Isn’t it, on the surface at least, odd that progressives in the U.S. are attacking free speech?
First, there’s political correctness, which is a clear attack on free speech. It also has the effect of not letting anyone know who the real jerks are in society, as they don’t speak up as much, or as clearly, as they once used to. At least, until recently. Which is a predictable backlash.
What’s strangest is the recent bout of truthiness from both the left and the right. Trump hardly invented it, but he’s certainly mastered it. And in the media the more egregious forms of selective editing to literally construct a false accusation would make you wonder if they really think they can get away with what they do, with the current state of information technology and availability–and yet, they do. Of course, the promulgators of truthiness also know that many of their target audience will just accept them at their word. They prey on the ignorant. And that should worry us, that they would be willing to misrepresent what someone said to persuade those they know to be ignorant and lazy (too lazy to find out what was really said, at least). Shouldn’t that bother you, to know that that is what the media and politicians all think of you?
I said above that it appears, on the surface, odd that progressives in the U.S. are attacking free speech. But in fact, it is not all that odd. They have been doing so for a while now, particularly through political correctness. And we should equally be aware of what it is that they mean by “freedom of speech.” If you pay close attention to the way they talk about it, you will see that they do not mean that you should have the freedom to say what is on your mind. They use it more often than not to argue that people should not criticize what they say. To them, freedom of speech is freedom from having what they say criticized by others. That is not what freedom of speech is. It is in fact the freedom to both say what you want, and to criticize what others say. If you cannot criticize what others say, there is no freedom of speech. That is precisely the kind of speech which needs to be protected.
But these protections should only be against the government. It is the government which has no right under the Constitution to prevent anyone from speaking, whether it is directly, through force, or indirectly, through laws laws that regulate speech in various ways through regulating the media. If I don’t like what someone says, I don’t have to listen to them. If I don’t like what a talk show host says, I don’t have to tune in, and I don’t have to positively respond to their advertisers. That is my right. But the government does not have the right to prevent anyone from speaking. It does not have the right to shut down any T.V. or radio station for what anyone says on it. It does not have the right to prevent any book from being published. It does not have a right to silence speakers. Those who want to silence others do not themselves have anything positive to offer in rebuttal. And if their ideas are not finding a voice, it is because nobody wants to listen.
And that is the bottom line, isn’t it? Why else would you adopt strong-arm bullying tactics? You don’t need to force your opposition to stop speaking if you have a stronger argument. When you have to resort to force in face of someone else’s argument, that is a tacit admission that your argument is weak to the point of failure. You know you don’t have a leg to stand on, so you lash out. This is true if the argument is from the Left or the Right, from conservatives or progressives.