“This odd hell that childhood is, where you can be going through something in very close proximity to your parents, and they still can’t help you. You still can’t really tell anyone about it. It’s obsessed me, not just him, but generally that problem of childhood.”
I thoroughly enjoyed “Freedom from Speech” by Greg Lukianoff, in which he persuasively argues that much contemporary censorship is rooted in the idea that emotional and intellectual comfort ought to be a right.
The increased calls for sensitivity-based censorship represent the dark side of what are otherwise several positive developments for human civilization. As I will explain in the next section, I believe that we are not passing through some temporary phase in which an out-of-touch and hypersensitive elite attempts — and often fails — to impose its speech-restrictive norms on society. It’s worse than that: people all over the globe are coming to expect emotional and intellectual comfort as though it were a right. This is precisely what you would expect when you train a generation to believe that they have a right not to be offended. Eventually, they stop demanding freedom of speech and start demanding freedom from speech.
…I am constantly on the lookout for potential cures for this problem. Litigation plays an important role in the fight, as does having students engage in proper Oxford-style debates (like we see today in the Intelligence Squared series). Comedians and satirists may also join the pushback against the infinite care ethic; after all, it is blazingly clear that politically correct censorship and comedy are natural enemies. And, of course, nothing can replace teaching students at every level of education the old-fashioned intellectual habits of epistemic humility, giving others the benefit of the doubt, and actually listening to opposing opinions. Such practices need to make a comeback if we are to have a society in which it is at all productive (let alone pleasurable) to talk about anything serious.
The short book/pamphlet is full of great insights and an essential read for the modern free speech advocate.
As Lukianoff points out, the vanguard of the fightback is probably comedians. PC and Comedy are natural enemies. Here is Patton Oswalt’s viral skewering care ethic excesses:
“Freedom from Speech” by Greg Lukianoff [Amazon.com] – $4
An article in Denmark’s Information newspaper revealed that victims of honour violence in Copenhagen are often tracked down by ethnic minority taxi drivers who return the women to their abusive families or spouses. This follows news that Islamists in deprived areas of Denmark work with ethnic gangs to enforce sharia . If Islamists were able to command a highly mobile reconnaissance and rapid reaction force of taxi drivers, the police would have a major threat to deal with.
I strongly doubt the taxi drivers are part of some organised militia or Islamist plot. It is just the power of social networks in close knit immigrant communities at work.
I would understand, however, if immigrant communities were organising defensively. In Ted Allbeury’s 1983 novel “All Our Tomorrows”, an economically and socially divided Britain is occupied by the Soviet Union. In describing the gradual disintegration of Britain prior to the occupation, Allbeury describes class warfare and ethnic riots. One of episodes of the novel describes how Britain’s Asians manage to defend themselves from marauding mobs by quietly organising and preparing long before the trouble kicks off. They organise militias, with radios and weapons, to successfully defend their areas.
These scenarios seem utterly unrealistic until such a collapse happens. Belfast in 1968, 90’s Yugoslavia, Syria since 2011: Those that organised to defend themselves survived. Even in the UK in the 2011 riots we learned that in even the most seemingly stable countries large scale targeted mob violence can happen extremely quickly. Just ask the people of Ealing who formed street defence leagues spontaneously to guard against the mobs tearing up the nearby town centre.
If it is unsafe for you to speak freely or reveal what you think for fear of persecution, then anonymity is your shield. Learn about how to achieve it properly and use it wisely.
our method: pseudonymous speech…
anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. it thus exemplifies the purpose behind the bill of rights, and of the first amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation– and their ideas from suppression– at the hand of an intolerant society.
The right to remain anonymous may be abused when it shields fraudulent conduct. but political speech by its nature will sometimes have unpalatable consequences, and, in general, our society accords greater weight to the value of free speech than to the dangers of its misuse.
– mcintyre v. ohio elections commission 514 u.s. 334 (1995) justice stevens writing for the majority
though often maligned (typically by those frustrated by an inability to engage in ad hominem attacks) anonymous speech has a long and storied history in the united states. used by the likes of mark twain (aka samuel langhorne clemens) to criticize common ignorance, and perhaps most famously by alexander hamilton, james madison and john jay (aka publius) to write the federalist papers, we think ourselves in good company in using one or another nom de plume. particularly in light of an emerging trend against vocalizing public dissent in the united states, we believe in the critical importance of anonymity and its role in dissident speech. like the economist magazine, we also believe that keeping authorship anonymous moves the focus of discussion to the content of speech and away from the speaker- as it should be. we believe not only that you should be comfortable with anonymous speech in such an environment, but that you should be suspicious of any speech that isn’t.
