American Elephants

Give a Little Thought to Freedom of Speech. by The Elephant's Child
December 7, 2020, 1:09 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , ,

Freedom of Speech Versus Identity Politics.” That’s the title of an essay from Real Clear Public Affairs, which certainly grasps where we are today. Did it all start with Facebook and Twitter deciding to monitor and control what could or could not be said on their websites? They didn’t like some things that were said, and they weren’t going to allow them to be said. Suddenly we have “Fact Checkers” everywhere, and who appointed them to monitor our words, or what expertise and authority do they offer in support of their claims? It is, of course, all about control, or what expertise and authority do they offer in support of their claims? It is, of course, all about control.

Having devised websites where people could connect with their friends and acquaintances online, they were apparently astonished to learn that some people said mean things. We have been hearing about this from the Left for some time. And, of course, it has all been greatly exacerbated with the tendency of President Trump to refuse to roll over and play dead when he was insulted and attacked. That was a call for more attacks: “Not presidential” was the claim, but it probably had more to do with the fact that he was accomplishing things and making the economy grow, eliminating unnecessary regulations and responding to the Covid crisis.

The problem with monitoring “hate speech” is that it is in direct conflict with freedom of speech, one of Americans’ most treasured Constitutional freedoms. As free people we can say what we damn well please. Which explains the outrage of those finding themselves banned from Twitter. Do read the essay cited in the first paragraph.

Here’s another, from Kim Holmes, Executive Vice President of the Heritage Foundation. He says: “Instead of openly arresting people who say the wrong things, the new purveyors of intolerance try to sublimate their prohibitions on speech, expression, and thought into more popularly accepted channels. Something must be done to make these prohibitions more palatable, because there is still a great deal of respect in America for freedom of thought, speech, and expression.

One of the most popular strategies is to carve out a special category of speech that, in theory at least, leaves the rest of free speech alone. If this can be done, speech can be regulated and criminalized without involving a direct assault on the First Amendment.

A prime example of parsing good speech from bad is the notorious notion of “hate speech,” which involves designating certain kinds of remarks, gestures, expressions, and writings as intentionally hateful and thus worthy of regulation and even criminalization.

There are always plenty of people around ready and willing to be the controllers. Unfortunately, it’s way more appealing to stop someone from saying something you don’t like, than to grit your teeth and remember the Constitution. You could flood Jack Dorsey’s e-mail with copies of the First Amendment, or with one of these brief essays, but it probably wouldn’t make any difference.

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