for 9 months but last month her pay was $18079 just working on the computer for a few hours.
    See here. ?? ?????????

  16. I’ve met a lot of liberals, and many of them are friends, but I’ve never met one who was genuinely open-minded. Among the ideologues, it would be considered a detriment given that the basic point of modern liberalism is to impose their agenda on everyone else. What Orwell intended as a warming, they see as a guide.

  17. Actually it’s a violation of that part of the 1st Amendment barring religious establishment.

  18. Free thought is necessary to improve one’s mind.if you open your mind ,you’ll find a new world and more benefits.

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