Elton John has called for a boycott of fashion brand Dolce and Gabbana after he said the designers labelled children born through IVF “synthetic”.
The singer and songwriter, 67, who has two children with his husband, David Furnish, angrily rebuked the Italian designers for criticising same-sex families and the use of fertility treatment.
Business partners Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, who were once a couple, have previously voiced their rejection of same-sex marriage, but in an interview with an Italian magazine this weekend they extended their objection to include same-sex families.
In an Instagram post on Sunday morning, John said: “How dare you refer to my beautiful children as ‘synthetic’.
“And shame on you for wagging your judgemental little fingers at IVF – a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay, to fulfil their dream of having children.
“Your archaic thinking is out of step with the times, just like your fashions. I shall never wear Dolce and Gabbana ever again. #BoycottDolceGabbana.”
In summary, If I disagree with your opinion, I will attempt to destroy your livelihood. No dialogue, no tolerance, no debate, no attempt to persuade – just attack!
“I didn’t expect this, coming from someone whom I considered, and I stress ‘considered’, an intelligent person like Elton John.
“I mean, you preach understanding, tolerance and then you attack others?
“Only because someone has a different opinion? Is this a democratic or enlightened way of thinking? This is ignorance, because he ignores the fact that others might have a different opinion and that theirs is as worthy of respect as his.
“It’s an authoritiarian way of seeing the world: agree with me or, if you don’t, I’ll attack you.”
Elton John would do well to remember that human rights (including gay rights) were built on the principles Free Speech, empathy and tolerance. Elton John preaches tolerance but displays utter intolerance to anyone who disagrees with him. This is both hypocrisy and chauvinism.
Let me give Jonathan Rauch the last word. This is from his magnificent book Kindly Inquisitors:
Today I fear that many people on my side of the gay-equality question are forgetting our debt to the system that freed us. Some gay people—not all, not even most, but quite a few—want to expunge discriminatory views. “Discrimination is discrimination and bigotry is bigotry,” they say, “and they are intolerable whether or not they happen to be someone’s religion or moral creed. ‘ Here is not the place for an examination of the proper balance between, say, religious liberty and anti-discrimination rules. It is a place, perhaps, for a plea to those of us in the gay-rights movement—and in other minority-rights movements—who now find ourselves in the cultural ascendency, with public majorities and public morality (strange to say it!) on our side. We should be the last people on the planet to demand that anyone be silenced.
Partly the reasons are strategic. Robust intellectual exchange…serves our interest. Our greatest enemy is not irrational hate, which is pretty uncommon. It is rational hate, hate premised upon falsehood. (If you believe homosexuality poses a threat to your children, you will hate it.) The main way we eliminate hate is not to legislate or inveigh against it, but to replace it—with knowledge, empirical and ethical. That was how Frank Kameny and a few other people, without numbers or law or public sympathy on their side, turned hate on its head. They had arguments, and they had the right to make them.
And partly the reasons are moral. Gay people have lived in a world where we were forced, day in and day out, to betray our consciences and shut our mouths in the name of public morality. Not so long ago, everybody thought we were wrong. Now our duty is to protect others’ freedom to be wrong, the better to ensure society’s odds of being right. Of course, we can and should correct the falsehoods we hear and, once they are debunked, deny them the standing of knowledge in textbooks and professions; but we equally have the responsibility to defend their expression as opinion in the public square. Finding the proper balance is not easy and isn’t supposed to be.
What I am urging is a general proposition: minorities are the point of the spear defending liberal science. We are the first to be targeted with vile words and ideas, but we are also the leading beneficiaries of a system which puts up with them. The open society is sometimes a cross we bear, but it is also a sword we wield, and we are defenseless without it. We ought to remember what Frank Kameny never forgot: for politically weak minorities, the best and often only way to effect wholesale change in World One and World Two, the worlds of things and sentiments, is by effecting change in World Three, the world of ideas. Minorities therefore have a special responsibility to Peirce’s injunction: Do not block the way of inquiry. Our position as beneficiaries of the open society requires us to serve as guardians of it. Playing that role, not seeking government protections or hauling our adversaries before star chambers, is the greater source of our dignity.
“The characteristic of genuine heroism is its persistency. All men have wandering impulses, fits and starts of generosity. But when you have resolved to be great, abide by yourself, and do not weakly try to reconcile yourself with the world. The heroic cannot be the common, nor the common the heroic.”