We don’t have free speech laws in order to protect popular speech. A protester carrying a placard saying “Everything is OK” isn’t fearful for his safety, either from government goons or from physical attacks from political adversaries. Free speech laws exist in order to protect unpopular speech. In the same manner courage isn’t necessary if you don’t stick your neck out with a controversial or “edgy” opinion. Courage is necessary however, if you decide to stand up for something that goes against the powers that be. The people that are openly criticizing Islam are courageous. Many live with a permanent physical threat against their wellbeing hanging over them. Many of the characters at the core of the Muhammed Cartoon Crisis are good examples of such people. They need full-time police protection and many of them have been subject to attacks.
Many people say that it is cowardly to hide your true political opinions from others in order to protect yourself from social repercussions. To a certain extent they are correct in saying this. In the past, the penalty for being a dissident were severe. Opposing the king in the Middle Ages usually didn’t go very well for you. What does “penalty” mean in today’s world? Much of it centers around the economic realm. If you become known as a believer in some deviating political philosophy, your peers might force you/pressure you out of a job. We shouldn’t scoff at the threat of losing one’s livelihood. Although it is far more preferable than losing one’s head, it is still a significant punishment for deviance.
You might also become a social outcast, losing friends, family, neighbours and acquaintances. Humans are social animals, so this does have a psychological impact. That being said, if no one dares to speak up change becomes impossible. A few courageous souls daring to take the brunt of the backlash are essential to getting a movement off the ground. The Alt-Right, Alt-Lite, Ethno-Nationalism and even something as benign as libertarianism (in a social-democracy conformity hell) can risk incurring the wrath of your peers. There are numerous ways of fighting without being out of the “closet”. Financial donations to those who are, to institutions with desirable values, writing blogposts, publishing books, spreading the message on social media and other ways are also components of the larger machinery of change.
My main point today is that people “in” the closet are also valuable soldiers in the struggle for political change. Speaking for myself, if I only had the option to fight if I were public and open about my beliefs, I would remain dormant in the closet. I wouldn’t be on the battlefield. I think that I’m doing a lot of good from where I’m right now. I donate money to political causes I agree with, especially media/advocacy related people. I support authors through my many book purchases and I spread the message myself on this blog.
Whether the threat of social sanction is real or not, I believe that we shouldn’t scoff at all those that are supporting the wider struggle. Doing something is infinitely preferable to doing nothing. I once heard the statistic that for every fighter pilot there are about 25 ground staff. For every public media personality on our side, there are butt loads of people working tirelessly behind the scenes. That being said, I also believe that those with the courage to step into the limelight while revealing who they really are deserve special commendation. Their courage is to be rewarded, their portion of the glory upon us achieving victory should be commensurate with their courage. I wish them the best of luck.