Well here we have an intersectionalist article: the intersection of New York Times wokeness with the intersection of New Yorker wokeness. For Andrew Marantz, who wrote this NYT opinion piece (if you read it, it looks like a Sunday Magazine piece), is a New Yorker staff writer whose bailiwick, according to his profile, is “technology, social media, the alt-right, and the press [and] comedy and pop culture”.
I read the piece several times, and am not sure what he’s getting at. First he notes that speech can be damaging, then admits that forms of damaging speech are already prohibited by the courts, then adds that he’s not in favor of ditching the First Amendment. He then complicates matters by claiming that “hate speech” on social media should be regulated, and then ends by implying that yes, perhaps the First Amendment itself should be modified by taking into account the Fourteenth Amendment—the amendment that guarantees all citizens will receive equal protection of the laws. In other words, he’s calling for revisiting the courts’ construal of the First Amendment. If you don’t think so, look at the title of his piece, though that title may have been confected by an editor.
Marant’s op-ed what they call a “hot mess” (see photo below), and suffers severely from not specifying what counts as “hate speech”, as well as a slipperiness as he tries to avoid saying explicitly what I think he really means. Click on the screenshot to read it:
Marantz begins, as is usual with these pieces, by saying that words can be harmful.
Having spent the past few years embedding as a reporter with the trolls and bigots and propagandists who are experts at converting fanatical memes into national policy, I no longer have any doubt that the brutality that germinates on the internet can leap into the world of flesh and blood.
The question is where this leaves us. Noxious speech is causing tangible harm. Yet this fact implies a question so uncomfortable that many of us go to great lengths to avoid asking it. Namely, what should we — the government, private companies or individual citizens — be doing about it?
Yes, they can be harmful if you consider “tangible harm” to encompass someone being offended, but they can also be harmful if they inspire violence, foster child abuse via promulgating child pornography, spread lies that damage a reputation, constitute personal harassment, or make false claims, as in advertising.
Fortunately, the courts have considered all these forms of harm, and have taken them into account as limiting freedom of speech—save that the only abrogated speech that leads to violence should be speech “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action” that is “likely to incite or produce such action”. (See here for a list of First Amendment exceptions.) I see this list as pretty comprehensive, but extending it to cover “hate speech”, a slippery concept that has been seen as including all kids of speech that we see as debatable but permissible—affirmative action, immigration, abortion, the use of pronouns, how transgender people should be classified in sports competitions, whether Israel should exist, and so on—is not something I favor.
But Marantz doesn’t discuss any of that tangible stuff. He simply makes dark noises about how free speech should be balanced against other rights:
Free speech is a bedrock value in this country. But it isn’t the only one. Like all values, it must be held in tension with others, such as equality, safety and robust democratic participation. Speech should be protected, all things being equal. But what about speech that’s designed to drive a woman out of her workplace or to bully a teenager into suicide or to drive a democracy toward totalitarianism? Navigating these trade-offs is thorny, as trade-offs among core principles always are. But that doesn’t mean we can avoid navigating them at all.
Earth to Mr. Marantz: driving a woman out of her workplace or bullying a teenager into suicide have ALREADY been ruled by the courts as limitations of free speech that violate other rights. As far as “driving a democracy toward totalitarianism”, does Marantz seriously think we should place limits on that kind of discussion? When I was at Williams College two days ago, I was asked by a student why, as a determinist, I should favor democracy as the best form of government, as people’s wills (and, I presume, votes) are so easily manipulated by others, distorting their own “free will”. I could have said, “Well, yes, sometimes a benevolent despotism might be better”. And even though I don’t agree with that, for of all imperfect forms of government, democracy is the least imperfect, Marantz implies that such a statement might be construed as “driving a democracy toward totalitarianism”. You could also characterize people campaigning for Trump as falling in that class. Give me a break! If our democracy can’t stand criticism and calls for authoritarianism, what kind of democracy is that?
Then Marantz pulls back a bit:
I am not calling for repealing the First Amendment, or even for banning speech I find offensive on private platforms. What I’m arguing against is paralysis. We can protect unpopular speech from government interference while also admitting that unchecked speech can expose us to real risks. And we can take steps to mitigate those risks.
He then offers some modifications, like Facebook hiring more “content moderators” and paying them better. Yes, that sounds good, but what content should be moderated? Marantz alludes to white supremacists, Alex Jones, and Milo Yiannopoulos. But companies already have the right to ban such people. Who doesn’t is the government, for that’s what the First Amendment is all about. Granted, I think that all universities, whether private or public, should adhere to the courts’ construal of the First Amendment, but remember that the First Amendment says this:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press. . .
