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Old 02-11-2019, 03:45 PM
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Will free speech always be considered a good thing?


There is a small-but-significant portion of the populace that is disenchanted with free speech or considers it synonymous with "loophole that allows hate speech" and is very actively trying to move towards limited-and-censored speech instead.

Which has me thinking - free speech is something of an anomaly. For the most part of the past 6,000 years, most if not all societies pretty much forbade true free speech and there were serious (possibly fatal) consequences for expressing opinions that would be permitted today. In other words, free speech doesn't exist unless there is a continuously active movement to keep it going. It is likely to die out and be replaced by censorship (which is the human norm) if not.

And 20 or 30 years from now, will society even consider "free speech" to be a good thing?
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Old 02-11-2019, 03:46 PM
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Yes.
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Old 02-11-2019, 03:52 PM
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Define free speech. We do have some restrictions on speech -- for example, I am not allowed to make false claims about you if those false claims cause you harm. That's libel or slander, depending on how I make those claims.

I can't go out and incite people to violence.

I can't start spreading information that has been classified as confidential by the US government.

In the United States of America, you can try and recruit people to the Nazi Party or to the KKK. However, you cannot try and recruit people to ISIS.
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Old 02-11-2019, 04:35 PM
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... And 20 or 30 years from now, will society even consider "free speech" to be a good thing?
I hope so, but I'm a bit down on the prospects. This attitude (that free speech is generally good) already seems to be waning.
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Old 02-11-2019, 04:45 PM
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Most societies forbid free speech today.

I assume you’re taking about the US? Yeah, free speech only exists when there is no crisis. During (total) war time, the US has capitulated on free speech. Antiwar speech was prosecuted and likened to shouting fire in a crowded theater. Eugene Debs was tossed in prison.
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Old 02-11-2019, 07:04 PM
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There is a small-but-significant portion of the populace that is disenchanted with free speech or considers it synonymous with "loophole that allows hate speech" and is very actively trying to move towards limited-and-censored speech instead.
Who on earth are these people? How small are their numbers, yet how significant? What do you mean by "free," "hate," or "speech?" Are we talking about pornographers and communists, or merely people who oppose people yelling "movie!" in a crowded firehouse?

I'm honestly not being all that facetious; I think there are a ton of begged questions in that single sentence.
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Old 02-11-2019, 07:07 PM
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Everybody loves free speech for people with whom they agree and that will never change. So, free speech will always be considered a good thing.
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Old 02-11-2019, 07:23 PM
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Who on earth are these people? How small are their numbers, yet how significant? ...
In a word: Millenials.

Quote:
American Millennials are far more likely than older generations to say the government should be able to prevent people from saying offensive statements about minority groups, according to a new analysis of Pew Research Center survey data on free speech and media across the globe.

U.S. Millennials More Likely to Support Censoring Offensive Statements About MinoritiesWe asked whether people believe that citizens should be able to make public statements that are offensive to minority groups, or whether the government should be able to prevent people from saying these things. Four-in-ten Millennials say the government should be able to prevent people publicly making statements that are offensive to minority groups, while 58% said such speech is OK.

Even though a larger share of Millennials favor allowing offensive speech against minorities, the 40% who oppose it is striking given that only around a quarter of Gen Xers (27%) and Boomers (24%) and roughly one-in-ten Silents (12%) say the government should be able to prevent such speech
Pew - 40% of Millennials OK with limiting speech offensive to minorities


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... A fifth of undergrads now say it's acceptable to use physical force to silence a speaker who makes "offensive and hurtful statements."

That's one finding from a disturbing new survey of students conducted by John Villasenor, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and University of California at Los Angeles professor. ...
WaPo - A chilling study shows how hostile college students are toward free speech
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Old 02-11-2019, 07:25 PM
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Who on earth are these people? How small are their numbers, yet how significant? What do you mean by "free," "hate," or "speech?" Are we talking about pornographers and communists, or merely people who oppose people yelling "movie!" in a crowded firehouse?

I'm honestly not being all that facetious; I think there are a ton of begged questions in that single sentence.

