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April 10, 2018

The Five Lies Used to Deny Free Speech

Good piece by David Marcus.

Here's #1:

1. Free Speech Only Involves the Government

This is a curious and strange argument that relies on the notion that only the state is capable of censorship or violating principles of free speech. It is also a bipartisan delusion. Whether it is the Left trying to get conservative writers fired, or the Right trying to silence NFL athletes through boycotts, we hear the same defense. Private companies can do what they want; they aren't constrained by the First Amendment.

Okay, but so what? Are we so damaged by viewpoints we disagree with that we wish to ban them from our hearing? If, as I imagine most Americans believe, there is real value to hearing and protecting speech we disagree with, why would we want private institutions to engage in censorious behavior any more than we would the state to?

Are private institutions free to create policies that curb free expression? Sure. Should they? Not if they are institutions dedicated to free and open debate, such as universities or newspapers. This is not to say that there may be no limits, but that the limits must be fairly applied, even if the state is powerless to enforce such fairness.

This is the stupidest argument I've ever heard. There is no Constitutional guarantee that we treat each other with kindness: And yet few would doubt that there is a social benefit to treating people with kindness, that cruelty should be discouraged, and that we should generally praise kind acts.

The argument that "Free Speech is only about the government" is like claiming that only the government has an interest in promoting kindness and no citizen has a personal duty to act kindly, chide those who act unkindly, or argue on behalf of kindness.

It's true that your First Amendment rights under the Constitution have not been abridged if some thugs pressure your employee to fire you because they didn't like your FaceBook post calling Obama an idiot.

But that doesn't mean that you haven't had your general social right to free speech stamped upon, and it doesn't mean that something important hasn't been lost.

And it doesn't mean that other citizens shouldn't band together to declare that such a punishment campaign is wrong, or even band together to declare they will collectively punish the punishers.

The government has no right to compel me to treat my neighbor kindly, but if American citizens wish to create the social ethic that kindness is the proper default mode of behavior, they should -- and society will be the better for it.

And likewise, if citizens wish to stand up and say that letting people say what they want without coordinated mass campaigns to get them fired or bulled by mobs, they should -- and society will be the better for it.

The First Amendment doesn't require me to respect your right to free speech -- given that I'm not an agent of the government.

But nor does the First Amendment require me to treat you like a worthy peer.

And yet, it's the right thing to do, and we should say so, without the persnickety speech-punishers and scolds all shrieking "But it's only an issue of free speech if the government is involved!"

Um, no it's not. Letting another human being speak his or her beliefs without the threat of external punishment is a part of civility and respect, and a basic precondition of a peaceful society.

Without it, we'll be at war with each other. As we soon will be if we continue down this path much longer.

Speech should be met with speech;

argument should be met with argument;

coercion should -- or rather, may -- be met with counter-coercion;

and violence should -- or at least, may -- be met with violence.

When we begin mixing up the appropriate responses to each "trigger," we are creating a license for people to meet speech with coercion, and even violence.

And that's when the center stops holding.

Below, Mark Zuckerberg tries to define "hate speech."

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posted by Ace of Spades at 06:43 PM

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