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[RD] Does free speech even exist as a concept?

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Mouthwash, Aug 31, 2018.

  1. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Escaped Lunatic

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    I keep hearing right-wingers talk about how they are being 'silenced' and denied 'free speech' by universities and corporations. The argument seems to be that if certain viewpoints are ostracized, even if there is no coercion involved, the result is the same - with the opinion banished from the public sphere.

    So here's a little thought experiment: substitute every opinion you think is being unfairly restricted with a belief that black people should be re-enslaved. Should that be tolerated by employers or given a platform by universities? Would you want to associate with someone holding that view?

    It seems to me that these folks believe that free speech is about letting rational debate decide what is best, and if they aren't permitted to speak their beliefs than those beliefs are being undermined unfairly, i.e. they aren't being properly refuted. And, if you think about it, that's insane - should Holocaust survivors be subjected to arguments that they are liars? Should Latinos be forced to defend their genetic fitness to justify their presence in the United States?

    I think this reasoning comes from the view that rationality and a free flow of information is somehow the thing responsible for democracy, human rights, etc. Sorry, but it isn't.

    What freedom of speech really is: the ability to say anything you want in a public setting or to print whatever material you please without being forced to stop. It's simply a restriction on the powers of governments to determine what people should or shouldn't believe. There is no 'culture' or 'society' based on free speech, and it is not under threat unless white supremacists can no longer endorse these views in their own backyards.

    A problem does come up about whether all public settings should be available for free expression. I think the answer is no, unless you think a bunch of Christians should be able to waltz into an Arab festival carrying a pig's head and insulting Islam. If someone can express those opinions at another location without needlessly antagonizing others, then they should be coerced to do so.

    tl;dr: Free speech has only ever existed as a legal restriction of state power. In broader society it appears to be a shorthand for 'my ideas deserve to be given a seat at the table.'
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2018
  2. metalhead

    metalhead Angry Bartender

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    The right loves markets. The right professes the sanctity of the "marketplace of ideas." The right does not seem to realize that part of a functional marketplace involves ensuring that garbage products are excluded from it.
     
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  3. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Escaped Lunatic

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    Following this analogy, the right thinks products ought to be outcompeted through pure market forces rather than a boycott. The only way they'll ever take back any ground in the culture war is by abandoning the notion of a 'marketplace of ideas', which has only ever existed in their imaginations.
     
  4. Ryika

    Ryika likes cookies and milk.

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    Simply holding those views, or uttering those views at work?

    The second one... no, obviously not. Your workplace is not a space where you go to give your opinions, it's where you go to work, and you should restrict yourself so other people at the workplace are not negatively affected by you. If you can't do that, and make the workplace worse as a result, then it's perfectly fine for the boss to let you go because of that.

    The first one... yeah, that should be tolerated. What's the alternative? Every person who holds some disgusting beliefs should live of welfare? Unless you're a official public voice for the company, what employees do in their free time should not be a concern for the company. People who form mobs that harass employers until they drop their employee are disgusting. And that doesn't only happen to "White Supremacists", it happens to people who simply have an ideological disagreement with you.

    That's a nonsensical question. Nobody is given a platform "by a university", people are given a platform by groups who invite them. These groups can decide who they invite, and no other group should have the right to prevent them from doing so. The university's role here is to not interfere, it's passive, not active.

    Overall, I don't see how that's a "Right Wing"-issue. If we're talking about College Campuses, the people who are having their Free Speech hindered the most, are actually Left Wingers - the "wrong kind" of Lift Wingers who disagree with the Left Wing censorship brigade that dominates some campuses in that case.

    The "free speech battle" is fought between people who have decided that certain viewpoints are just too harmful to be uttered - the moral guardians who think their views are universally correct and that no debate needs to take place - and the people who think that all ideas should be considered, and that bad ideas will be seen as bad ideas by the vast majority of people.
     
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  5. brennan

    brennan Argumentative Brit

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    Still thinking free speech is paramount.
     
  6. metalhead

    metalhead Angry Bartender

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    Or maybe try having ideas which aren't garbage.

    Of course, the whole idea that the "war on speech" is only perpetrated by the left against the right is false. But if you read most mainstream news publications, you'd never know that the American right routinely succeeds in censoring speech they don't like.

    Evidence also shows that college faculty are fired more often for politically liberal speech, than they are for politically conservative speech.

