Should Perry Have Kept His Mouth Shut?

December 11, 2011

Political Theory


Rick Perry’s recent campaign ad, which he calls “Stronger”, has caused quite a stir online. The ad is centered on making America stronger through upholding religious tradition and fighting back against “Obama’s war on religion”. In the video Perry says “you don’t have to be in the pew every Sunday to know there is something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas at school.” This comment has enraged both the LGBT and atheist communities, and offended Americans of all religions and sexual orientations.

In response the video there have been calls for protest as well as comic exploitation. Gay rights groups have circulated a petition to dislike the video on youtube, and so far it has received 440,000 dislikes. Several spoofs have been made with voice overcasts and jokes about how Perry’s jacket ironically looks like it is from the set of Brokeback Mountain. These spoofs certainly twist Perry’s words and make him seem like an idiot, but many are backed in anger and are trying to advocate beliefs that oppose Perry’s.

Should Perry have run a campaign video that was offensive to so many people? Whether or not it will help his campaign he certainly had the right to do so. We have discussed the ideas of Mill in class, and how he advocated for protection of freedom of expression. Mill said “the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of opinion is, that it is robbing the human race”. Mill felt that expressing ideas was a good thing because if the ideas were right society could progress, and if the ideas were wrong society could learn and move toward progression. Perry is expressing his ideas, and this is beneficial to our society, whether or not these ideas are held by the minority or the majority of voters, and whether or not they are right or wrong.

At the same time the petitions and spoofs in response to Perry’s campaign are within their rights to express their opinions. By sharing their ideas these responses are also benefitting society. These ideas may be right, and they may be wrong, but either way they are creating discussion, which will lead to evolution of some kind in the political social systems.

 I personally think it was a stupid move on Perry’s part to run a campaign ad with such harsh statements. It made him seem inconsiderate and small minded, even to people that share his beliefs. I don’t believe that Obama is pushing a “war on religion” simply because he is allowing gays to serve openly in the military. I also feel that the “liberal attacks on our religious heritage” that Perry says he will try to stop are not attacks, but rather liberal attempts to spread their beliefs, which is part of how the system works. Perry is clearly a conservative who wants to restore religious strength and tradition in the United states. He has every right to share his beliefs and strive for his goals, but I don’t think he should be doing it in such an offensive way.

What do you think of the ad? Was it part of a good conservative political campaign, or did it cross the line into being offensive? What about the responses? Were they justified replies, or stupid and immature jokes?

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9 Comments on “Should Perry Have Kept His Mouth Shut?”

  1. mpogoda3 Says:

    After reading your blog, I definitely agree with your view that Perry should have the right to freedom of expression, even if it was small-minded. While Perry, in my opinion, shot his campaign in the foot and will never be president after releasing this EXTREMELY stupid ad, he should definitely have the right to do. What is so important to remember while he does have these freedoms, ultimately other people have the right to express their disapproval, so it evens out. This is why the attacks on Perry have been just as justified as his campaign ad, because BOTH qualify as freedom of speech. While it is known that Republicans have to be very conservative in order to appeal to the whole political party, this will hurt Perry and rightfully so. He took a stand on issues that seem close minded and stupid in the 21st century, but ultimately, has the right to do so.

  2. elyssashea Says:

    I find situations like this to be very tough because while someone legally is allowed to make such statements, they run completely against my own personal standpoint and a standpoint of common sense. Technically, though Perry’s words seem rather offensive to everyone in the LGBT community, they did not specifically attack any singular person and offer a suggestion of harm– therefore John Stuart Mill’s Harm Principle would be rendered inapplicable. Overall, Perry does offer up some opinions that Mill might appreciate because they certainly broaden the spectrum of discussion in America, and put some pretty brazen thoughts in the “open forum” where we seek to discover the truth.

    On the other hand, I still find Perry’s statement to be “harmful” even if it doesn’t technically qualify under the Harm Principle. I think that any unjustified reference against a group in a derogatory way is pretty unacceptable– why did Perry have to associate the concept of Christmas at school and open LGBT people in the military.. it just seems unnecessarily rude. Additionally, I would think that Perry might alienate more people who might have voted for him by saying such extreme things. There are probably moderates out there that would find his terming of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars as “wars on religion” as a little far-fetched…

  3. masonbear Says:

    Before diving into Rick Perry’s “Strong” ad from a Millian perspective I want to examine it on a political strategy level. The bottom line is that there is not a majority of strong right-winged followers for Perry to put out a deeply conservative rooted ad and gain a majority support. By offending a great deal of Americans he undoubtedly lost support from citizens in the middle of the political spectrum. Presidential races are won by those that can appeal to the majority of voters and Perry’s ad fails to do so. Although it was not a smart political move Mill would enjoy the message as it sparked conversation from several groups. The following groups took interest in Rick Perry’s words: far right and left winged members, atheists and religious groups, military support and opposing groups, and the LGBT community and those that disagree with their lifestyle. In thirty seconds Perry mobilized a number of special interest groups in argument of the political correctness and legitimacy of his words. Personally, I believe the two ideas (gays in the military and religion in school) are incomparable. He might as well have said that there’s a problem when different socioeconomic levels pay a varying percentage of taxes, but abortion remains legal. His two underlying ideals: that gays should not be able to serve openly in the military and children should have the right to pray in school are a draw to a strongly conservative population remain unconnected and turn off moderate voters.