Some examples:

"Let's give up on academic freedom in the name of justice" https://www.thecrimson.com/column/th...e/?page=single

One out of five students say it is OK to use physical violence against someone who expresses offensive speech: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opini...=.64315cde42b0

Atlantic article: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics...istory/537468/

"America's Need to Reevaluate Free Speech" http://dailynexus.com/2017-10-29/ame...e-free-speech/

"Free speech is crumbling worldwide" https://www.usatoday.com/story/opini...umn/859623001/

"College students support free speech unless it offends them" https://www.washingtonpost.com/local...=.eb960e81b9a1
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Old 02-11-2019, 07:30 PM
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Ah. I see. It's the kids these days.

:shrug: Nothing new. Americans have always moved all over the place on where the limits of speech should be drawn. The idea that this is "very actively trying to move towards limited-and-censored speech" is silly, as we already accept limits on our speech.

But hey, pushing back is part of the process. Be grateful your POV has power that HUAC's victims never did.
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Old 02-11-2019, 11:37 PM
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Nor is it just the Millenials (or liberals). I do recall quite a bit of rancor (from the President no less) about not wanting football players to kneel during the National Anthem or insisting that saying "Happy Holidays" was somehow Unamerican.
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Old 02-11-2019, 11:46 PM
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Nor is it just the Millenials (or liberals). I do recall quite a bit of rancor (from the President no less) about not wanting football players to kneel during the National Anthem or insisting that saying "Happy Holidays" was somehow Unamerican.
No, see, that's different, because Trump is just an idiot spouting off, but these college kids speak with the full authority of the United States of America, so it's much worse if they are against free speech.
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Old 02-11-2019, 11:54 PM
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In the United States of America, you can try and recruit people to the Nazi Party or to the KKK. However, you cannot try and recruit people to ISIS.
Phrasing!
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Old 02-12-2019, 12:04 AM
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Nor is it just the Millenials (or liberals). I do recall quite a bit of rancor (from the President no less) about not wanting football players to kneel during the National Anthem or insisting that saying "Happy Holidays" was somehow Unamerican.
Yes, that was wrong of him too.
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Old 02-12-2019, 12:37 AM
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Everybody loves free speech for people with whom they agree and that will never change. So, free speech will always be considered a good thing.
I mean free speech of the "I disagree with what you have to say but I will defend to the death your right to say it" type. I think that principle/ideal will be in serious jeopardy in the years ahead, if it isn't already.
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Old 02-12-2019, 12:42 AM
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Free speech isn't a "good thing", it is a painful and tiresome duty. We are obligated to permit each to each other, just like we are obligated to accept the weirdo, the alien, and the pervert into polite company. As Fran Leibowitz shrewdly remarks "The opposite of talking isn't listening, the opposite of talking is waiting."

Its not inherently "good" to have a democratic electorate, to be governed by the dull-witted and firmly opinionated is a trial and a tribulation....but that is the ideal of justice, of power sharing. Power to the people. (Hey, that's a good one, should maybe write that one down....)

Even the heady atmosphere of the SDMB, which reeks of Mensa, we steel ourselves to accept the opinions of dullards as worthy, in sufferance to the ideal. To do otherwise would be, in the words of Locke, "No fair!".
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Old 02-12-2019, 02:39 AM
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There is a small-but-significant portion of the populace that is disenchanted with free speech or considers it synonymous with "loophole that allows hate speech" and is very actively trying to move towards limited-and-censored speech instead.
Yes - they call it 'no-platforming' over here.

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And 20 or 30 years from now, will society even consider "free speech" to be a good thing?
I do hope so and I will campaign to that end. Free speech is one of my hobby-horses
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Old 02-12-2019, 02:49 AM
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Again it's not a binary thing, or even a 2D spectrum.
Every country has numerous exceptions to free speech, including the US. And though the US skews on the permissive side, there are aspects of speech that are more restrictive in the US than elsewhere.
So it's nuanced.

