Thursday, September 5, 2019

Free speech..................

..............what follows is a longish excerpt from a read-worthy Jason Richwine essay on the subject:

Presumably, the founders believed open debate is essential to a free society, and the threat of government persecution would discourage that debate. Of course, the First Amendment restrains only the government, but if we take the wisdom of it seriously we should value its principles more broadly. After all, if open debate is truly desirable, we should be concerned not just about government suppression of unpopular views, but about non-governmental suppression. As chilling effects go, “I would speak out, but I don’t want to risk going to jail” is not all that different from “I would speak out, but I don’t want to risk losing my friends and my livelihood.” The end result is the same—less speech, less debate, less openness.

Some people assume non-governmental censorship limits only a vitriolic fringe. I see no evidence of this. James Damore hardly expressed a fringe or hateful perspective when he internally criticized Google’s diversity ethos, but the company fired him anyway. Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich donated to a ballot initiative against same-sex marriage that won, but he lost his job anyway. The message from both companies was that people with contrary views—even widely-held contrary views—should get with the ideological program or lose their jobs.

Another misleading assumption is that private-sector censorship is only about defending the powerless from harassment. Actually, it’s often about defending the powerful from criticism. CNN once threatened to dox a blogger who had created a pro-Trump meme mocking the network. It backed down only on the condition that the blogger apologize and promise never to do it again. Who exactly was the powerless one in that situation? Dr. Noah Carl was fired by St. Edmund’s College because his research on group differences was “problematic,” but the administration cited no actual errors in his work. Was the university speaking truth to power, as the saying goes—or speaking power to truth?


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