Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Bye Bye, Free Speech?

Corey Robin remembers a time when free speech was sacred to the liberal/leftish intelligentsia. Those were the days when they would get on their high horses fulminating anyone to their left -- namely social justice warriors and Marxists alike -- for being totalitarian. Free speech was their absolute principle, their equivalent to Sh'ma Yisra'eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.

Never mind one's protestations that one actually was a libertarian Marxist, the liberal/leftish would have none of it: they were the True Believers in the Church of Free Speech, the rest were infidels.

Things changed since, Robin argues. Liberal faith in free speech seems faltering:
"From what I see online, a lot of mainstream liberals today are far less absolutist in their defense of free speech, particularly on campuses; indeed, that absolutist position increasingly seems like the outlier among liberals. And parts of the left are now taking the more absolutist position."
For some reason, apart from a parenthetical remark on Ann Coulter and the ACLU, he offered no examples.

It turns out, examples were not needed, as many of his numerous online liberal/leftish commentators were ready to unwittingly provide them for him (at last count, there were 165 comments in that comment thread).

Take this one, for instance, explaining that the absolute right to express one's points of view is … well, actually relative:
"If the 'absolutist position' is that offensive speakers have a right to any platform they like, at any time, and that I should not use my own free speech to convince the groups hosting them to reconsider (the Friedersdorf/deBoer/Palin interpretation), then yes, there's not much support for that among so-called mainstream progressives. Charles Murray, Ann Coulter, and Richard Spencer have no shortage of prominent places where they can have their voices heard."
In other words, their right to have their voices heard is constrained by his right to not hear them. The second has priority.


I agree with Robin. I have also noticed that shift in the liberal/leftish position on free speech. To me this shows that liberal/leftish principles are skin deep: it's only a matter of posturing.

Like him, I will offer no examples to substantiate my claim, beyond mentioning the term "epistemic arbitration". It won't ring a bell with most readers, but I trust it should be familiar to those in the know.

I will, however, add something: this sudden change of mind about the absolute value of free speech comes at the worst possible time. If principles don't move liberals, one should hope at least they'll have a survival instinct. Even on this they fail.

After all, have they forgotten everything about their supposedly fascist arch-foes, presently in power?


But I'll enjoy giving an example of an obnoxious liberal worm who still gets on his high horse (maybe white) to castigate anyone slightly to his left. The joys of having it both ways.

Detestable, on top of cretins.

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