Personally, I don't like people like Ben Shapiro getting blocked from speaking, say. He's wrong about just about everything, but let him speak.
OTOH, from the point of view of the OP, you can consider me part of the enemy. One thing I would like to see is some accountability for news agencies that routinely make shit up. I don't believe a "right to lie" is helpful.
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Old 02-12-2019, 04:16 AM
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Define free speech. We do have some restrictions on speech -- for example, I am not allowed to make false claims about you if those false claims cause you harm. That's libel or slander, depending on how I make those claims.
That's not quite correct: you are free to make those false claims. But you can then be sued for doing so. You bear the responsibility for what you say.
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Old 02-12-2019, 05:17 AM
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Nor is it just the Millenials (or liberals). I do recall quite a bit of rancor (from the President no less) about not wanting football players to kneel during the National Anthem or insisting that saying "Happy Holidays" was somehow Unamerican.
In these cases he criticized speech. That isn’t the same as being against free speech.

Trump is against free speech in that he has threatened libel and slander cases.
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Old 02-12-2019, 05:19 AM
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That's not quite correct: you are free to make those false claims. But you can then be sued for doing so. You bear the responsibility for what you say.
That’s a peculiar way to look at it.
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Old 02-12-2019, 05:23 AM
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Also de-platforming has nothing to do with free speech per-se, but I doubt the rabid mobs that encourage it are drawing philosophical distinctions between private companies and the government. It could lead to government action in the future.
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Old 02-12-2019, 05:45 AM
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Again it's not a binary thing, or even a 2D spectrum.
I meant 1D
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Old 02-12-2019, 06:59 AM
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That’s a peculiar way to look at it.
Not really. The claims you make may not actually be false. If they are then the courts will impose a penalty.
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Old 02-12-2019, 07:45 AM
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I think in the United States, there will never be a criminal law against free speech (such as the Nazi bans in Europe) but we will "punish" indirectly what we cannot do directly. If you believe X, Y, or Z, then you won't be arrested, but you will effectively be denied employment, public office, membership in organizations which I believe will unfortunately have the exact same effect of outlawing speech.
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Old 02-12-2019, 07:46 AM
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Not really. The claims you make may not actually be false. If they are then the courts will impose a penalty.
So there is no freedom to say and print false statements?
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Old 02-12-2019, 08:16 AM
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I think in the United States, there will never be a criminal law against free speech (such as the Nazi bans in Europe) but we will "punish" indirectly what we cannot do directly. If you believe X, Y, or Z, then you won't be arrested, but you will effectively be denied employment, public office, membership in organizations which I believe will unfortunately have the exact same effect of outlawing speech.
Fortunately, however, we have largely recovered from the Red Scare.
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Old 02-12-2019, 08:56 AM
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There's no such thing as "I support freedom of speech, but only when it's used to say nice things that I agree with." Given that free speech means that people are free to say things that make you uncomfortable, I think that most people will always be at least a little ambivalent about it. They consider it a good thing in the abstract, but they may have to be reminded that it's worth defending.
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Old 02-12-2019, 09:11 AM
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And 20 or 30 years from now, will society even consider "free speech" to be a good thing?
Twenty or thirty years is nothing. Free speech will still be considered a desirable thing in twenty or thirty years.

Two hundred or three hundred years, though, no one can say.
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Old 02-12-2019, 09:21 AM
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That's not quite correct: you are free to make those false claims. But you can then be sued for doing so. You bear the responsibility for what you say.
That's ridiculous. That's like saying -- you are free to kill people. If it wasn't self defense you might go to jail, but you're still free to kill people.

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Fortunately, however, we have largely recovered from the Red Scare.
I don't know about that, you hear how Trump talks about Bernie and AOC? There's a sizable part of the population that shits its collective pants if the big scary S word is mentioned.
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Old 02-12-2019, 09:21 AM
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That’s a peculiar way to look at it.
Not really, one thing i see all the time here is a failure to make a distinction between an illegal act and one that can hold civil liability or that is just morally reprehensible.

In this case you are free to make those false claims and it is not a crime to do so, but you may be held liable in a civil action for damages caused.

