Tuesday, June 26, 2018

On the importance of free speech

The world has interesting parallels. It’s often said that people are inherently good, innately full of love. Admittedly it seems this way, but it isn’t true. At the very least, a large part of the decency you find in people is the result of self-preservation. The common good is motivated by selfish or overlapping means (you scratch my back...). There has yet to be an experiment where you could truly gauge how humans would react and interact with the knowledge that they could get away with all of their ambitions, no matter how sinister, in this life and any others. Because of this, the general thread of human decency that usually bonds us together is incredibly fragile. This is how construction is a very difficult and involved process and destruction is easy. When you construct, you are aiming, often with peers, toward a goal of creation usually revolving around a shared ideal of making something better. To destroy, all you need to do is take a hatchet at any attempt others make to co-exist. Chaos is the easy part. Co-existence is an uncanny and difficult exercise.

But there is a parallel to the ease in which man can destroy. It’s not overt. This one is not of the physical but the psychological. It’s ideas. Good ideas spread like wildfire. All thoughts and ideas face intense scrutiny, because ideas are cheap. They are in infinite supply forged from the cosmos, or birthed as the result of the best summation of your lived experience and genetics. Bad ideas can catch on, but they are only as good until they face their first deconstructing argument. Once a bad idea is mocked, belittled, or effectively satirized, it no longer can exist in the face of evidence or laugh-inducing contradictory logic. A good idea or argument is impossibly to slay. They are spread about in idioms or maxims or memes and shared as internal knowledge without citation or copyright. This is the only counter-balance we have to the easily-imposed destruction people would wish to bring on the planet.

Two things worth dying for above all others:

1. Free speech.
2. The right to die (this topic will be spared).

Free speech is used in place of the idea of “the right to live.” The right to live is too vague. It’s too vague to imply bad men deserve the right to life, as it would imply that right should never be revoked. It also implies the right is not universal, making it worthless as a grandiose axiom. Free speech is more important, as it’s a more pure form of freedom which self-evidently suggests what every person born with cognizance is entitled to: freedom of thought. At the very least, free speech says, you can speak your piece. No one may listen. You may not get to speak at your preferred venue to your preferred audience, but the right, with as little concessions as possible, is the bare-minimum modicum of empathy that should be afforded to every living person. The more constricted your speech, the more constricted and subject to influence is your mind, and the mind is the vital requirement for every conscious human being. If you can’t speak freely, you can’t think freely, you can’t be.

Who we are is what we think, what we say, and do. By placing arbitrary limits on the first two, we’re building a powder keg out of the latter. When we try to control what people say, we are attempting mind-control. It’s no different from the aims of MKUltra. Notice there’s less intent toward action-control. We want to be Nostradamus and prevent problems before they start, giving us the curious problem of Minority Report which asks us if intent alone is enough to warrant a conviction. With our endless endeavors to create a safer world we must also ask, in doing these social experiments, whether enforced by law or social shaming, if the tools and methods of the experiment themselves are causing unintended and unwanted consequences. If the result of seemingly well-intended actions causes backlash by virtue of an opposing reaction that is potentially more harmful than the malevolent actions it aims to cease, the hypothesis is broken and the effort is a loss.

Two fascists: only one is self-aware
We have many contradictory values. Again, the world has interesting parallels. Obviously, anti-fascism is a great on paper. If you’re willing to engage in fascism to stop fascism, you may have lost the plot. Some can chalk it up to the fog of war, where under the banner of the “greater good” Asian-Americans were rushed into internment camps by a liberal president. Former secretary of defense Robert McNamara would agree with the old adage: “In order to do good you may have to engage in evil.” The live-action role-players of Antifa would likely label this man a warmonger, all the while using the creative destruction so often justified by his likes. The question becomes is peace peace if it’s peace at knife-point. If peace is complacency and order, anyone can create peace with terror, that’s the nature of the master-slave relationship. You have strange bedfellows when you realize the extremes of authoritarianism and anarchism end up on the same end of the spectrum: they are both intolerant ideologues where the end justifies the means. Neither, undoubtedly, is capable of seeing the other’s “bigger picture.”

In the endless wish to impose impossible, utopian values upon the planet people have created much destruction. Value systems where everyone is told to be equal are ironically the most damaging. Somehow, there’s always a small group of top-down enforcers relaying to the rest of their society how equal everyone is. It doesn’t work and never will, because even if by some coincidence for a moment we ended up equal, we’d still be different, with different needs. It’s a childish, fantastical notion only the most tepid and literal-minded could possibly believe in. No one would say a child is the same as an able-bodied adult or an elderly person, but everyone in between is meant to have the same merit genetically, physically, and intellectually. When you deny people have different abilities, you also imply they have the same needs, and that’s the point where utopia becomes nightmare. It’s not as simple as saying, “Some people deserve more.” It’s saying, “Some people need more, and some require less.”

To reiterate, the idea people are innately good is harmful. It just so happens, self-preservation is aided by the great tool of peace. Sticks together are harder to break. Every society that promotes free speech inevitably gains free thought and the free flow of information. It’s less attractive to tyrants, but more attractive to masses of people who want to live in a kind and successful environment less susceptible to danger. As has been stated, with freedom comes eternal vigilance. We are free to flirtation with disastrous ideas of forgotten history, and they can be combated and easily dismissed by better ideas. An attack on free speech itself is a great threat. A silencing of speech and the media is a favorite among authoritarians throughout time. Slowly, it’s becoming the tool of the imagined oppressed masses. The radical ideas of the us vs. them political mantra that has been so intoxicating throughout history is so compelling people need to be reminded what a lack of freedom might actually look like. To see trans-people or other marginalized groups against free speech is a tragic irony and displays an ignorance of history, as it’s the main artery of any free society. These very people historically would be denied the conditions that allow them now to exist.

Some imagine there are no caveats when it comes to free speech. Someone don’t understand that calls for genocide are not protected and libel is subject to law, there are also exceptions for “fighting words” and some matters involving copyright law. Jokingly expressing your desire to kill your friend is protected speech, as well it should be. Hate speech is protected, because that is on the spectrum of emotion, and while it’s unfortunate anyone might say, hate Asians, hate is a natural human expression and a prerequisite for discussing yellow cars. More seriously, to police hate speech provides an easy path to tyranny, as it allows any authoritarian worth their salt to censor and silence anyone they wish to oppress with the claim of hate speech.

 In the modern times at the start of the 21st century, a vocal minority are trying to put forth the idea of limiting any speech on the basis of causing offense. This is an unfortunate, slippery slope of an experiment that will not pay off in the long-term. The mind is an indeterminate space. What causes offense is highly subjective. It’s quite likely, literally every phrase and type of language is offensive to someone. This is not hyperbole, it’s likely many people exist put-off by other foreign languages themselves, nevermind the words therein. While most people might take to kind being called “sweetheart,” undoubtedly it’s been whispered by predators during their unwelcome caresses of molestation. Everything is a trigger of offense or distress to someone. It’s the price we pay for the novelty of subjective opinion when we engage within a free society. Those who have a problem with it, shouldn’t engage. Problem solved. Or, realistically, they could seek psychiatric help and realize the world does not revolve around the individual. The more we sway the world that way, the less inhabitable it becomes for a population of more than one.

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