Congress shall make no law. That says nothing about Facebook, Instagram, or even this website. And if that is all that Marantz is calling for—judicious examination of the speech policies of private entities—well, fine. I think that people should be careful about restricting speech, but private corporations and establishments have a right to do that, by and large. I, for one, have no problem with Milo Yiannopoulos having a Facebook account. After all, he’s never called for violence against people, and what violence has resulted from his words, as occurred in Berkeley, has come from those who have rioted in opposition to his appearances. In other words, the violence came from people opposed to free speech.
At the end Marantz hints, without saying so directly, that maybe the First Amendment needs to be reined in a bit. For example, he seems to agree with John Powell, a law professor at the University of California:
[Powell] thinks that some aspects of our current First Amendment jurisprudence — blanket protections of hate speech, for example — will also seem ridiculous in retrospect. “It’s simpler to think only about the First Amendment and to ignore, say, the 14th Amendment, which guarantees full citizenship and equal protection to all Americans, including those who are harmed by hate speech,” he said. “It’s simpler, but it’s also wrong.”
Okay, if Powell thinks that “hate speech” should be prohibited, and if Marantz agrees, what forms of hate speech should be banned? Who shall do the banning? And what do they mean by “harm”? Psychological harm? Hogwash! Physical harm? That’s already something that the courts have ruled on.At the very end Marantz’s mask slips a bit more:
I should confess: I used to agree with the guy I met in the coffee shop, the one who saw the First Amendment as an all-or-nothing dictate. This allowed me to reach conclusions with swift, simple authority. It also allowed me to ignore a lot, to pretend that anything that was invisible to me either wasn’t happening or didn’t matter.
In one of our conversations, Mr. Powell compared harmful speech to carbon pollution: People are allowed to drive cars. But the government can regulate greenhouse emissions, the private sector can transition to renewable energy sources, civic groups can promote public transportation and cities can build sea walls to prepare for rising ocean levels. We could choose to reduce all of that to a simple dictate: Everyone should be allowed to drive a car, and that’s that. But doing so wouldn’t stop the waters from rising around us.
And there is the implied call for more government regulation of speech. Why? Because “the waters are rising around us”, i.e., free speech as construed by the courts is harming America.
You know, if Marantz would be more upfront about what he meant, he’d be easier to analyze. But because he pretends that he’s in favor of the First Amendment and yet the same time that’s he’s not in favor of the current construal of the First Amendment, his argument is slippery. But of course if you must use code words like “harmed by hate speech” to change the Constitution, you can’t afford to be more explicit.
h/t: Tom, Cate
64 thoughts on “Is free speech killing us? An op-ed from the New York Times answers “yes””
So much for clarity in writing,Marantz. Obfuscate! Obfuscate! They will figure it out soon enough. We have!
“I think that people should be careful about restricting speech, but private corporations and establishments have a right to do that, by and large.”
I would argue that, where they are near monopolies in their niche, with dominant market share, they should not have that right. It gives them too much influence on society, and it is generally accepted that companies with near monopolies should be regulated.
“The less government, the better” crowd wants more and more privatized, so that corporations and their ilk may more and more dominate flesh and blood human “resources” and “capital.” I find it hard to see why it’s OK that one should tolerate from private tyrannies what one would not tolerate from governments.
“I find it hard to see why it’s OK that one should tolerate from private tyrannies what one would not tolerate from governments.”
I like that! That’s an idea worth pondering.
Yep, what he said.
I agree, they shouldn’t have that right. Free speech laws were made to protect speech in the public square, and places like Twitter and Facebook have become the de facto public square. No longer do we debate on street corners and through pamphlets. I think there has to be a limit to how big a social media company can be before it can limit speech that doesn’t violate the First Amendment.
It’s a peculiarly American take on it, that Government censorship is somehow in a different category from private (monopoly) censorship. All to do with the distinction made by the First Amendment (which of course is inapplicable in other countries).
As I see, censorship is censorship whether applied by Government fiat or a sufficiently large company (Twitter, Google, whoever).
And not all censorship is bad, all the time. This website gets ‘censored’ by PCC, for example. As always, it’s a matter of balancing interests and drawing a line – and however you do it, you can’t avoid drawing a line somewhere.
I suspect he is getting things mixed up, free speech and big internet platform problems. It is something that many seem to be doing today and this causes all kinds of problems with issues on the platforms. But it is often their size and lack of proper controls and regulations that causes this. It is the wild west days of the internet with a few very rich people running the show. I will include one example to show what has happened in the country of Myanmar a few years back.
