“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
― George Orwell
“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
― George Washington
“I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself.”
― Oscar Wilde
(It’s on the internet. Gotta be true.)
UPDATE: Peggy Noonan (Wow, she was a beautiful ice skater in 1968!) has a Wall Street Journal Column stuck behind a firewall but excerpted on Instapundit.
Life gives you potentials for freedom, creativity, achievement, love, all sorts of beautiful things, but none of us are “safe.” And you are especially not safe in an atmosphere of true freedom. People will say and do things that are wrong, stupid, unkind, meant to injure. They’ll bring up subjects you find upsetting. It’s uncomfortable. But isn’t that the price we pay for freedom of speech?
You can ask for courtesy, sensitivity and dignity. You can show others those things, too, as a way of encouraging them. But if you constantly feel anxious and frightened by what you encounter in life, are we sure that means the world must reorder itself? Might it mean you need a lot of therapy?
I am a conservative Republican. This rant is aimed at those who are not.
“Liberals and conservatives should have one great notion in common: We don’t like to be told to shut up.” – Dave Alexander (me)
Whatever you think of conservatives who ordinarily don’t agree with your politics, environmental policy or view of gender/sexuality issues, remember that. We have that in common. Liberals, Conservatives, Libertarians…we all have to fight this trend.
People are losing their jobs, their careers, and their futures simply because they were indelicate in their speech. Their message did not fit into someone else’s worldview, and the townspeople arrived with torches and pitchforks.
I’m a free market kind of person, and most folks used to support the free exchange of ideas, especially on college campuses and schools.
This next bit seems to be off-topic, but you’ll understand if you stay with me.
Enjoy this quick excerpt from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: It involves people being shot at, and some cops with a PR problem. The problem being that…well. They happen to be shooting at people:
SHOOTY: (A cop)
It isn’t easy being a cop.
What did he say?
He said it isn’t easy being a cop.
Well, surely that’s his problem isn’t it?
I’d have thought so.
Er, er, hey listen! I think we’ve got enough problems of our own with you shooting at us, so if you could avoid laying your personal problems on us as well, I think we’d probably find it easier to cope!
BANG-BANG: (The other cop.)
Now see hear buddy. You’re not dealing with any dumb, two-bit trigger-pumping morons with low hairlines, little piggy eyes, and no conversation.
SHOOTY: (the other cop)
We’re a couple of intelligent, caring guys, who’d you probably like if you met us socially.
That’s right. I’m really sensitive.
I don’t go around gratuitously shootin’ people and then bragging about it in seedy space-rangers bars. I go around gratuitously shootin’ people and then agonizing about it afterwards to my girlfriend.
And I write novels.
He writes ‘em in crayon.
Though I haven’t had any of them published yet so I better warn ya, I’m in a mee-ee-eeannnn mood.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is fabulous, and thanks to Clive Banks for posting part of the radio play.
“We are all in a lot of trouble if we don’t support each other’s right to say things.” — Dave Alexander (still me)
I may seem as foreign to liberals as a space cop. You may assume all conservatives are dumb, two-bit trigger-pumping morons with low hairlines, little piggy eyes, and no conversation. Fine. Keep that idea. I just hope you will see how much the present social climate is hurting civil rights.
This extends to liberals, lesbians, gays, transgendered and a lot of other folks. You think you’re free today just because no one has recently told you to shut up? That’s a fantasy. You just haven’t pissed off the right people.
I don’t understand why the left in America does not get the message: People are coming to shut you up. And when it happens, it won’t be the Tea Party, or Mitt Romney, or any of the Bush boys. It will be someone who thinks you are stepping away from established orthodoxy and who figure you need reeducation. It might be someone who tries to convince you that you have committed a microaggression.
You think you should have full authority over your body? Great. Try having complete control over your mouth. Use the word “gal” on a college campus.
Ask a lesbian,”Honey. Be honest. Ryan Gosling does nothing for you?
(I’m not actually suggesting he does anything for me, cause he and I are both totally straight guys and I just spent five minutes staring into his dreamy eyes.)
Or worse yet, suggest to friends that abortion after 23 weeks seems barbaric.
Suggest that people on welfare should work harder.
Draw Mohammed. Or just suggest drawing Mohammed. Or suggest that drawing Mohammed shouldn’t be a crime punishable by death.
Suggest that it’s not easy being a cop.
Get back to me and let me know if the reaction was logical, emotional or visceral. I’m guessing the latter. See if those same friends don’t try to enforce orthodoxy on you.
Are you on a college campus with speech codes? Is there one “Free Speech Zone” in which controversial subjects are raised? Do your peers need “trigger warnings” before their delicate sensibilities can be upset by a new idea? Or are people refusing to invite courageous speakers to college?
Worrying too, then, is the case of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an ex Muslim, highly critical of Islam, too critical for some. As a victim herself, she has campaigned against female genital mutilation. She has campaigned for the rights of Muslim women. In a recent book she has argued that for Islam to live more at ease in the modern world it needs to rethink its attitudes to homosexuality, to the interpretation of the Koran as the literal word of God, to blasphemy, to punishing severely those who want to leave the religion. Contrary to what some have suggested, such arguments are neither racist nor driven by hatred. But she has received death threats. Crucially, on many American campuses she is not welcomed.
When did college campuses become places where orthodoxy is more important than freedom of thought?
Robert Tracinski of the Federalist points out that Liberals are actually becoming illiberal. He points out that in the area of gay marriage and bakeries, the notion that the government regulates commerce gives government an easy way to force orthodoxy.
This is how the “liberals” got so illiberal, because there is no hard and fast dividing line between regulating “only” our economic lives and regulating everything else. All aspects of human life find an expression in commerce, so if you regulate that, you regulate everything. Which they are now happily proceeding to do.
Ken White of Popehat chimes in with a great primer for those looking for anti-free speech messages hidden in the media:
In discussing our First Amendment rights, the media routinely begs the question — it adopts stock phrases and concepts that presume that censorship is desirable or constitutional, and then tries to pass the result off as neutral analysis. This promotes civic ignorance and empowers deliberate censors.
Some people just gotta get another hobby.
(I added a few sentences for clarity, and a Peggy Noonan quote at 2:20 PM, 5/22/15)