EGI Notes

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Free Speech Primer

Against speech restrictions.

Long time readers know that I am very interested in issues of free speech, and strongly oppose “speech laws” such as exist in Europe, and particularly abhor the hypocrisy of the high priests of democracy pontificating about “freedom” as they restrict the most basic freedoms to support regimes of totalitarian multiculturalism and multiracialism.  I recently read where Jews are pushing for yet MORE speech restriction in Europe, which is remarkable, since free speech there is already outlawed and I’m not quite sure what more can be done, unless they want to make it illegal for a European to refuse to grovel in the dirt when a Jew walks by. Regardless, I want to summarize some arguments against speech restriction; I see this as important, and I hope that champions of free expression, particularly in Europe, read this and utilize whatever arguments here that they find useful.

General statement of principle: You cannot criminalize dissident opinions and call that tolerance; you cannot restrict the right to expression and call that freedom. It’s very easy to make clichéd statements such as “there can be no tolerance for intolerance,” but who is it who decides what “intolerance” is?  Those in power can very easily eliminate their opposition by labeling opposing viewpoints as “intolerance” and “hate;” thus, legitimate expressions of sociopolitical opinion and of genuine interest become outlawed.  That is not democratic, it is not tolerant, and it is not freedom, it is a blueprint for totalitarianism. In a fully functioning democracy, you cannot draw a line around topics that constitute some of the most crucial issues that face a nation (e.g., the future demographic and cultural makeup of that nation) and declare that certain viewpoints on these fundamental issues are beyond the pale.  You cannot expect members of the national community to accept the legitimacy of decisions about these issues when those members have been excluded from the discussion. Any decisions made without open debate and consideration of the full spectrum of viewpoints are completely illegitimate from the standpoint of any honestly democratic state. And this goes beyond politics; one cannot have open and honest scholarship when it is actually illegal to question details about particular historical events.  This is madness, it is a turn to the dark ages; it is a total and complete disgrace, it is the modern equivalent of burning witches and heretics at the stake.

Some specific issues:

The “fire” argument. An over-used argument is that restriction on speech has always existed, and the analogy of “you can’t yell fire in a crowded movie theater” is usually invoked.  I agree that is morally objectionable to maliciously yell “fire” when you know that such a fire does not exist. However, it is even more morally objectionable to NOT yell fire when there is evidence that a fire really exists, when you see the flames and smell the smoke. Most objectionable of all would be laws that prevent people from warning others about the existence of fires, laws that prefer to see the innocent burn rather than have them properly warned.  Given that there are legitimate reasons (whether you agree or not) for people to view immigration, multiracialism, diversity, etc. as dire threats to the native population, equivalent to a “fire,” it is therefore morally objectionable to prevent these people from bringing these threats to the attention of their fellow citizens.

The “fighting words” argument.  We are told that “fighting words,” speech that could incite violence, have always been prohibited; thus, the analogy is made to whatever opinions those in power want to suppress.  Besides the danger of having those in power having the authority to outlaw speech that threatens their own power and authority, there are three basic problems with the “fighting words” argument. First, who decides?  What should be the definition of “fighting words?”  After all, what one person believes is a mild and rational statement could be viewed by someone else as outrageous and justification for violence.  In Europe today, adherents of a particular non-European religion have been killing cartoonists because they view satire against their beliefs as “fighting words.”  Yet, most Europeans, including those on the Left, find nothing objectionable about the satire. Who’s right?  Who’s wrong?  Why?  Truth be told, virtually any statement could be found objectionable and offensive by someone; therefore the “fighting words” argument potentially holds any opinion, any comment, any belief hostage to the objections of anyone in the community. Second, we have hypocrisy.  It is mysterious indeed that the System seems to only find Rightist memes to be “fighting words, and never those of the Left.  Indeed, when the Left heaps the most vile abuse on the West and its traditions, that is simply “protected free expression,” but when the Right defends those traditions, then those are “fighting words.”  Thus, the problem of hypocrisy and that of definition go hand-in-hand. Third, there is the problem of self-contradiction.  Indeed, there are many who would label the very idea of speech restriction itself as “fighting words.”  Therefore, support for speech restriction should itself be….restricted?

Then we have the mindless chants of “racism is not an opinion, it is a crime.”  Very well.  Can we extend that theme to other memes?  Anti-religiousness is not an opinion, it is a crime. Support for abortion is not an opinion, it is a crime. Criticism of Europe and the West is not an opinion, it is a crime.  Marxism is not an opinion, it is a crime. Mass immigration is not a policy, it is a crime. Homosexuality is not a lifestyle, it is a crime.  Oh dear, it seems like we do have a problem now, don’t we?

Getting back to “racism” – racism is at its most basic simply freedom of association writ large. It is a perfectly normal human reaction to racial differences. Criminalizing racism is criminalizing human nature.  It is the equivalent of the government telling you who you should have as friends, who you should marry, this is the most overt totalitarianism, it is outright madness for any state claiming to represent “democracy.”  This is thought control at its most Orwellian.

Legitimacy: getting back to a theme noted in the general statement of principle: decisions made in the name of the people have legitimacy only so far as that the people – ALL of them – are allowed to express their opinions on the subject, freely debate it, and be allowed to protest what they object to about that subject.  If the multiculturalists want “bigots” to accept the verdict of elections that impose multiracialism, then those “bigots” must be allowed to freely contest that election, speak their minds, and have their opinion included in the mix.  Individuals disenfranchised from the process will not accept the legitimacy of the outcome of the process.  Given the growing support for the “far-Right” in Europe, the numbers of people so disenfranchised will become an increasingly large fraction of the population, making democracy untenable.  You end up with ludicrous scenarios such as a political party in Greece being the third largest political force, while its leadership languishes in jail for expressing the same opinions that are winning them votes. We have the bizarre scenario throughout Europe of popular political parties being banned, and the mainstream right and left joining forces to exclude from power nationalists who are supported by a sizable fraction of the nation’s population.

And this goes beyond politics. Why is the Left so afraid of having their ideas debated?  Why are they afraid of a free marketplace of ideas?  If they are confident they are right, and the Right is wrong, why are they so intent on making sure the Right is muzzled and far-Right ideas never see the light of day?  The basic ideas and memes of a society, as well as the products of academic scholarship, have merit and legitimacy only to the extent that they are freely discussed, debated, refuted or defended, and proofed for logical rigor and consistency with known facts.  Speech restrictions dispense with the Western idea of free thought and bring us to the dark ages of rigid dogma.  Intellectuals today sneer at the “close-mindedness of the past” - Socrates and the hemlock, the martyrdom of Bruno, the persecution of Galileo, and the Salem witch trials, but they behave exactly the same.  They are unable to see that they have become in the present that which they mock from the past.

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