You may speak freely in the asylum
August 24, 2017 § 102 Comments
In 1689, during the lifetime of John Locke, free speech meant that a member of parliament formally charged with a speech crime committed during a session of parliament had to be tried by parliament, not some other judicial body.
In 2017, free speech means that you can say anything hateful and false you want to about white people and Christians, pollute the community with despicable pornography, and commit blasphemy against Christ (but not against the false and violent religion of Islam). Yet stating facts about official victim groups in the most apologetic way possible can destroy your livelihood and turn you into a national pariah.
There are several features of free speech regimes worth collecting in one place.
- Free speech refers to a regime of restricted and censored speech. Every reasonable person acknowledges that there have to be reasonable limits on speech.
- Free speech dishonestly frames the question of what restrictions there ought to be on speech as if it were a question of whether there ought to be restrictions on speech.
- This dishonesty in framing introduces instability into free speech regimes. There is nothing intrinsically incoherent about symbolic representations or slogans which refer to complex traditions. But free speech isn’t a complex tradition of what speech is acceptable; it is a simple anti-tradition which implies that restricting speech is wrong. The configuration of empowered speech and restricted speech captured by the label “free speech” is thus mostly implicit and constantly changing.
- Free speech regimes have to police speech while pretending not to police speech. The result is that methods of censorship and enforcement are mostly unofficial, indirect, non-explicit, and generally sociopathic. People are regularly punished for having violated today’s nonexplicit unofficial standard some time in the past. Free speech regimes are thus intrinsically unfair.
- Because of their intrinsic unfairness and instability, free speech regimes create a progressive cascade. Whatever you say today – even though it is permissible by today’s standards – might well destroy your life in the future, so you have to be constantly thinking ahead about the progressive pieties of tomorrow and adjusting your speech to accommodate those anticipated future standards.
- Because it is impossible for most people to maintain a complex lie over decades, the progressive cascade created by free speech regimes requires you to try to accommodate not just your speech but your internal thoughts to the anticipated inviolable progressive pieties of tomorrow.
- Because liberals generally don’t grasp the implications of their own ideas, the more conservative among a population of liberals attempt to fight the perversity created by a free speech regime with assertions of a right to free speech.