  4. lukeythekid Says:

    Perry’s controversial campaign ad is definitely a bold angle…he and his campaign managers obviously must have known that there would be a backlash against this sort of remark, and at some point he decided that it would be worth it. His thought process probably revolved around the notion that the people who were most likely to get offended are the sort that would vote against him anyway, yet would solidify his votes in the area of evangelical Americans.
    Perry needed to do something that would separate him from the rest of the candidates, and “any press is good press.” In a republican race which has involved candidates quoting Pokemon, holding debates sponsored by Donald Trump, he needed his own way to stand out from the rest of the circus. His juggling act just came in the form of religion.
    Obviously the campaign ad sounded ridiculous to sane, level-headed people who could not believe their ears when they heard it, yet the same ad generated a lot of interest in Perry and may end up working to his advantage after all.

  5. mcdonmeg Says:

    I think Perry had every right to make this video, even though it will probably severely hurt his campaign. Just like the people protesting against the the video have the right of freedom of expression, so did Perry have the right to make the video in the first place. I think that this video caused such an uproar, because Perry was blunt and not politically correct, which you often expect candidates to be during campaigning. I think he should of been mindful of over groups of people when conveying his message. I also can understand your point on how he slammed the homosexuals when trying to get his point across that therefore made him appear small minded. Although in the political world his video made him appear small minded, I can understand the message he was trying to convey. The mindset regarding the LGBT community and celebrating Christmas at school’s are all correlated with the difference in moralities and religions between citizens. If the LGBT community are given rights, then so should people with other morals or religious backgrounds. However, this topic causes such an up roar because this is a generation of LGBT rights and anyone having a different opinion that is blunt is just going to be labeled small minded. Either way though, both sides have the right to express their opinions and feel negatively about the other people’s statements.

  6. mrau188 Says:

    I thought the ad was pretty messed up but it wasn’t really meant to be when he put the commercial out on television as part as his ad for presidential campaign. He was mainly just saying that people should not be made fun of by their beliefs in schools and believes that people have the right to celebrate themselves in a way that they want to and should not be affected by the other people that are around them. I think it crossed the line when it comes to campaigning, even though i believe that Rick Perry didn’t mean for the commercial to be as offensive as it ended up being, it is just kind of sad that all of this has happened. I wish that they would have put this out in front of a test audience before they put it out there for the whole world to see and they would have realized all of this backlash before it would have happened in a public forum. The responses were somewhat serious but they were not presented how they should have been presented. They should be in a complete and full argument against him instead of just hate going straight to Rick Perry. I do however think that the campaign add is really messed up but i think that it is also out there to be interpreted differently by different people and people should be mature as to how they respond to the question.

  7. mjgeis Says:

    If I’m responding directly to the title of this post, from a strategic standpoint it appears that Perry would have done himself a favor by keeping his mouth shut. I believe there is great value in what he said, considering the response it generated. This opinion worked exactly as Mill said it would: Rick Perry spreads around his bigotry, and that video gains more “dislikes” on YouTube than “Friday”. His ridiculous (or we could just go ahead and say wrong) opinions have brought out the best in people and have brought droves of people to the defense of the LGBT community. I am glad that Perry expressed these opinions because the response to them has restored a little bit of my faith in humanity.

  8. djavolio8 Says:

    Frankly, I’m not sure if the ad is really going to be that detrimental to his campaign. First off everyone who watches any news station knows that Rick Perry is one of the worst public speakers in politics since President Bush. He is almost expected to say something dumb everyone he speaks on the spot, and it is in that regard that I think this actually had little to no effect on his campaign. Additionally, while some think he made horrible comments, I don’t see it that way. All Rick Perry did was vocalize his beliefs, you don’t have to agree with those beliefs, but you can’t give the guy a hard time for sticking to his convictions. He is against Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and he is upset with the way that the celebration of religious holidays has been cracked down on in public institutions. If people don’t agree with him that’s perfectly fine, in fact, that’s the beauty of it. Come voting time pass over his name and choose a candidate that you respect more if that’s your decision.

    As to the effectiveness of campaign such as the “dislike” button campaign, I think it’s fair to conclude that that ultimately backfired. Perry’s ad on Youtube is now up to almost 5 million views yet only around 600,000 people have disliked the video. Yes that’s a lot of dislikes, but I think the campaign may have done a better job of making the public want to view his ad than want to hit the dislike button. The LGBT rights group helped Perry’s ad reach a wider audience better than it did make undecided voters turn against him. All that aside though, as a politician the main goal is to avoid public controversy and that is exactly where Perry finds himself, so in that regard, Perry has definitely seen better days.

  9. cobyj17 Says:

    I agree that this speech should be allowed, and that it is actually beneficial to society. I completely disagree with the view points expressed in this advertisement, and from my perspective, I find it beneficial that Perry has made his viewpoint clear.
    As you mention, free expression can be helpful for the progression of mankind. This is especially true in politics. The American people have the responsibility to select the next leader based on his or her ability and ideology. Without a full grasp on what each candidate believes in, the American people will be less able to select the candidate they agree with the most. Therefore, Perry should not have held back his beliefs so as not to offend anyone. If he does view the issues these ways, he has an obligation to make it known to the American people, instead of hiding his true beliefs, getting elected, and then acting on these beliefs.

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