Last edited by Littleman; 02-12-2019 at 09:26 AM.
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Old 02-12-2019, 09:25 AM
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That's ridiculous. That's like saying -- you are free to kill people. If it wasn't self defense you might go to jail, but you're still free to kill people.



I don't know about that, you hear how Trump talks about Bernie and AOC? There's a sizable part of the population that shits its collective pants if the big scary S word is mentioned.
Not even remotely like saying you are free to kill people but may go to jail for it.....since murder is a criminal act ....slander is not.
See above post.
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Old 02-12-2019, 09:26 AM
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All of the activist / SJW type arguments against free speech are rooted in the observation that the power to speak (and be publicly heard) is not equally distributed. If we assume social progress towards more inclusiveness and continue to make it increasingly possible for anyone to post / upload / otherwise share their perspectives with others, that argument weakens.

The fascist-style arguments against free speech have different roots, of course, but I don't see them gaining lots of traction even via dirty tricks and excuses and whatnot. I should mention that some people who are nominally part of the radical left / SJW crowd utilize fascist-style arguments (i.e., that some ideas are so abhorrently wrong that their wrongness should be sufficient reason to forcibly silence anyone wrongheaded enough to try expressing them in words) but I'm including them when I say they won't gain serious traction.
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Old 02-12-2019, 09:38 AM
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So far, the argument has flailed around without ever addressing the central issue:

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The paradox of tolerance is a paradox that states that if a society is tolerant without limit, its ability to be tolerant is eventually seized or destroyed by the intolerant.

Karl Popper first described it in 1945—expressing the seemingly paradoxical idea that, "In order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance."...
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Old 02-12-2019, 09:45 AM
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I mean free speech of the "I disagree with what you have to say but I will defend to the death your right to say it" type. I think that principle/ideal will be in serious jeopardy in the years ahead, if it isn't already.
The ACLU has already shown signs of backing away from its commitment to defend free speech.

"Our defense of speech may have a greater or lesser harmful impact on the equality and justice work to which we are also committed," wrote ACLU staffers in a confidential memo obtained by former board member Wendy Kaminer.

It's hard to see this as anything other than a cowardly retreat from a full-throated defense of the First Amendment. Moving forward, when deciding whether to take a free speech case, the organization will consider "factors such as the (present and historical) context of the proposed speech; the potential effect on marginalized communities; the extent to which the speech may assist in advancing the goals of white supremacists or others whose views are contrary to our values; and the structural and power inequalities in the community in which the speech will occur."
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Old 02-12-2019, 10:17 AM
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The ACLU has already shown signs of backing away from its commitment to defend free speech.

"Our defense of speech may have a greater or lesser harmful impact on the equality and justice work to which we are also committed," wrote ACLU staffers in a confidential memo obtained by former board member Wendy Kaminer.

It's hard to see this as anything other than a cowardly retreat from a full-throated defense of the First Amendment. Moving forward, when deciding whether to take a free speech case, the organization will consider "factors such as the (present and historical) context of the proposed speech; the potential effect on marginalized communities; the extent to which the speech may assist in advancing the goals of white supremacists or others whose views are contrary to our values; and the structural and power inequalities in the community in which the speech will occur."
Yeah, fuck that. It's not a situational thing- either people are free to say what they want without fear of governmental censorship, no matter how offensive or wrong, or they're not.

And the problem when the answer is "they're not" is that what is considered offensive is at the whim of whatever party or faction or whatever is in control of the government at any given time. And stuff like critical news stories, certain points of view, etc... can be considered "offensive" to someone and censored as a result.

That's the whole damn point of the First Amendment- with certain minimal exceptions predominantly centering around public safety concerns, people are free from government interference in what they say, and so is the press.

The ACLU is completely losing its way if this is how they're approaching this; historically they've always been at the forefront of First Amendment defense, no matter how offensive- for example, they have defended KKK free speech rights in the past.
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Old 02-12-2019, 10:33 AM
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Yeah, fuck that. It's not a situational thing- either people are free to say what they want without fear of governmental censorship, no matter how offensive or wrong, or they're not.

