ABC has suspended Whoopi Goldberg for two weeks as a result of her unfortunate claim that the Holocaust was not about race, but rather about “man’s inhumanity to man.” The basis for Goldberg’s statement was that both the Nazis and the Jews they exterminated were White. As she put it:
This is white people doing it to white people, so y’all going to fight amongst yourselves.
Goldberg’s take on the Holocaust was stupid, but so what? Someone said something stupid about something important on a television talk show? Knock me over with a feather.
ABC News described Goldberg’s comments as “hurtful.” Let’s put aside the question of whether anyone can genuinely be hurt by anything Whoppi Goldberg says, and deal with the real question here: Should hurtful expressions of opinions about political or historical matters be grounds for punishment?
I’m not asking about invective directed at particular groups like Jews and Blacks. I’m asking about expressions of opinions.
I can imagine opinions that might warrant the suspension, or worse, of a TV host. Denying that the Holocaust occurred, for example.
But an opinion about whether the Holocaust was about race (it certainly was in the minds of those who carried it out) or “merely” a case of man’s inhumanity to man seems like very weak grounds for suspension.
Yes, this opinion will be “hurtful” to some, though not many, I hope. But those of us who abhor the cancel culture should agree that hurtful speech isn’t good grounds for punishing the speaker.
A hurtfulness standard — if one can even call it a standard — is an invitation to sharply curb free speech, and eventually, perhaps, to crush it. No one with a decent regard for free expression should be happy about ABC’s decision to suspend Goldberg.