    Of course, the main takeaway from any honest assessment here is that, there is no censorship crisis, nor really much censorship at all. The incidents of no-platforming or reprimands for political speech number in the dozens, across thousands of colleges and I dunno, millions of incidents of political speech?

    Colleges are already pretty radically disposed toward free speech. The whole narrative that tries to paint colleges as rabidly anti-conservative just doesn't reflect reality.
     
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  7. Ryika

    Ryika likes cookies and milk.

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  8. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Another drone in the hive mind

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    "Free speech" as represented by "Congress shall pass no law restricting..." is important. "Free speech" as represented by "I get to shout asshatteries in your ear and there shall be no consequences" is plain stupid.

    I can't count the number of times I've said "Is your intention here to piss me off and see what happens, because I can't think of any other reason that you would be saying/doing what you are saying/doing." On a few occasions, the person has not bothered to offer an alternative intent and has just repeated whatever it was they had done or said. Is there any conclusion to be drawn other than 'yes, they are knowingly and intentionally trying to piss me off and see what happens?' I find that a whole lot of "free speech proponents" are really just looking for absolution for such behaviors, and I see no benefit in giving them such absolution. If someone knowingly sets out to piss someone off and see what happens, whatever happens to them is their responsibility and I don't see any reason that society should shield them from it.

    The "substitute this" argument presented is just a rehashing of nonsense. Let's try, "if the maitre d at the restaurant greets you with 'piss off' instead of 'good evening' would it make a difference in whether you become a frequent patron?" Oh, hey, what people say actually does make a difference in the reactions they get. How novel! Who'd have ever thunk that? This is the typical refuge of the troll, who wants to claim "you get to say good morning to me, and I don't get mad, so I should be able to say 'go fornicate yourself' to you." It's absurd.
     
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  9. metalhead

    metalhead Angry Bartender

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    That doesn't logically follow. If college faculties are dominated by "the left," then why are members of "the left" removing other members of "the left" for left-wing speech?

    College administrators as left wing is an exceedingly dumb take, I can assure you.
     
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  10. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Another drone in the hive mind

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    Straight numbers game. If there are a whole lot more left than right there will be more left than right that "go too far," all else being equal.
     
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  11. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Escaped Lunatic

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    Being on 'the left' doesn't automatically make people ideological bedfellows. One leftist might think women should learn to take care of themselves because they don't need no men, and another one thinks that this is making them vulnerable to sexual abuse. First one gets fired for subjecting women to a culture of harassment.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2018
  12. Ryika

    Ryika likes cookies and milk.

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    Because left does not equate left. I mean, that should be obvious to you, you've been part of those debates in this very forum. Progressives vs. Liberals, Far-Left Marxists vs. Democrats, Victimhood feminism vs. Empowerment Feminism, Sex negative feminism vs. Sex positive feminism, etc.

    Then of course you also have people who once were feminist icons but are simply not far enough to the left anymore. Germaine Greer, second wave feminist icon, being blocked from speaking by a feminist group based on her opinions on trans folk to name a concrete example.

    Pretty much any study you can find on the topic confirms that college administrators and college teachers who are democrats vastly outnumber those who are republican. Here's an example, and there are tons of more focused studies on google that find similar results.

    Of course being pro-democrat does not equal left wing, and being pro-republican does not equate to right-wing, but there's a strong correlation. So I don't see what's "dumb" about that take, the political leanings are pretty obvious.
     
  13. El_Machinae

    El_Machinae Colour vision since 2018 Retired Moderator

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    I think the distinction would breakdown at the upper levels of thought. Someone would consider themselves a Democrat and a centrist at the same time, very easily. Not because they're left-wing, but because the mainstream Republican stance is incorrect (from their perspective) in too many ways.


    ...............

    I do struggle in a few places. Like, we recognize that people need their jobs, and so we have to create all kinds of compromises as to how much a business owner can enforce their own beliefs in their workplace. There's just no way to make it 'free'. Same with universities. They have an obligation to filter some of the conversation, because the reputation of the university somewhat affects people's perception of the speaker.

    I don't like it when people criminally violate other people's speech. If I throw an event, attendance is predicated on behaving a certain way. Feel free to boycott or leave, but actively disrupting the event is very much destroying the conversation. It's not an exercise of free speech to take advantage of a loophole in trespassing laws, it's destroying free speech by using a loophole. Insignificantly different from a DDoS attackt
     
  14. MaryKB

    MaryKB Chieftain

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    I feel from a lot of what I read that many conservatives talking about freedoms really seem to confuse freedom with power, because to me they only seem interested in exercising their own rights at everyone else's expense. I myself personally believe your right to your freedom of speech doesn't mean you have a power to force me to listen to you, and you don't have any power to force me to endorse your speech.

