This is a fantastically good video by ContraPoints on free speech. It’s basically a dissection of what “free speech” actually means, showing how absurd the free speech absolutists are, and how appreciating the complexity of the issue is mangled by the right wing into claims that “the left hates free speech!”
The left doesn’t hate free speech. We kinda hate the cartoon version of free speech touted by right-wingers, but as ContraPoints explains, we do understand the concept very well, and probably better than they do: it protects the right of the speaker to express a controversial position as well as of the audience to hear it, and it’s actually strengthens defensible positions by exercising their defense. Minority positions need special protection because they are marginal, we have a duty to protect them from the tyranny of the majority.
ContraPoints agrees with all that. So do I. But we also recognize that a cacophony of loudly shouted views is not practical, and that giving everyone bullhorns does not protect anyone’s right to be heard. It’s a difficult balancing act. You need moderation for free speech to work. There are inherent contradictions and incompatibilities that make it impossible to be truly neutral on speech.
For example, social norms can have a silencing effect. The right-wingers are fond of complaining that calling them “racist” or “misogynist” hurts them terribly, is unfair and unkind, etc., etc., etc. But then what about expressions of racism and misogyny on the internet? Don’t you have to agree that those must also have a silencing effect?
Well, the reply goes, that’s just the hurly-burly nature of the internet. Just deal with it. You can’t change it (translation: we don’t want to change that part of it, we just want to change the part that lets you call us racists). It says a lot about these free speech absolutists in whose speech they rush to defend and promote and who they tell to take the abuse and get over it. Somehow, saying that “it is the nature of universities to promote more tolerant exploration of ideas than the shit-raging of Milo Yiannopoulos” is not accepted as an excuse by these same people.
We see a great deal of hypocrisy on this matter from the right. This video skewers Christopher Hitchens rather effectively, I think, and is maybe a little too generous to Dave Rubin, who is one of the louder proponents of alt-right bullshit while cloaking himself under the mantle of rationalism and free speech. Somehow that rationalism always expresses itself in cheerleading for racism and misogyny, but hey, that’s the hurly-burly nature of the internet.
I can think of other examples of this double standard, too: Bill Maher comes to mind. Sam Harris. Another recent instance is Carl Benjamin, proud defender of liberty, who gets called a “garbage human” by Anita Sarkeesian and is so crushed by an insult that he immediately whips around and petitions a conference to kick her off a panel. FREEDOM! Freedom for me, just not for you.
An even more cogent example: this video was temporarily taken down by a flood of complaints to YouTube by those same people who are so vocal about their inviolable right to express themselves however they want (or possibly by Hitchens idolators, who infest both atheism and YouTube, oblivious to the contradiction in that). I guess they just wanted to prove ContraPoints‘ point.