And the problem when the answer is "they're not" is that what is considered offensive is at the whim of whatever party or faction or whatever is in control of the government at any given time. And stuff like critical news stories, certain points of view, etc... can be considered "offensive" to someone and censored as a result.

That's the whole damn point of the First Amendment- with certain minimal exceptions predominantly centering around public safety concerns, people are free from government interference in what they say, and so is the press.

The ACLU is completely losing its way if this is how they're approaching this; historically they've always been at the forefront of First Amendment defense, no matter how offensive- for example, they have defended KKK free speech rights in the past.
It's a very European way of looking at speech, IMHO. And I think we are moving towards that too. It's kind of hard to drum up sympathy or support for free speech for groups like the KKK or Nazi party (though not hard for Communists for some odd reason). People dislike those things, and think that, perhaps, the government SHOULD stifle it since it's offensive...never seeing the slippery slope such a path takes.

As a poster up thread said, free speech doesn't mean you are free from the consequences of your speech...just free, by and large from government interference or direct censorship. That's the part I think many miss in these discussions. Just because the KKK is free from government censorship doesn't mean private citizens or non-government organizations can't protest or counter their bullshit. In Europe the government can and does stifle speech it deems offensive...and most Europeans I know think that's great. Many Americans are starting to come around to this way of thinking too, at least based on this board as well as my own experience talking about this stuff (of course, what is or isn't 'offensive' changes quite a lot depending on the audience). So, to answer the OP, I'd say that in the 20-30 year time frame the idea of free speech will still be popular or desired, but what it means will shift somewhat to something we, today, wouldn't consider as free.
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Old 02-12-2019, 10:45 AM
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In 20 years the section of speech which is considered "taboo" will shift, but it always does. Even 20 years ago coming out publicly as gay could cost you your job (heck in some places today that will cost you your job).

People have always been concerned about what "the others" could say without social consequences, and what they themselves can say about "the others" without social consequences.
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Old 02-12-2019, 10:47 AM
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That's ridiculous. That's like saying -- you are free to kill people.
I disagree. It's in no way similar.
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Old 02-12-2019, 12:25 PM
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So far, the argument has flailed around without ever addressing the central issue:
Quote:
The paradox of tolerance
is a paradox that states that if a society is tolerant without limit, its ability to be tolerant is eventually seized or destroyed by the intolerant.

Karl Popper first described it in 1945—expressing the seemingly paradoxical idea that, "In order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance."...
Only if they can convince lots of people to be intolerant. Two klansmen drinking beer on a porch while bitching about the coloreds aren't a threat.

"If civilization has got the better of barbarism when barbarism had the world to itself, it is too much to profess to be afraid lest barbarism, after having been fairly got under, should revive and conquer civilization."
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Old 02-12-2019, 12:35 PM
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Yes, that was wrong of him too.
And yet you assert (based on your citations) that the decline in the appreciation of free speech is a wholly liberal phenomenon.

Perhaps this thread should have been called "Will liberals destroy free speech?"
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Old 02-12-2019, 12:37 PM
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In 20 years the section of speech which is considered "taboo" will shift, but it always does. Even 20 years ago coming out publicly as gay could cost you your job (heck in some places today that will cost you your job).

People have always been concerned about what "the others" could say without social consequences, and what they themselves can say about "the others" without social consequences.
Freedom of speech, as I (and the First Amendment) understand it, is about legal consequences, not social consequences. It means that you can't get arrested for saying the wrong thing, not that you can't lose your job or your friends over it.
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Old 02-12-2019, 12:42 PM
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And yet you assert (based on your citations) that the decline in the appreciation of free speech is a wholly liberal phenomenon. ...
Huh? I didn't see where his cites asserted that it was a "wholly liberal" phenomenon. In fact, when OldGuy said "Nor is it just the Millenials (or liberals)..." Velocity responded with "Yes..."
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Old 02-12-2019, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by HurricaneDitka View Post
Huh? I didn't see where his cites asserted that it was a "wholly liberal" phenomenon. In fact, when OldGuy said "Nor is it just the Millenials (or liberals)..." Velocity responded with "Yes..."
Every citation he provided of examples of, um, declining concern for freedom of speech (for lack of a better phrase) pins it on liberals specifically, or on college campuses where all the examples reported are of liberal students protesting conservative speakers.

