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Your Silence: Their Secret Weapon

October 15th, 2012

By Stella Morabito, a Washington DC-based writer who focuses on issues of society, culture and education. In her past work as an intelligence analyst, she specialized in Russian and Soviet politics, ideology, and media. She testified against the Maryland legislation to redefine marriage and has written several op-eds on the marriage issue for the Washington Examiner. She has a master’s degree in Russian history from the University of Southern California.

Think for a minute about the silencer on a gun.  What is its purpose?

While a silencer doesn’t do the actual killing, it is a tool by which its user can escape undetected and make more hits.

And herein lies an analogy to the debate about redefining marriage. 

Arguments in favor of redefinition – “equality,” “stability,” etc. — cannot withstand prolonged scrutiny.  They absolutely require suppression of dissent before the agenda can be consolidated through judicial fiat or legislation.

In fact, the spin supporting genderless marriage is likely fueled far more by the by the silencing of opposition than it is by the noise of Hollywood and the mainstream media in favor.  When we muffle our own voices – out of fear evoked by political correctness — we aid and abet the opposition as it ambushes the public with distortions.

Too many go about daily life hesitant to express our views out of fear of social punishment or “making waves.”   And yet it is these daily life experiences – chats with neighbors or co-workers or classmates – that are the real bedrock of public opinion.

We too often forget that outlets like talk radio or valiant organizations like the Ruth Institute cannot do all of the heavy lifting in defending marriage.  And it’s easy to assume that our own reticence to engage on difficult topics doesn’t really matter and has no major impact.

Think again.  This is exactly where the opposition wants you:  silent at every opportunity to engage a potentially like-minded individual; fearful you will lose a friend, instead of possibly gaining an ally, if you speak up; oblivious that silence makes it ever harder for other individuals – and organizations — to defend marriage.

The good news is that you don’t need talking points to upset the apple cart of the opposition.  You need only to self-identify.  When you simply state to that neighbor who likes and trusts you: “Marriage can only be between a man and a woman,” you have opened the door to emboldening others, and starting a ripple effect in public opinion.

We must never forget that it is our daily life decisions as individuals — to speak up or remain silent — that have the most impact on the future of marriage.

You wield enormous power by yourself. And that goes double – no, ten times – for anyone who defies any hint of the media-manufactured stereotype of a marriage defender (e.g., artists, professors, vegetarians).  If practiced regularly, the simple exercise of free expression can open floodgates.  It is exponentially more effective than activists who go door to door.

All of the powerful outlets pushing for the redefinition – media, Hollywood, etc. – cannot win the day on their own.  Far more important for them is that you shut up, lest someone who likes and trusts you begins to question the media mantras in support of genderless marriage.

Like all implausible ideas, genderless marriage relies upon creating a bandwagon or “cascade effect” in public opinion in order to appear plausible.

Let’s take a clinical look at the mechanics of political correctness to better understand how this happens.  One place to start is a 1995 book by Timur Kuran,  Private Truths, Public Lies:  The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification.  Kuran defines preference falsification as “the act of misrepresenting one’s wants under perceived social pressures.”  He argues persuasively that falsification of our core beliefs in everyday life is effectively “the regulation of others’ perceptions,” which in turn has a powerful ripple effect on both the shape of public opinion and the political process.

Obama’s former czar of regulation, Cass Sunstein, has shown enormous interest in the role of interpersonal dynamics in shaping public opinion.  He even co-authored a 1999 Stanford Law Review article with Kuran on the related theory of the “availability cascade,” which they define as:  “A self-reinforcing process of collective belief formation whereby an expressed perception triggers reactions that make that perception seem increasingly plausible through its rising availability in public discourse.”

Indeed, far more often it’s perceptions rather than arguments that are being exchanged and multiplied.

Proponents of genderless marriage managed to first tweak public opinion in large part through pushing a small cascade of individuals willing to “come out” to friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and others.  By identifying themselves to those they met in day to day life they helped make the gay agenda and genderless marriage more available and seemingly more plausible in public discourse. This process did not depend on arguments, but on emotion, as well as smearing marriage defenders as bigots.  Others were emboldened to follow suit, with the media and Hollywood serving as facilitators.

Defenders of marriage need a campaign – reinforced and multiplied by outlets such as talk radio –  that embolden all of us to speak up in everyday life.

Only through such awareness can we terminate our silence as a tool of the opposition.  By supporting one another to breach the barricades of political correctness, we can ignite a cascade of truth that takes on a life of its own.

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