Marantz is quoted as writing: “I am not calling for repealing the First Amendment, or even for banning speech I find offensive on private platforms….. And we can take steps to mitigate those risks.”
My reading: He would love to get rid of the First Amendment,all of it, but is afraid to be that blunt. At least for now.
There is an authoritarian, catastrophizing streak running through much woke ideology (not just Trumpspeak). Here, for example, is Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley from Massachusetts at this year’s Netroots convention in Philadelphia dictating marching orders as to how ideology/politics must line up with identity :
“I don’t want to bring a chair to an old table. This is the time to shake the table. This is the time to redefine that table. Because if you’re going to come to this table, all of you who have aspirations of running for office… If you’re not prepared to come to that table and represent that voice, don’t come, because we don’t need any more brown faces that don’t want to be a brown voice.”
“We don’t need black faces that don’t want to be a black voice…We don’t need Muslims that don’t want to be a Muslim voice. We don’t need queers that don’t want to be a queer voice. If you’re worried about being marginalized and stereotyped, please don’t even show up because we need you to represent that voice.”
That’s an interesting quote from Pressley. What if one way minorities are marginalized and stereotyped is by others assuming they can only talk about their minority status and are experts on that, and that alone? There are lots of tables.
I always have problems following along with an ideology without the proponent giving concrete examples. If they don’t give them, I make them up. If I do a piss poor job at that, then the problem is likely to be either poor communication, or poor comprehension. If it’s the latter, then they’ll have to provide some concrete examples.
I am pretty much an absolutist on free-speech. But there is a crucial point to be made about the difference between free speech online and offline.
In ordinary, offline free-speech, when an idea is proposed there is a person behind it. Barring the exceptions like anonymous phone calls, etc, this is how free-speech has operated for the _entire span of human existence_ – someone puts their idea forward and we have some idea of who they are.
Crucially, if their ideas are egregious, horrific, then they will accrue social stigma. People will look at them differently. Maybe if their ideas are sufficiently extreme they will lose friends, even family. Perhaps they’ll lose their jobs.
This is how free-speech has worked since the dawn of time. These social consequences are the invisible guard-rails that have kept people from going too far – people have always known that they will be held responsible for what they say.
Online discourse, for the first time(that I can think of) in human history, does away with that on a massive scale. Someone can, with minimum effort, call for the death of politicians, celebrities and any public figure luckless enough to piss them off. They can do so over and over again.
And in all likelihood they will not receive any social consequences whatsoever. No-one will ever know what they said online. Therefore there is almost nothing constraining their behaviour at all.
This is unprecedented, and it’s a failure in the free-speech argument to ignore it.
There is a distinction between free-speech as it has always existed…and online speech, where no responsibility whatsoever need be taken for saying the most inflammatory, extreme, violent things.
I do not know what the solution is to extreme online speech, but to consider it as interchangeable with extreme speech that takes place in the real world, where the person speaking has to show their face and stand by their words, is a mistake.
Interesting comment, thanks. One could propose that “free speech” protections should only be available to those using their real identity.
I’m in agreement with that, provided that private corporate tyrannies are not allowed to fire someone for exercising their First Amendment rights.
There are myriad problems with making people post under their real identities. Corporate entities gaining even more data about people, harassment going through the roof (right now, you have to be “doxxed” to be harassed offline for speech you made online), employers monitoring employees’ speech, etc. There are so many problems that it’s not even close to worth it. Imagine if everything every one of us has said online since we were twelve years old was available to anyone and everyone. It would be utter chaos.
Back in the day, people often expressed speech in pamphlets under pseudonyms to avoid some of these very issues.
There are problems. They are counterbalanced by the very great benefits that would accrue.
BJ, your arguments are the same ones you made last time and they strike me as serious overreactions.
1. Re. data-collection
– what exactly is so extremely different about people being required to have a real identity tied to their comments? How is this qualitatively different from what already happens with Facebook accounts and the comments there?
The data collection opportunities increase, but they are increasing all the time as it is. (And of course if you object you don’t have to have a real identity online…but there will be things you can’t do online as a result. That’s just tough.)
2. “harassment going through the roof (right now, you have to be “doxxed” to be harassed offline for speech you made online)”
– I don’t understand this at all. Why would harassment increase, never mind “go through the roof”, if the harassers could be identified just as easily as the people they harass? If every time they went on a harassment spree _they themselves_ could be identified?
That’s the main reason harassment exists online in the first place, because every anonymous fucker online knows they can get away with it.
3. “employers monitoring employees’ speech, etc”
– which they already do, so again this is not qualitatively different from what already happens.
4. “Imagine if everything every one of us has said online since we were twelve years old was available to anyone and everyone.”