    I don't understand why a person feels he or she can say or do whatever he or she wants, but a company or organization doesn't have any right to be concerned with its public image and how you're affecting that. Like, if you say racist things and you're obviously associated with me, I may want to distance myself from you because I may be afraid of my reputation being harmed, you know what I mean? If you're working for me and I'm afraid because of your attitudes I'm going to lose customers, well I may not want to keep you as my employee because I feel I have a legitimate reason to think you're going to harm my business. Why should I be forced to put up with you if your actions or words are hurting me? Should I just have to lose my company because no one will do business with me because I'm associated with you? I don't feel that makes me very free at all, I should be allowed to choose my own freedom of speech and what speech I endorse, right?

    And I find it so interesting, how like conservatives talk about freedom has consequences and they're totally fine if that means a single mother has to watch her children starve because her "choices" have led her to poverty, but he shouldn't have any negative social fallout because he says atrocious things, I feel there's such a ridiculous and cruel double standard and I just can't at all take them seriously. And that all goes back to what I was saying originally, I truly believe they confuse freedom with power, and want power only for themselves, and power to do whatever they want whenever they want and to whomever they want.

    Oh dear, I'm so very sorry for my rant here, I feel this just touches a bit of a nerve for me.
     
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  15. Ryika

    Ryika likes cookies and milk.

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    I think that only few people would argue that a company is doing something wrong for firing controversial people, the people who are doing wrong are the ones who barrage that company with eMails and calls demanding a person to be fired for uttering a political opinion that they don't like. "I don't like what you have to say, so you should not have a job." - that's just disgusting behavior. Especially when you consider that more often than not the social media outrage mob creates a strawman of the usually much more nuanced, actual position the person has taken.
     
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  16. El_Machinae

    El_Machinae Colour vision since 2018 Retired Moderator

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    We also prevent companies from refusing to hire people that they predict would hurt their business. The laws around what rights a business owner has is a big ol' compromise.
     
  17. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Another drone in the hive mind

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    Is it the company's responsibility to monitor their employee's behavior? If customers start spinning around at the door, the company is entitled to know why. If the reason is that they recognized the maitre d as the guy that called them names as they walked down the street last weekend, the company is entitled to that information. Maybe they should have been keeping tabs on their employee themselves, or maybe they shouldn't, but it's certainly not wrong to let them know.

    This all goes back to what I said about intentionally pissing people off just to see what happens. If what happens is they track down your workplace and encourage your boss to fire you, then tough break and you shouldn't have run that test.
     
  18. Ryika

    Ryika likes cookies and milk.

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    If they've actually done something that would warrant such behavior, then that might be grounds for a discussion about that. "This person uttered a political opinion that I don't lik!"? Not so much. Especially when "This person said that Feminism has become toxic." for example becomes "This person hates women!", as it pretty much always does.

    And on top of that, like you yourself imply here...


    ...is is the case that in most cases the identity of the person who is being target isn't even public in the first place, but gets unearthed during the outrage. So this supposedly altruistic idea of helping a company avoid a pr problem is just absurd. That's not in any way the "goal" of such social media hatemobs, it's simply vindictive action taken by morally righteous people. Sometimes the targets are trolls, and in such cases yeah, they sort of brought it onto themselves, but more often than not, they're just political wrongthinkers.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2018
  19. Hehehe

    Hehehe Chieftain

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    I don't know what kind of strawman you've been constructing in your head. Yes, freedom of speech is a negative right. No it does not shield anyone from backlash. Was there a point here?
     
  20. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Another drone in the hive mind

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    While living in a capital of conservatism in 2004 I went to a GWBush campaign rally and handed out flyers loaded with links to resources detailing the lies involved in the run up to the Iraq war. To no one's surprise I ended up detained by the cops...long enough for them to confiscate my flyers. Also to no one's surprise I lost a few customers, and a few acquaintances opted not to get any closer to me and in fact distanced themselves. Not because of my "political wrong thinking," but because I pissed people off. I did not pretend to be surprised, or blame anyone for the fallout my actions precipitated, because that should be the expected outcome when you set out to piss people off.
     

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