So, considering that there are a number of significant and public examples of the right being up in arms about the wrong kind of speech, and yet none of them made it into the OP or his subsequent list of citations, I can only assume that he either actually believes that it is in fact liberals only who are resistant to free speech, or that he intentionally wanted to frame this as a liberal-created problem.
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Old 02-12-2019, 01:08 PM
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Freedom of speech, as I (and the First Amendment) understand it, is about legal consequences, not social consequences. It means that you can't get arrested for saying the wrong thing, not that you can't lose your job or your friends over it.
Yes but I am taking about it in the social sense as is the OP.
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Old 02-12-2019, 01:15 PM
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1. You almost certainly do not support unfettered free speech. For one, prison is an inherent restriction of the right to assemble and speak for the incarcerated. And that's without getting into the more gray areas like "threats" or discussing detailed plans to bomb congress or whatever.

2. No-platforming is people determining what kind of speech they want in their community, it's not stating people can't say things, just not in their community. Note that for things like speaking gigs or debates these aren't just neutral matters where someone is talking, like on the internet. There's advertisement of the event, often pay for the speaker (or at the very least, covering travel expenses), and oftentimes even soft-endorsement of the speaker (usually the person introducing them at the event will fluff them up a little, plug their books, whatever). It also caters to the rich/powerful -- Steve Bannon or Barack Obama or whatever is going to get more plugging and resources from almost any institution you can name than a student who wrote a book and wants to hold a panel on it.

Some speakers who complain about having been no-platformed also don't mention the stuff they've done that may make it worth no-platforming. For instance, Milo Yiannopoulos drew explicit attention to local transgender students and essentially targeted harassment at them at some of his gigs. That's not creating a safe environment.

People also ignore that the institution holding the event is necessarily protecting the speech of the speaker over others at the event implicitly by, say, removing protesters trying to shout over the speaker for the whole event, or literally steal the stage from them, and this is true whether the protesters are left or right (those protesters shouting are engaging in speech as well, and it's not necessarily only shutting them down -- they could be trying to spread a counter-message). You can argue that, in the limit, all viewpoints get equally protected through a series of individually protected speakers, but I'm... skeptical of that claim.

3. Unfettered free speech includes groups trying to spread propaganda, even deliberately untrue propaganda (i.e. things that are short, pithy, and wrong).

Debates are not debate club, and they're not dialectical tools most of the time. The presidential "debates" and such are not debates in this sense, they're shows of force, dominance, and morality. They're not factual matters where both people come in with opposing viewpoints with the hope truth will fall out of the conflict of ideas. They're people trying to spread and reinforce a narrative among the viewers of the debate*. While political party debates need to be more neutral and not ban viewpoints, it's absolutely reasonable for a (non-state) institution to recognize that not everyone is coming to the table in good faith, and that this facet of performative "debates" is mostly used to spread propaganda and recruit, it's not as simple as the free marketplace of ideas in action.

* N.B. some people may go into it with that intention, but not everyone does, and I'd argue most don't. Especially for debates between political candidates, I'd honestly argue you're a fool and are going to get rolled, hard, by your opponent if you treat it that way.

Last edited by Jragon; 02-12-2019 at 01:20 PM.
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Old 02-12-2019, 01:24 PM
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... 2. No-platforming is people determining what kind of speech they want in their community, it's not stating people can't say things, just not in their community. ...
How far do you think a "community" ought to be able to go in determining what people can't say while within it?
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Old 02-12-2019, 01:39 PM
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Debates are not debate club, and they're not dialectical tools most of the time. The presidential "debates" and such are not debates in this sense, they're shows of force, dominance, and morality. They're not factual matters where both people come in with opposing viewpoints with the hope truth will fall out of the conflict of ideas. They're people trying to spread and reinforce a narrative among the viewers of the debate*. While political party debates need to be more neutral and not ban viewpoints, it's absolutely reasonable for a (non-state) institution to recognize that not everyone is coming to the table in good faith, and that this facet of performative "debates" is mostly used to spread propaganda and recruit, it's not as simple as the free marketplace of ideas in action.