– why on earth would that happen? Why should the requirement of a real identity be enforced retroactively? Why should people’s comments from the past be unearthed in the process?
…And why would it apply to _every single thing anyone says, anywhere online?_ This is just strawmandering. There would obviously be exceptions, fora where people could speak anonymously.
5. “It would be utter chaos”
– yes, you said this last time I made this point, but you’ve still not really made a case for it.
And are you telling me it’s NOT chaos right now? Let’s be frank: it is completely mental online. It’s like the Do Lung Bridge scene in Apocalypse Now.
That’s the whole reason for proposing real identities online in the first place.
I get that there are people who like going anonymously online, but I’ve still not heard a convincing reason why everyone else should have to get pelted with rotten eggs because they like wearing balaclavas.
I agree. If everyone saying something online or offline had a reputation to uphold, things might go smoother. The privacy issues seem easier to deal with IMHO. We already have mechanisms to protect privacy in certain situations, like the whistleblower statutes in the news lately.
This sounds like two steps away from China’s social credit policy, and that’s one reason it scares me. I like anonymity in part because it does allow people to say what they really think, or what they only say in dark personal corners. I want to see those things out in the open, if only to better fight them.
“Why would harassment increase, never mind “go through the roof”, if the harassers could be identified just as easily as the people they harass? If every time they went on a harassment spree _they themselves_ could be identified?
That’s the main reason harassment exists online in the first place, because every anonymous fucker online knows they can get away with it.”
This isn’t how online harassment translating to real life harassment works at all. Often, it is blue checkmark, not anonymous people on twitter who rile up a hate mob against someone. If you’re part of the woke community and harass someone in real life for perceived “hate speech,” nothing happens to you (except maybe you’ll be hailed as a hero by several thousand people and a few media outlets). If every time someone says something “activists” find out of line, and they can have hundreds of people call their employer and tell them they’re racist/sexist/whatever, that’s a terrible thing. This is just one of many examples of the kind of harassment that can happen. I get the feeling you’re not really that familiar with how these things go down, how often, or why people are so protective of their identities/keeping from being doxxed.
“Why should the requirement of a real identity be enforced retroactively? Why should people’s comments from the past be unearthed in the process?”
Who said anything about retroactive? It starts when your policy starts. Everyone from that moment on is screwed. Nobody gets retroactively screwed, but that’s like saying “I’m too old to be affected by X bad policy, so why should I care?” You should care because future generations will be affected.
“yes, you said this last time I made this point, but you’ve still not really made a case for it.”
You say I haven’t made the case for it, but that’s your opinion. Again, I get the feeling you haven’t really seen much of what happens when people get doxxed and their names released to mobs. Read Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.
You are also right. There are no easy answers.
1. …I’ve read Jon Ronson’s book at least twice. It’s very good, but he cherry-picks a handful of cases, some of which contradict your argument, some of which don’t even involve online harassment at all. I think he’s a fun, clever writer incidentally but he’s by no means a deep thinker.
2. …Telling me I’m not familiar with a subject is something you’ve done before BJ. It’s not an argument and it works both ways.
3. …You say it’d be “chaos”; that it’s an absurd idea. You also say that requiring people in certain online areas to show their real identities before posting is tantamount to Chinese authoritarianism. These are not arguments, they are rhetorical hand-waving.
4. – “This isn’t how online harassment translating to real life harassment works at all. Often, it is blue checkmark, not anonymous people on twitter who rile up a hate mob against someone.”
…and the people who actually do the most extreme harassing on their behalf are often operating from anonymous Twitter accounts.
But the most dangerous and violent harassment comes from people who remain anonymous. This is so obvious it’s almost a tautology. Death threats, promises to come by someone’s house and kill their family, vows to get a gun and start a race war; these threats are not generally made by people who put their name to their arguments.
You ignore the most serious, extreme, violent online speech, instead concentrating on woke Twitter mobs. But both groups are important, and only one tends to go out and actually murder people.
5. “Who said anything about retroactive? It starts when your policy starts. Everyone from that moment on is screwed. Nobody gets retroactively screwed”
…your objection was that ‘everything you’ve written from the age of 12 will suddenly be posted online”. That was your claim, and AFAICS that would have to be a retroactive step.
And it makes no sense – why would everyone’s past, anonymous comments suddenly have to be unearthed as a result of making real identities necessary in certain online areas? That is just a gigantic, Wicker Man-style strawman.
I’ve not much else to say on this. I find myself repeating the same points and deconstructing the same criticisms.
