Here’s how I feel about that:
I think the argument that free speech is so important is based on the idea that if people were able to speak freely they would be more effective at organizing against the other bad things happening. I disagree with that, and I think Zimbabwe is a great example of that.
What if everyone was able to talk about how much they disliked Mugabe? Would that stop his soldiers from pouring acid in ballot boxes at the next presidential election and then confiscating the cameras of the international observers who films them doing it at gunpoint? Having a public debate about that practice is not going to help. The majority of people already think its wrong. In Zimbabwe your opinion doesn’t matter.
A country with free speech that doesn’t count the people’s votes is less free than a country without free speech where the votes are counted. In the real world the sort of people who doesn’t count votes is the same sort of person who doesn’t like free speech, so I think the two things get conflated. The damage done by a lack of free speech (which I believe is minor [minor in terms of fundamental human rights, so in absolute terms really, really bad]) is confused with the damage done by vote suppression (which I believe is catastrophic).
You make very good points. I simply wanted to say it is good to be able to criticize leaders without going to jail (similar to lesse majesty) but your points are stronger on the overall matter.
Good thing that has nothing to do with ridding society of speech that promotes violence and hatred then, which is what we’re actually discussing.
Focused on Twitter, but also of relevance to the broader issues. Theoretical free speech vs real-world speech accessibility, the problem of leaving speech regulation to the private sector, etc.
All of that is right on the money.
So much for alt-white complaints about free speech on campus.
They think such rights only apply to them.
Why, it’s almost like people are trying to shut down radical voices on college campuses? But that couldn’t possibly be the case! /s
Here’s a case that seems cut and dry to me, but is a pretty strong example of how social norms are being used to obfuscate and defend active harassment online and off.
First, Richard Spencer’s mom Sherry Spencer has a business renting apartments to people in Whitefish. Recently, there has been two conflicting reports surrounding the building:
On November 22, Gersh and I spoke on the phone. She relayed to me that if I did not sell my building, 200 protesters and national media would show up outside — which would drive down the property value — until I complied. Gersh’s other conditions included that I make a public denunciation of my son in a statement written by the Montana Human Rights Network and that I make a donation to this organization from the sale of the property. As Gersh announced on Facebook, she was “spear heading” the campaign.
Here are the communication Spencer’s mom is referencing:
Shocking no one, this results in Gersh being doxxed on the Daily Stormer and being harassed constantly:
She also recalls the phone call differently:
One of the tenants gave my phone number to Sherry Spencer and I received a phone call from her and she said to me: “What do I do? I don’t believe in the ideology of my son. I know that me having this building is causing turmoil. What do I do?” And I said, if this were my son, if I were in this position, I would probably sell the building, I would donate some money to a human rights cause, and I would make a public statement that I don’t believe in the ideology of my son. And she said to me: “Thank you, Tanya, you’re right, that’s what I need to do. Can you help me?”
I truly believed her. She even gave me the code to her building, and said: “Please, go take a look inside, I really want you to see it.” All along I was thinking what I was doing was helping my community.
So of course the police are involved bringing Andrew Anglin to court:
And of course, the white supremecists’ side has two points of defense. Sherry Spencer ended her post on medium with:
I strongly urge that everyone stays within the bounds of respectful, civilized discussion of this matter by refraining from abusive comments or targeted harassment of any of the parties involved, or their families. I disavow the harassment that anyone faced as a result of these events first being brought to light by the media even prior to this publication of my side of the story. After all, my own family and I have faced — and continue to face — numerous threats and bullying on social media as well.
And of course, there is a declaration that this is the very root of free speech:
“If a local business were polluting the environment, any editor could rally his readers to write to that business in protest,” his legal team, led by First Amendment lawyer Marc Randazza, wrote in court briefs asking for the dismissal of the lawsuit. “If a local business were discriminating against black customers, the NAACP can exhort its members to send correspondence to it. And, conversely, the KKK can ask its members to send letters of protest to an establishment that treats all races equally.”
Anglin’s attorneys argued that his articles do not constitute a “true threat” of violence against Gersh. Although there have been death threats, they said those did not come directly from Anglin, but rather, from third parties. The attorneys added that Anglin included disclaimers urging his readers to avoid threats of violence.
“Political hyperbole is not a threat. . . . The third parties’ statements are generally recognized anti-Semitic tropes, without actual harm reasonably construed,” the attorneys wrote. “And, even Nazi expression, no matter the psychic harm on Jewish residents, is nonetheless protected speech.”
So there’s a two topics in general:
- Why does anyone consider doxxing an entire family a legitimate attempt to bring attention to an issue? (it wasn’t just the realtor, it was also her personal information and her family’s contact information like her 12 year old son)
- Why is the line for online harassment so hard to find for absolutists? (Some of this harassment includes firing guns into the microphone of a telephone)
They’re nazis, and she’s Jewish. That’s it.
This is the problem. Nazi ideology relies on the extermination of others. It is the whole of the ideology. By expressing it, one advocates for genocide, which is no different than calling for an individual’s murder.
Absolutists refuse to accept this. They refuse to place context on words, and insist that words alone mean nothing. Why they do this is less certain. They swear up and down they aren’t nazis, they just defend them on the internet.
I think I understand it. We’ve been living for decades in a culture that is built up from the premise that the best system is one in which individuals pursue their self-interest.
That culture speaks highly of the emergent properties of a collective of people working for their own individual good, but also denigrates the individuals. It divides people into two classes: the masses who behave selfishly; and the elite who are in charge of implementing the system.
Part of the mythology of the system is that the elite class doesn’t exist, that the system runs itself, but when politicians turn to economists to ask what policies to implement to make the system run itself best, those economists are clearly functioning as the elite.
The law of economics, “People respond to incentives,” is a way of basically saying the masses are predictable. When the masses say, “We want X,” the elites tut-tut and say they know better, that it would result in “unintended consequences”. The masses are sometimes infants, sometimes automatons. No one wants to be one of the masses.
How do you distinguish yourself from the masses? The masses behave in intuitive ways (i.e. respond to incentives), you have to show you have mastered your intuition.
So I think free speech absolutists defend Nazis because they are trying to maintain social status in a system where social status is achieved by reaching unintuitive conclusions. Individuals being selfish creates the maximum public good. Hospitals and insurance companies run for profit produce better health outcomes. Letting nazis march in the street with torches chanting genocidal slogans results in increased safety.
So I don’t think they are nazis, but I also don’t think its a coincidence that they defend nazis on BB. Here, the intuition runs that nazis are bad. On another message board the intuition runs that BLM is bad, and there is someone defending BLM. Maybe even the same person.
Remember those guys in camo gear with automatic rifles ‘protecting’ the free speech of the tiki-torch bearers at Charlottesville? The same guys repeatedly offered their services to the BLM folks to provide security for their marches, for some reason they were turned down though . I wouldn’t place those guys into the same camp as all free-speech absolutists (many of whom are liberals), but at least they’re consistent.