* N.B. some people may go into it with that intention, but not everyone does, and I'd argue most don't. Especially for debates between political candidates, I'd honestly argue you're a fool and are going to get rolled, hard, by your opponent if you treat it that way.
I'd tack on that most "debates" you can think of are probably realistically under this paradigm, for better or worse. When high profile skeptics debate creationists, for instance, they're not going in with the intention of there being a struggle of ideas, but whether they enter with a correct or incorrect viewpoint, the truth shall emerge. They're going in with the intention of reaching the audience and debunking the opposing viewpoint. Again, in this case that's arguably for the better, but perhaps it's a less politically charged example for this board.

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Originally Posted by HurricaneDitka View Post
How far do you think a "community" ought to be able to go in determining what people can't say while within it?
It's really floaty question, honestly. I'm tempted to say "unlimited" but that's not really true (and leaves me open to, say, arguments about stores allowing racial discrimination). It depends on quite a number of things like whether it's denying resources to people, the type of people being shut down (e.g. viewpoints vs unchangeable characteristics), the size and power of the group doing the policing, whether it's an arm of the state or not, etc.

Last edited by Jragon; 02-12-2019 at 01:42 PM.
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Old 02-12-2019, 01:46 PM
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It's really floaty question
Answer, not question
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Old 02-12-2019, 01:52 PM
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The United States is unique in its ability to tolerate free speech. Since we are so unique, it's safe to say that our relative lack of limits on free speech are going to incline more towards the middle as time goes on.

I guess it's fair to ask why the US has such an obsession with free speech and is that changing? I would posit that it's the result of three things, revolutionary origins, independent states and religious diversity.

The first is self-evident. Revolutionaries tend to like to be able to recruit, so having robust speech protections is necessary for revolutionary movements. That won't change. Our origins are our origins. People may place less emphasis on our origins, but they are still there with all of the baggage that the first amendment and early precedent bring with it.

The second is that we are a collection of 50 different nations under a single federation. As such, having the ability for each 'state' to voice its concerns was something that was extremely important and led to our cultural obsession with speech. There has always been a fear that Massachusetts might want to shut up Georgia or vice versa and that has led to a culture of all speech is good. I would say that this is largely a force that is fading. Fewer and fewer people identify with their state and transience and mass media has served even more to blur the lines. At the same time, we do see the rise of urban/rural divides which are the 'states' perhaps of our time, so that likely encourages speech protections.

The last is religious diversity. The US religious landscape has always been particularly diverse. We have largely wanted to exist within this marketplace of ideas where no religious tradition has ever had a monopoly. The largest religious denomination in the US of all time was Catholics at 28% in the early 80s. None of the others have come even remotely close. As such, speech tolerance was necessary merely to keep the peace between all of these diverse traditions. In addition, the lack of power of any particular denomination served as a check on any of their worse tendencies. I would say that this is fading culturally. Currently, the largest non-Catholic denomination is only 5% of the population. These groups are getting squeezed and it's likely within the lifetime of today's children that religious 'nones' will come to enjoy a monopoly that no other faith tradition has ever had before and they may already be at that point. I think that once they cross the 50% threshold, we'll be living in interesting times. American nones are unique in their virulence. Sure, there are British 'religious haters', but largely the non-belief of Europe has been a collective shrug. Most of them still even participate in the cultural trappings of the church. I know a guy from Brighton that believes in God as much as I believe in unikitties, but he still had his kid christened and that's not atypical of European non-belief. American non-belief is much more focused on the destruction of religion. How that's going to play out in 40 years when they hold the reins of power is anyone's guess. Of course, a lot can change in 40 years. Regardless, this change could end up impacting speech freedoms in ways we haven't seen before.

Overall though, it's very difficult to predict cultural movements. So it is hard to say what will end up happening. I think that largely the demographics point toward more speech limits, but demographics are only partly destiny.
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