Oh, and regarding employers: (1) most employers don’t do this, and (2) once again, I’m talking about the future generations your idea would affect. I’m not talking about you and me. Although even things I’ve said on this very site could be construed as hate speech by the wrong HR department if, say, I got into a dispute with a Palestinian or something. The fact that I have repeatedly argued for Israel and listed Palestine’s crimes against Jews could easily be used against me. You think that, by not engaging in what we would consider hate speech, we’re free and clear, but we’re not.
“Although even things I’ve said on this very site could be construed as hate speech by the wrong HR department”
Yup, me too, in the opposite direction. (I’ve said some pretty rude things about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians which – according to some – would mean my anti-Zionism is secret antisemitism. Which of course I would deny. (Not looking to reopen *that* debate again!) Also about pro-lifers 🙂
I don’t think I’ve said anything I wouldn’t be prepared to defend, but I’d be horrified if something/everything I said years ago was fished up, out of context, and publicly attributed to me personally. And, I think, so would almost everyone else on this site.
(Anybody – Google your real name. The results may surprise/shock/embarrass you. The Internet never forgets, even if you do. 🙂
And the real Internet trolls and witch-hunt-instigators don’t need or want anonymity, they thrive on the attention.
Thankfully, very little comes up when someone Googles me. Just a LinkedIn account and a couple of articles. I use a VPN, ScriptSafe, Privacy Badger, etc. I never sign up for websites unless I absolutely have to and I don’t allow their scripts to run unless I absolutely have to (and, even then, I’m using a VPN).
But yeah, regarding the whole Israel/Palestine thing: you’d have fewer problems than I would because you’re on the “right” side as far as the woke are concerned, but the point stands: even legitimate policy disagreements can be painted as hate speech and result in harassment, job loss, and many other terrible things not online, but in real life.
In saying that “legal free speech protections would only be available to those using their real identity”, I didn’t mean that anonymous commenting would be banned.
What I meant is that, if there were a rule that Twitter and Facebook could not ban a user for legal speech, then this rule would only apply to those using their real identity.
Oh, and another pair of problems – the mechanisms needed to verify, and the platforms it would apply to. How would the latter be determined? How would the former be safeguarded?
That was my proposition the first time I raised this issue here at WEIT – that there should be some kind of requirement that a person has a real identity before they’re allowed to post in those places that represent ‘the public square'(note that this requirement need not extend everywhere – there could be plenty of reasonable exceptions).
It did not go down very well; some commenters saw it as an attack on the right to anonymity.
But that’s another issue that ties into this: the assumption that being anonymous online is something close to a human right. I get annoyed with the idea that asking someone to put their real name to their comments would be some kind of appalling step too far.
Well it would be a step too far for me.
If you have an unusual name – okay, you do Saul – Google yourself. You may be shocked at the results. The Internet never forgets, even if you do.
I assume you’re much younger than me so maybe you grew up realising that anything you said would be retrievable. To us oldies, commenting on some issue (under our real names) in a social atmosphere that seemed to be limited to a few dozen participants it maybe wasn’t so obvious. I did Google myself once and my immediate reaction was “Oh shit, did I say *that*?” It wasn’t anything very bad, just a point of view I’ve changed over the years. And the thought that any stranger – possibly a malicious one – could read it at touch of a key was very disconcerting.
So I like my modicum of privacy and if anything I say is going to be immediately highlighted to everybody with a one-second Google search – then I’ll shut up.
(‘cr’ is safe – about 2,500,000,000 results. My real name – first two pages, half of the results are me, most of them things I’d forgotten about).
I can understand that fear. But again, why would it have to apply retroactively? Why would everything you’ve said in the past suddenly be visible? It wouldn’t.
And again, because some people(not you) seem to think that it would necessarily have to apply to every single place on the internet…no. Obviously there could be fora where people could speak anonymously.
…But requiring people to stand by what they say online when they’re posting in those online areas that constitute the ‘public square’…yes, I personally think that’s a price more than worth paying given how utterly, reprehensibly toxic and societally destabilising online discourse is, and how few guardrails there are that constrain people’s behaviour.
That has perverse side effects for folks like whistleblowers, the already marginalized, etc.
Anonymous books, pamphlets and articles have always existed. You are factually incorrect and seem to want to punish people for their speech.
Nowhere did I say that wasn’t the case, but it has never been the norm.
“seem to want to punish people for their speech.”
I want people to take responsibility for what they say, just like they have to do in real life.
Yeah, there is and has been.
Rather than wringing his hands over the things that are in his news feed, Marantz would do better to look at why we have free speech, and at what violence we would invite without free speech.
