Free speech, in all its glorious ugliness

Barry Rubin sounds a tocsin at Pajamas Media about the way in which political correctness is slowly but steadily eroding free speech in America, leaving us to speech norms more commonly seen in repressive Middle Eastern countries. As he explains, there’s a reason “the authors of the American Constitution forbade limits on freedom of speech: because once you start creating off-limit areas the worst thing that happens is the empowerment of people who have a self-interest in setting and misusing these limits. They can administer these no-go zones by declaring anything they don’t like to be a hate crime.”

Since our Founders were brilliant enough to enact the First Amendment, which prevents the Left from using official channels to shut down opponent’s speech, the Left has latched onto social norms as a way of stifling political discourse:

What is needed is a foolproof tactic, one to which there is no institutionalized opposition so that even your enemies must bow their heads in shame and knees in homage when called names.

So how has the Middle Eastern approach revolutionized Western discourse? What slogans are potent enough to shut people up instantly?

Racism! Homophobia! Islamophobia! And to a lesser extent, perhaps, Sexism! The minute you are accused of racism you are finished. There’s no effective response.


Thus, freedom of speech, rational discussion, and opposition are trumped by “higher values.” The most basic and long-held principles are quickly jettisoned in fear. Newspapers accept censorship, intellectuals embrace telling lies, and women’s rights groups cheer the suppression of women’s rights in Muslim societies. Those who have spent years fantasizing how they would have been heroic resistance fighters against dictatorship fold, trembling, in the face of a single letter of complaint.

I urge you to read Barry’s entire article. Then, when you’re done, check out Zombie’s illustrated post about a most unusual Easter celebration in San Francisco. (And before you get your hackles up in the wrong direction, read the whole thing). SERIOUS CONTENT WARNING. DO NOT READ ZOMBIE’S POST IN THE PRESENCE OF CHILDREN. THINK CAREFULLY ABOUT OPENING IT AT THE WORKPLACE, TOO.

I agree with Zombie’s attitude, by the way. The behavior you see is deeply offensive to some (indeed, I would that it’s deeply offensive to most decent, moral and honorable people), but that’s what happens in a pluralist society that values speech, no matter how ugly, over censorship.

Both freedom of religion and freedom of speech involve the freedom to ridicule religion and speech. We can handle ugly. What we cannot handle is the end of free and open political and social debate. Once we give in to that, the great American experiment is definitively over.

Cross-posted at Bookworm Room

The Bookworm Turns : A Secret Conservative in Liberal Land,
available in e-format for $4.99 at Amazon or Smashwords.

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