John Derbyshire was informed recently that his writings would no longer be carried by National Review because he had written a column for Taki's Magazine which the hierarchy of NR considered "racist."
It seems to be the case that any time someone points out racial differences, real or perceived, that don't reflect favorably on the subject in question or coincide with current orthodoxy, he is accused of racism. Several years ago Samuel Francis was fired from the Washington Times for being, as Joseph Sobran said, "a little too frank" in what was billed as "a frank discussion on race."
Free speech seems to be okay as long as you don't say anything that offends the wrong groups. It's perfectly all right to disparage rednecks, Fundamentalists of any variety, Catholics, men (especially the white version) and it's usually acceptable to act as though all Germans were Nazis and all Southerners were Klansmen or Klan sympathizers.
What is strange about this is that the person being assailed as a - fill in the blank - doesn't have to advocate anything. All he has to do is point out something unmentionable about the offended group to earn the pejorative label.
Comment sections online are filled with comments by people who think that they have refuted an argument by calling somebody a racist or a "libtard" or some variation on the "tard" suffix. I'm beginning to think that comments like that should just be deleted in order to force the person commenting to formulate a real argument. This is the equivalent of a third grader telling somebody, "you're fat" or "your mother has buck teeth."
It's not just comment sections where this is the mode of argument, it's found in articles too, but not as frequently. There is a never-ending battle between the pro and anti-Lincoln forces over whether he was a racist. The tyrant's detractors will point out statements he made regarding his belief that blacks should not be able to serve on juries or intermarry with whites and so on. His defenders claim that he didn't really believe these things, he just had to say things like that to get elected. What both sides ignore is that his views were almost universally held at the time and were no more racist or open-minded than anybody else's. Regardless of his views on race, Lincoln was a horrible person and a tyrannical president.
The Romans had a saying, "chalk is the pen of fools, walls their paper" that could be applied to the electronic version of chalk. There is probably much more foolish talk than reasoned argument on most comment forums.
If an article appears contending that women should not be in the military, there probably will be far more people denouncing the author as "sexist" than people presenting a counter argument as to why women should be in the military. The debate becomes about the attitude of the author rather than the accuracy of his argument.
There's also what somebody once called the argumentum ad Hitlerum, which is defined as a contention that a position is discredited by virtue of the fact that Hitler might have held a similar view. It works something like this: you think that trains should operate on a precise time schedule, Hitler also thought this, therefore you are like Hitler and your position is ipso facto invalid.
It's common to see news articles (written for adults) that refer to the "N" word - the word having been expunged from the lexicon. Maybe it would be a good thing if equal diligence were exercised in expunging the aforementioned epithets. If you have to call somebody an anti-Semite or homophobe, you probably ought to refrain from commenting until you can come up with a coherent argument. Things have only gotten worse since Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, "I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America."