Free Speech on Defense

It has been over 10 months since like my last post. I thought that 2018 was going to be the year that I ramped up my blog, and early on I intended to start a video blog or YouTube channel. This was due largely in part to the insanity I was witnessing in the world around me in real life and online with regards to politics, society, and culture. You can tell how that turned out. Here I am less than a week from Christmas and aside from this, I have written just a single post this year, a review of Black Panther. Hardly the outcome I wanted, but the outcome I deserve. So why now am I jumping back into the fray after such a long sabbatical?

Insanity has reached a boiling point in my book, a book that may eventually get censored, or banned, or burned! The boiling point that has been reached is that even in the westernized, modernized, freedom loving United Stated of America, free speech is officially playing defense.

I never thought that I would need to defend freedom of speech. For all my life this was the golden value that connected everyone even if they vehemently disagreed on the things the other was freely speaking – that noble gesture that I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to death your right to say. That wasn’t a republican or conservative value, it wasn’t a democrat or liberal value, it was just an American value. Pearl clutchers from all sides have occasionally sprung up like weeds to try to censor this or that, but the overwhelming majority of Americans would be quick to mow right over that weed in defense of free speech.

LinkedIn (a service I am not particularly fond of) sent me an email today in which the subject line read “As an active contributor on LinkedIn, we want to hear what Big Ideas will define 2019” and while I normally send these types of things straight to the trash, I actually opened it up, out of curiosity. 2018 was a weird fucking year, what does 2019 hold in store? The list is quite long but if you skip to # 43 – We will ask ourselves hard questions about what free speech means – you’ll see what set me off.

Glenn Kelman, the CEO of Redfin, a real estate website that I use hourly, had this to say:

“This isn’t about the death of free speech on college campuses, which sometimes can’t find a hall to host a political provocateur on short notice. It’s about a deeper and more deeply fraught idea that has already been embraced by Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, that European-style censorship may be necessary. Maybe there are ideas so obnoxious, like the belief that the parents of students slain in a mass shooting are part of an anti-gun conspiracy, that we shouldn’t let them be amplified endlessly on the Internet.”

Fraught means a situation destined to result in something undesirable. This very succinctly sums up the ideas embraced by the aforementioned web presences of Twitter, YouTube (and parent company Alphabet), Facebook, and more. I wish that the list ended there, but it doesn’t. Apple, Amazon, PayPal, Patreon, and even Visa and banking institutions have jumped on board the censorship and deplatforming bandwagon. No, Mr. Kelman, there are not ideas so obnoxious that we should censor people.

For decades people have been allowed to claim the Jewish Holocaust didn’t happen, or the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Young Turks, or that 9/11 was an inside job, or even an online personality I like, Owen Benjamin, who thinks the moon landing never happened. The world has seven billion people, and the notion that on certain issues we need to get all them on board with groupthink to adhere to one side or else we need to censor them, is insanity and futility at it’s finest. The purpose of me writing this today is not to defend any issue, other than free speech itself.

One saving grace, or possibly a foot in the back door should he ever need to backpedal on what he say is this bit that immediately follows “Or maybe we should be uncomfortable that these censorship decisions are being made by a few tech leaders, who historically have had little interest in either the journalistic principles that have guided other media magnates, or the costs of paying human beings to gather and weigh facts.”

Part of the reason I think this is a foot in the door, and not a full-fledged commitment to free speech is because he doesn’t push all in. Anytime someone proposes “I believe in free speech, but” they don’t believe in free speech, and while he didn’t say but, it’s there in the subtext. Look at what he said and dissect it carefully. He didn’t say censorship was bad. He said this current bout of censorship makes him uncomfortable because of who is doing the censoring. What he said here was censoring people is fine so long as the people who are doing the censoring are 1) many, aka mob rule, 2) think in a way I deem appropriate. That’s what that was code for.

We shouldn’t be uncomfortable because these censorship decisions are being made by a few tech leaders, or a few assholes, or a few good people. We should be concerned they’re being made at all!

Here’s the icing on the cake. He concludes…

“It’s unclear to me how we quash or validate dangerous ideas except through vigorous, open debate, but even I have to admit that this hasn’t worked well recently.”

He talks about quashing ideas. But he doesn’t mean quashing ideas, he means, and specifically references quashing free speech. I can regurgitate the old rebukes and tropes… Sunlight is the best disinfectant, or the Streisand effect, or first they came for my neighbor, then they came for me, but I said nothing so blah blah blah.

What does that mean “this hasn’t worked well recently” ? The reason why we have free speech is because while each of us has our own asshole and opinion, none of knows for sure whether we are right or wrong, so we need to keep open the discussion, to keep the ideas flowing. For him to say this, means that he thinks he has it all figured, he has the right answer, and the fact that people are still propagating ideas he disagrees with, means that clearly the current system is faulty. These sheep still have views on issues that I don’t like, clearly we haven’t censored them enough.

The last sentence really ties it all together.

What we all know now is that the case for free speech is weaker now than it has been in 50 years.”

This is verbal hypnotism at it’s best, and if you didn’t catch it, you got hypnotized yourself.

What we all know, as if to assume that everyone agrees with what he’s about to say. We all agree, right? We all know, there’s no strong argument for free speech. We all know, this stance is right and the other stance is wrong. We all know the age of consent should be lowered to 11 so we can sodomize elementary school kids. Ya know what I mean? Right? Because I mean, come on, we all know.

No.

We don’t ‘all know’, because we don’t all agree that the case for free speech is weak.

The case for free speech is stronger now than it ever has been because for the first time in U.S. history, a country that historically leads the way in free speech, more people are starting to question it because the type of fuckery freely espoused by people like Mr. Kelman has made people yearn for the harness.

Consider my sabbatical over. I’m posting more often, and louder. I’m starting that damn YouTube channel. I’m getting off the sidelines and onto the field. Free speech is not on defense, it’s on offense, and its got one more person fighting in it’s corner.

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