So says Marantz, quoting Prof. Powell. But I fail to see any application for the 14th Amendment here. Just as the 1st Amendment constrains only governmental action, so the 14th is limited to “state action.” Section 1 of that Amendment in relevant part provides:
The 14th Amendment might permit relief to the victim of “hate speech” perpetrated by a “state actor” (which is to say someone “acting under color of state law”) — speech by a cop, for example, addressing a citizen while on duty. I stress again, MIGHT. But it cannot be construed to provide any constraint whatsoever on the speech of private citizens vis-à-vis one another, which is what Marantz is advocating for here.
Even if the idea in your last paragraph was to stand up in court, it would have to be applied equally to hate speech against men, white people, etc. So it would negate the very purpose of what people like Marantz want, which is really unequal treatment under the law, where only certain groups are protected from offensive speech.
“Hot Mess” was the sobriquet of a stripper I represented a few times in various public-intoxication and disorderly conduct beefs. (Such state-court street crimes weren’t really in my wheelhouse, but she knew somebody who knew somebody who sent her to me).
She was the nicest, sweetest young woman when she was clean & sober. But once she got into the intoxicants, she was, well, “a hot mess.”
Still, she had to be pretty far in her cups before getting as incoherent as Martantz’s free-speech analysis. 🙂
““Hot Mess” was the sobriquet of a stripper I represented a few times in various public-intoxication and disorderly conduct beefs.”
Nice cover story Ken 😉
Ken typed out “ex-girlfriend,” thought better of it, hit backspace a few times, and replaced it with “stripper” 😛
As an old mobster client once told me: “The truth is a great defense — if you can use it.”
You have lived a very interesting life Ken. If you ever wrote a book, I’d read it.
The names would have to be changed to protect the innocent, and not-so-innocent, alike. 🙂
Man, I get the feeling life as a hot shot criminal lawyer must result in a ton of great stories with colorful characters. You’re probably the kind of guy people want to have a beer with. I think that means you should run for President, right? That was nearly the entirety of W. Bush’s platform.
Never felt so much like a “hot shot,” Beej, as a half-bright boy who stumbled into some interesting situations with some interesting people.
And he’s humble too, folks!
As Winston Churchill said of Clement Attlee when Harry Truman observed that Attlee was a humble man: “Yes, and he has much to be humble about.”
IIRC, Churchill called Atlee “a sheep in sheep’s clothing.”
Ever since the “American Left” (I cringe as I write this) has abandoned the slogan of “free speech” and allowed it being hypocritically appropriated by the Right Wing, it has become a matter of identity to be against it. But I argue that’s more a pose than a substantial demand for change.
There’s that rule in American politics I’ve learned and which shines as bright as an aurora over the Atlantic and it’s this: when Republicans declare they love horizontally striped shirts, everyone on the (so-called) American “Left“ must find reasons why they hate that. And if they adopt vertically striped fashion, it‘s likewise an eternal rule in US politics that the American Right must declare this as “unamerican”, communist, socialist or possibly satanic. But what people see as an identity has little to do anything else.
In reality, Right Wingers are as much against certain speech as are the (so-called) Left. But free speech is now marked as a right wing issue, largely detached from reality. While Christians feel persecuted and lose sleep over Satan corrupting their children through pop culture, we mostly see the social media-addicted Woke making authoritarian demands. Because their complaining is highly visible and branded as “political correctness”, the Right could adopt whatever is the opposite fashion. Now both tribes make American political terraforming: whenever someone says they’re in favour of freedom of speech, they’re now considered of the Red Tribe. If someone virtue signals problems with freedom of speech, they hoist blue colours on their mast.
In the end it’s effectively propaganda. It doesn’t mean anything. I suspect that‘s the reason these discussions never materialized into something concrete. Woke people are like a new breed of conservatives, and like the old version, most of what they do is virtue signalling and propaganda. What‘s “american” or “unamerican” for one side is “progressive” or “alt right” for the other. But it’s all Ersatz theatre, or perhaps more typically American: wrestling. It makes up in spectacle for actual democratic participation, which is not a feature of US politics.
The Left has ceded free speech to the Right only by default. The Right saw the Left abandoning it and saw an opportunity.
But, with regard to the rest of what you said, it’s like I wrote the other day: during the Clinton administration, the Dems liked Russia (oh Yeltsin, that lovable drunken buffoon!). Then, during the W. administration, W. liked Putin (remember, he “looked into his soul” during their five minutes of conversation and saw a good man!), so the Dems hated Russia and Republicans liked Russia. Then Obama came into office and the Dems felt Russia wasn’t so bad again, while the Republicans saw them as a threat. Now Trump is in the White House and he likes Putin, so the Republicans love Russia and the Dems hate Russia. Of course, the politics of Russia changed over that time (e.g. the move from Yeltsin to Putin, Putin to Medvedev — but not really — and then Medvedev back to Putin), but it’s a good example of how tribalism often seems to dictate the Parties’ policies more than logic.
