Wednesday, 20 September 2017

"Free Speech is a right wing idea" is one of the most stupid things I've ever heard

If you're a fashionable leftie trying to stick it to The Man, in today's mad world the chances are that you're against free speech. The way they tell it, Nazis, racists, homophobes and sundry hateful conservatives use "free speech" as a fig leaf to protect their hate speech. In a crowded field, this is one of the stupidest political arguments you'll ever hear.

Is it OK to hate stupid ideas?

Once you get past a chanting mob in the street and try to turn "free speech but not hate speech" into a real, live policy you run into two problems:

- Mission Creep
- Who gets to decide?

Mission Creep means you start by shutting down actual racists and Nazis, but once caught up in the mob you soon find yourself on the slippery slope towards "people who say things I don't like are basically Nazis".

If free speech means anything, it means the freedom to say what somebody doesn't want to hear - the freedom to criticise the powerful, to point out their follies, and make them uncomfortable. That means powerful people in government, but it also means people with loud voices who want to be heard - that's you, Mr Protester. You want the power to silence the people who disagree with you; I want the power to disagree and if that makes you uncomfortable then that's good.

I think this one's ironic. Isn't it?

But where the censorship mob's brains fall out of their ears is the second point - who gets to decide? In countries with heavy censorship, it's the people in charge who get to decide what you're allowed to say. The people who control the police and the army. The people who make the laws and operate the prisons. And what they tend to decide is "You're not allowed to criticise us".

So in Britain, it would be the Conservative government that decides what you can say, while in the USA it would be President Trump. In former times, it's been such world leaders as Stalin and Hitler who've taken a keen interest in what people are allowed to say and who they may criticise. Criticising the actual Nazis in the Third Reich was not for the faint-hearted.

How is it that the people most enthusiastic about criticising Trump, Conservative governments and Nazis don't spot this flaw in their plan? If the leaders with the power to implement speech censorship actually listen to them, if they bring in the censorious society these protesters say they want, then by their own logic that would usher in exactly the totalitarian, Nazi society they are against.

If you build the machinery of censorship, you might not be the one who controls it: you might find yourself on the receiving end.

Morons at large.

The people who most need free speech, the people who should cherish it as the most fundamental right of all, are the powerless, the oppressed, the underdog, and all those who would champion their cause. That the left has turned against free speech, that they see it as a tool of oppression or an excuse for offending people, is one of the most stupid political ideas you'll ever see.

Free speech - a licence to make people uncomfortable or offended.