8/13/18

Free-speech absolutism

8/13/18
I consider myself a free-speech absolutist. Even when the inevitable cliche counter-arguments arise, insisting that yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater, or worse, hate speech is surely not protected speech. I find myself questioning the details of these hypothetical exceptions to free speech.

If I really, actually yelled "fire" in a movie theater here, sans any threatening flames, I think I would get little more than dirty looks, and perhaps be escorted out. Considering the fact I was on private property, disrupting a service others were paying for, my silencing in that situation would hardly amount to an infringement of my freedom of speech.

Maybe if there was a recent epidemic of fires spontaneously consuming theaters and their patrons--I guess, in that situation, me crying wolf would likely endanger others. In which case, I would also be on private property, disrupting a service, and endangering the lives of others. In both cases, my silencing (or punishment for fake news), wouldn't be such a terrible thing, let alone an infringement of my rights.

You get the idea. I need the details. And even then, I may or may not agree with you for reasons wholly different than why you hold said position.

I'll be the first to admit that people are stupid and on occasion react badly to certain ideas, or at least the vocalization of such (it's amazing how a lot of people can read terrible arguments in text and shrug, but should they hear it aloud from its advocate, especially in the company of others, it's a powder keg in a dry forest on the 4th of July). The potential for certain speech in certain situations can be rightfully considered incitement to riot, thus endangering others and their property.

So yeah, there are exceptions, and those exceptions are not general rules of thumb for which large swaths of people and their ideas can be outlawed. The exceptions are exceptions because they necessitate a closer look, details.

But not for long. People are now apparently allowed to punch or shoot Nazis--at least people who they believe are Nazis. What's Nazism besides a set of ideas? I mean, it's very possible for a pacifist to be a Nazi. A person who couldn't hurt a fly is absolutely free to believe that others can carry out his or her cherished Nazi beliefs.

It's also quite legal and apparently acceptable for large platforms to collude and deny their platforms to those with certain viewpoints. Sometimes very mainstream viewpoints.

It's also quite acceptable and legal to punish some criminals far more severely than others who committed the same crime, because it was argued their motivation was more wrong than the typical criminal.

And it's increasingly in vogue to publicly argue for more exceptions to free speech. To argue in favor of broadening the definition of existing exceptions, to broaden the definition of violence, to empower more and more legal and social entities to silence and punish.

At this rate, free speech absolutists will soon be considered extremists (we already are in certain circles, and I'm not even all that absolutist as you now know).

So as the anti-freedom trends grow, I'll endeavor to censor myself less, to question why and if I should self-censor, to support others' right to spout nonsense, or wrongthink, whatever the case may be.

Even though I am literally disgusted by Alex Jones, and technically he does not have a right to social media platforms, I am more disgusted by the anti-freedom trend and its efforts. The same goes for a lot of scoundrels.

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