Growing up political stances were far simpler than they are today, you had your left which was traditionally liberal and you had your right which was conservative. Yes, you had your far left socialists and your far-right fascists but you knew where you stood. It was easy. But in these days of micro-management of defining yourself completely by your politics and an Overton window that’s busier than it’s been in years, it’s all gone wrong.
Let’s take freedom of speech as an example. And it’s a good one to you. I am a believer in freedom of speech, no qualification is necessary. I’m aware there are limitations within the law, I am aware that there comes with it a responsibility. I’m also aware than it is not an absolute, free speech absolutists are often interesting to talk to because when you raise the point of incitement or private property it gets quite murky. I get it though, and I appreciate their position.
On platforms, for example, there might be external pressures which prevent freedom of speech such as advertisers. Or perhaps you just don’t want certain things said on your property. To me that’s valid, your freedoms don’t automatically outweigh the freedoms of others to set rules within their boundaries. If you run a forum dedicated to Micky Mouse you might not want a porn advocate in there. You get the picture.
The thing is, we’re now seemingly trying to limit free speech according to not only people’s feelings but also as to who is “right”. Suddenly freedom of speech has become the tool belonging solely to the right-wing, the alt-right, the Nazis and I’m very confused. On Twitter, any advocacy for free speech seems to be met with these accusations despite freedom of speech being one of the key liberal cornerstones of our respective societies. There could not be a more liberal concept than that of every person, regardless of position, can speak their mind.
Of course, what comes back (along with the accusation that you’re some kind of Nazi) is that you only want free speech for your point of view. The irony of this is definitely not lost on me given what the far left or “The Woke” are doing.
They want people cancelled, all the time denying cancel culture exists until it turns around and bites them, for ‘wrongspeak’. The issue is they’re getting away with this precisely because we believe in freedom of speech and therefore accept their point of view should be heard despite their view being that nobody else should have theirs.
The hypocrisy is staggering and their goals are so incredibly dangerous. The damage this is doing has accelerated in recent years. There is a clear and recognisable cooling effect on free speech on the major platforms. Websites are seeing their advertisers bombarded with demands to quit advertising anywhere that doesn’t meet the standards of ‘free speech’ that they lay out. Businesses are crumbling and people are suffering in many ways because freedom of speech is an evil thing which allows those you disagree with to voice their opinion too.
Yesterday I was accused of being an “alt-right snowflake” because of my article on cancel culture. I’m fine with that, the alt-right wouldn’t want me among their ranks and that’s not something which displeases me in the slightest. The reason this person went down that route is what I’ve outlined above. They are mentally and intellectually fragile, too delicate and entitled to accept anything that conflicts with how they demand the world should be and because I disagree I must be a Nazi, after all why would I allow Nazi’s the ability to speak? It’s a good question with a very simple answer.
I know that my freedom of speech requires that I am faced with hearing the opinions of others that I might find highly offensive, insulting, or just utter drivel. Holocaust deniers, to me, are literally weak-minded vermin. I wouldn’t silence them, though. I will argue, I will try to drag it out into the light, but silence? No. Why? Because it never ends with the obvious for one thing and secondly it doesn’t mean they’re silenced it just means we can’t hear them and I’m not comfortable not knowing what they’re getting up to now in sordid and hidden echo chambers. I don’t like that idea at all.
“Well, what about incitement?” Always the favourite point because it’s so easily abused. Of course, calling for direct action in harming anyone isn’t right. It’s also not a freedom of speech issue, it’s illegal. A criminal act. So there you go. But that naturally doesn’t end there because where there isn’t actual harm it will be created. How many times have you seen the claim that J.K. Rowling’s stance is “literally harming trans kids”? I’ve seen it quite a lot and when you ask how you’re delivered a word salad which – when translated correctly – amounts to “probably. It definitely upsets someone though”.
If free speech supporters are truly the Nazis why aren’t we the ones generating outrage, inventing harm, demonising those who dare go against the narrative, and then reaching out to silence and destroy the lives of others? I know which sounds more Nazi-like to me.