It’s difficult recognizing the need for something when it’s abundant. Do you feel the need to defend your freedom of speech when you don’t see it threatened?
What have you fought to defend that was indeed threatened by some external force? Would you even appreciate its necessity if it weren’t under threat?
The freedom to express yourself is something that the western world takes for granted. Yet it forgets the fact that just a few decades ago, it had that right threatened; the right for an individual to speak what’s on their mind. But also paradoxically, the right for your worst enemy to speak their minds too.
Chomsky exemplifies this belief all too well. That a Jewish Anarchist would believe that we should give leeway to everyone to express themselves—even Holocaust Deniers—is something I find admirable.
I must admit, that if not for a few days ago, I would still have used Popper’s Paradox of Tolerance to justify censorship. But I’ve had a change of heart in recent days. I realized that a lot of my heroes would have been censored today. Malcolm X for all his brash Social Justice advocacy said some things that were very much anti-Semitic. In the world we live today, his vile(and a lot of it was vile) antisemitic rhetoric would have cast a shadow on his truly necessary racial justice work.
In light of the backlash that came as a result of the many academics and intellectuals standing up for freedom of speech, I am reminded of the need to preserve it.
The Nazis taught us that they’d ban the expression of anything that did not serve Nazi purposes. The science they felt wasn’t “Nazi” enough was suppressed.
Hayek made it clear to us that during the Nazi insurgency, that Nazis denied objectivity if it did not benefit them. They denied art if it didn't benefit them. Every instance of free expression was lost, merely because they believed the individual not to exist. We see the same thing occur today. We see some within the scientific enterprise shun rationality and objectivity, relegating it to an evil born of white supremacy. And yes, the institution of Science indeed had a very racist element to it. But science as a method of inquiry was born from a need to understand the world. If the curiosity and the objectivity that comes with that method is indeed racist, the only other choice we have is to be animals of pure instinct.
One simply cannot deny freedom of expression for voices they do not value. It’s a general principle. One that if violated puts each and everyone at risk.
Sadly, we also see that a younger more empathic generation simply does not understand the need to preserve this principle. On its face, it’s very rational believing that the consequences of certain terrible speech should be grave. There’s almost every single argument in the book to support that very belief and very few to support the speech of those you hate most.
But that singular defense of freedom of speech has proven itself necessary time and time again.
Who decides what speech is allowed?
What Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, and Fascist China all teach us, is that the moment we define the bounds of speech, we give up our freedoms.
We’re seeing people get offended over people’s choices to support certain freedoms. The whole purpose of that letter was to stand with voices they disagree with. To stand in solidarity with the rights for others to speak their minds.
That the defense and argument against freedom of speech should pop up as it is now, is a sign of the fact that the culture war of the 1930s never really ended. But it’s also a sign of the fact that our youth of which I am a part of, does not think critically enough about the dangers of groupthink.
Individual liberty no matter how much stupidity we see comes thereof is something that is missed when not present. But don’t ask me. Ask people on mainland China what took place on Tiananmen Square that faithful day. A tragedy that no one seems to “remember”.
I had written this article 3 days ago. In the past few hours, Bari Weiss, someone who I very much disagree with, resigned from the New York Times. In her resignation letter, she presents the most scathing critique of NYtimes’ business model and its move towards censorship. Bari isn’t the most honorable of voices. And I find many of her stances downright reprehensible. That said, her letter highlights the shift we see, in what was once the foremost liberal journal; the move towards “niching” that I highlighted in my previous post.
The bigger problem here isn’t the fact that the NYT stands up for some truly worthwhile causes. It’s the fact that its business model accounts for not standing up for certain worthwhile voices due to fear of critique from the twitter mob.
During Ochs’ reign of the company, when there were sensationalist pieces everywhere, he coined the slogan "All The News That's Fit To Print" as a jab towards their competitors.
We find ourselves back in the era of Yellow Journalism. This time, however, the NYTimes finds itself at the wrong end of it.
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