One thing Trump is very good at is getting the Democrats to defend things based on tribalism. He gets them to defend the worst of people like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib and “The Gang” by saying how much he hates them. He pulls this trick all the time, but the Dems never seem to catch on, or they think it’s better to simply oppose anything Trump says and does than to ever agree with him. That’s like handing a strategic gift to your enemy.
This seems like a gross mischaracterization of history. In the 90s both Dems and Reps had hopes of Russia becoming just another European country and gradually becoming more democratic and capitalistic over time. While that never happened, Putin’s election removed all doubt. Many Reps had to be laughing at Bush’s “looked into his soul” comment.
As far as Omar and Rashida Tlaib and “The Gang” are concerned, I think a lot of Dems have issues with the things they’ve said, myself included. The difference is that the Dems attack or support them based on their ideas and statements. Trump, on the other hand, is clearly trying to make them the face of the Democratic Party. If he disagrees with what they stand for, it’s purely incidental.
I said myself that the Russia thing was basically a broad mischaracterization in order to make a point (though if Reps were snickering about W.’s comment, I sure don’t remember it). The point was that positions often shift on party and/or tribal lines rather than logical/principled ones.
Anyway, regarding “The Gang”: Nancy Pelosi and the top Dems were trying to rein them in and publicly denouncing many things they said…until Trump came out and denounced them. Then they felt they had to come to their defense. It was a brilliant move by Trump, as it was right in the midst of Omar and Tlaib’s antisemitic controversies.
I hadn’t thought about free speech becoming a Left / Right issue, but you may be right. I was kind of puzzled this weekend to see the controversy over the Joker coming from liberal Hollywood-type circles that formerly supported artistic expression at all costs, for example, but that would explain it. (If you’re not familiar, something about it encouraging “incels” and alt right fanboys. This seemed a sudden reversal from a world where I thought edgy character studies used to be encouraged.)
Regarding virtue signaling, however, I actually disagree on this one. To my mind, the ridiculousness and obviousness of virtue signaling in identity politics is that people would: a) Suddenly proclaim heart wrenching, existential crisis, can’t sleep at night levels of despair over the treatment of groups with whom they had never, or only rarely, interacted at all, but b) Did not exactly show a high level of empathy overall that would have accounted for this. This was not the sudden spontaneous development of a multitude of empaths who simply melted down at the sight of any perceived pain or injustice – to the contrary, they were quite happy to mete hostile treatment out to others. Sometimes including members of the very groups they claimed to be so upset for, if they didn’t subscribe to their views. To my mind these are clear signs of hypocrisy.
When it comes to “winning the war of ideas”, however, I feel like no matter what your persuasion, everyone has had the vaguely panicky experience of going “Oh wow. If this is a war, I am hardcore losing it.” It doesn’t matter what pushes your buttons, I think this is universal. For very conservative types, it might be something old fashioned like convincing young people to be chaste and modest. For others, it might be about vaccinations, climate change, economic issues, defusing hate speech, conspiracy theories, and so on. At a mundane and petty level, it might just be witnessing trolls win over an online crowd and pushing around nuanced, reasonable types like bad 80s villains, to the jeers of surrounding commenters. Maybe it’s just me, but I think the anxiety that bad ideas are going to win in the end is somewhat understandable. Like any anxiety, not something we should allow ourselves to be ruled by – to the contrary, something that we should recognize as an emotional response and reign in more analytically – but understandable nonetheless.
“I see this list as pretty comprehensive, but extending it to cover “hate speech”, a slippery concept that has been seen as including all kids of speech that we see as debatable but permissible—affirmative action, immigration, abortion, the use of pronouns, how transgender people should be classified in sports competitions, whether Israel should exist, and so on—is not something I favor.”
You hit the nail of the point I make every time this comes up right on the head. Not only is “hate speech” a stupid, slippery, “I know it when I see it” BS categorization, but many legitimate policy positions or even the questioning of woke policy positions is now classified as “hate speech.” To live in a society where you can neither hold positions counter to nor even debate the policies of a certain governmental and societal group is to live in a totalitarian dystopia.
The article is just sloppy and loathsome.
“… the noxious speech prevalent on those platforms [would] metastasize into physical violence.”
This always irks me. Social media is just a communications medium. Its anonymity causes people to say things they might not normally say but the author has lost sight that there are real people saying these things (at least for the most part).
“I no longer have any doubt that the brutality that germinates on the internet can leap into the world of flesh and blood.”
The author conveniently forgets that it still takes someone to move from words to physical violence to cause real harm.
“We talked about how bewildering it was to be alive at a time when viral ideas can slide so precipitously into terror.”
That’s always been the case. We just have more powerful modes of communication these days.
“admitting that unchecked speech can expose us to real risks”
Again, speech alone doesn’t create real risks with few exceptions.
He refers to a person who had a cross burned on his lawn calls it a free speech issue.
I’m with the guy in the coffee shop.
“He refers to a person who had a cross burned on his lawn calls it a free speech issue.”
That’s so remarkably stupid that it’s almost unbelievable. How many crimes are committed in such a scenario? Let’s see, we have trespassing, harassment (with hate crime tacked one), destruction of property…I’m sure a prosecutor could come up with one or two more.
“‘We can protect unpopular speech from government interference while also admitting that unchecked speech can expose us to real risks. And we can take steps to mitigate those risks.'”
This does seem slippery.
I have two other points on this topic in general. I was reading about the obscenity exception just now in the link to the free speech exceptions. Why is that an exception?
Also, if hate speech is banned, how will we know that love speech won’t be banned at some point? Leave the First Ammendment alone.
I’m all for free speech in any sort of interaction in the real world. On-line expression is trickier as we have seen in the 2016 election where armies of bots were used to spread lies and influence the election. Do bots have the same free speech rights as an individual? It’s related to the Citizens United decision. Do the wealthy have much greater rights to free speech and influence than the poor? Possibly they should not. I can see arguments on both sides.
Facebook is apparently working to restrict political speech which spread what are clearly lies (as happened in 2016). It seems we will get to see the result of these restrictions.
I’m offended by people who are offended — so those people should be censored, then.
Neither one of those people is remotely close to being a white supremacist.
Didn’t you get the memo, math is now white supremacy.
“Didn’t you get the memo, math is now white supremacy.”
As is, apparently, decent civility in certain concert venues.
(“Some observers suggest that the restrictions on audience behavior are snobbish, elitist, or even manifestations of white privilege.”)
Yes, with a breath-taking sense of entitlement, let’s interrupt and disrespect performers, classical or not, a la the noble flower of our university youth, who presume to interrupt/cut off/de-platform speakers as they please.
This bum is either a fool or a coward — or both. If you really believe that words alone can *hurt* you, then you have no place — except maybe as a political flak — in the real world.
To orient myself more about US interpretation of UDHR:
– “Changing Views of Free Speech in the U.S.
Many Americans, including many who supported the new Constitution, criticized the document because it lacked a bill of rights—a listing of the basic rights held by people against the new national government. That criticism was soon met: ten amendments, the Bill of Rights, were added to the Constitution in 1791. The guarantees of freedom of speech and press, set out in the 1st Amendment, have produced controversy for more than 200 years now.”
[ https://www.infoplease.com/history/us/changing-views-of-free-speech-in-the-us ]
– “People who object to the debased state of First Amendment law should demand and build a different First Amendment, one that won’t entrench the interests of a wealthy and powerful few but instead will promote robust debate and foster challenges to the established order. That, I believe, is what the First Amendment is supposed to do.”
[ https://source.wustl.edu/2019/09/point-of-view-the-shifting-first-amendment/ ]
– “Media’s legal defeats trouble First Amendment advocates”
[ https://www.politico.com/story/2019/09/23/legal-defeats-media-first-amendment-1508565 ]
– “Court: First amendment protects “hate group” label”
[ https://www.citynews1130.com/2019/09/20/court-first-amendment-protects-hate-group-label/ ]
Still not much fact based controversy, except perhaps that the anecdotes about free press suppression in the name of free speech laws may be statistically supported.
But I find an irony re Jerry’s trouble with “hate speech” modifications (which are supported by UDHR balance of rights) defining hate speech – which courts should do. Apparently US free speech laws are used – in court – to define “hate groups”. Seems like a potato, potatoe situation to me.
I don’t have any idea what almost any of this post means, but I can address this: “Apparently US free speech laws are used – in court – to define “hate groups”. Seems like a potato, potatoe situation to me.”
No, they are not. They are used to say, as that article notes, that to say a group is a “hate group” is free speech. There is no defining of what a hate group is, which makes that entire part of your argument crumble. It even say in the very very short article, “The judge ruled Thursday that the liberal watchdog group has a free-speech right to make the claim. His ruling didn’t address whether the ministry is a hate organization.”
Well its true, most of the legacy media has gotten to be such garbage that if the government doesn’t shut down alternative media, it will kill the NYT’s.