Why Freedom of Speech?

Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter dismays the left and elates the right. Why? Because of the expectation that Twitter will henceforth stop censoring “misinformation”, that is, facts and arguments that subvert the tenets of wokeism. Chief among those tenets are:

  • Gender fluidity (e.g., the beliefs that “men” can bear children and that sex is “assigned” at birth)
  • Climate change as mainly a human-caused “problem”
  • The dictatorship of “science” (when certain “scientists” proclaim “truths” favored by the woke, such as the aforementioned commitment to human-caused warming as a “scientific fact”, which it isn’t)
  • Conservatism and constitutionalism as fascistic (a classic case of psychological projection)
  • Blacks as oppressed victims of whites, who are all racists (despite strong evidence that blacks earn less than whites, have less wealth than whites, and commit crimes more often than whites because of innate differences in intelligence and cultural reinforcement of dysfunctional behavior).

There’s much more (see this, for example), but you get the idea.

Imagine what the worlds of politics, journalism, entertainment, advertising, and employment would be like if conservatives had been as successful at suppressing the ideas of wokeism as wokeists have been successful at suppressing their ideological opponents’ views. If you liked the 1950s, you’d love the absence of wokeism.

Wokeism has succeeded largely because of the mistaken idea, held by many on the right. that absolute freedom of speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Absolute freedom of speech is the devil’s playground. It fosters the operation of an intellectual version of Gresham’s law: Bad ideas drive out good ones. This perversion of the “marketplace of ideas” is reinforced by the government’s (i.e., the left’s) command of public education indoctrination; the legalistic trick (known as section 230 of the Communications Decency Act) that allows leftist information brokers to suppress conservative views; and the removal of all constraints on what the left-dominated media may present as “entertainment” and “news”. The latter two instruments of left-wing subversion were and are enabled by free-speech absolutists on the right.

I have elsewhere and at length (e.g., here and here) explained and explored the wrongness and consequences of free-speech absolutism. Here, I will focus on the question posed by the title of this post: Why freedom of speech, that is, what is the good of it?

Has it ever occurred to you that there is no such thing as “free speech”? Think of the many times you that have held back or softened your views out of consideration for the feelings of others, out of fear that you couldn’t adequately defend your views, or because you feared the repercussions of candidly stating your views (e.g., derision, outrage, ostracism, and violence)?

Free speech — speaking one’s mind without restraint at all times and in all places — is the province of innocents and madmen. For most human beings, speech approaches (and sometimes attains) openness and candor only among intimates. Even then — when marriages, romances, and friendships fail — the limitations of openness and candor (“free speech”) become apparent.

Even among academics who work in fields that are supposedly objective (e.g., the “hard sciences” and mathematics) there are rivalries, jealousies, and political differences that stand in the way of openness and candor. It’s not that academics don’t say what they really think; they are notorious for doing so. It’s that the purported objective of free speech — the pursuit of truth through the competition of ideas — is unlikely to be attained when hypotheses and facts are skewed by academicians’ biases. A leading example of this phenomenon is the scientific consensus group-think about “climate change“, which is a shining example of a hypothesis that has been disproved by evidence but survives and thrives on ignorance and emotionalism. (As do many other ruinous manifestations of “free speech”, such as recycling, “green” energy, anti-COVID masking, the innocence of Trayvon Martin, and the saintliness of George Floyd.)

Freedom of speech, at bottom, is really the freedom to express an opinion (or emotion), however wrong-headed and socially acceptable that opinion may be. And, to reiterate, there is no guarantee that the mythical “marketplace of ideas” will favor opinions that foster social comity or scientific truth. To the contrary, given the left’s dominance of the “marketplace of ideas”, favored opinions will be (and are) those that foster social discord and hysterical attachments to pseudo-scientific fraudulence.

Freedom of speech therefore favors irrationality and emotionalism. It does not — as evidenced by the current state of America — favor truth, justice, or the general well-being of the citizenry.

What is the alternative? It is certainly not Biden’s disinformation czardom ministry of truth, or any of its stealth successors, which will only make things worse.

Freedom of speech, which is really freedom of political speech, is beneficial only if a vast majority of the populace shares certain fundamental values:

  • Free markets produce the best outcomes, especially when people take personal responsibility for their economic situation.
  • Social comity rests on taking personal responsibility for one’s actions, not making excuses or blaming “the system”.
  • The last six of the Ten Commandments are the best guides to proper behavior.
  • Duly enacted laws are to be upheld until they are duly revised or rescinded.
  • Social and economic freedom come down to mutual trust, mutual respect, and mutual forbearance, which describes the state of liberty. Without those things, there is no liberty.

Those who do not hew to the foregoing tenets are the enemies of society and liberty and should not be heard or read. The Framers of the Constitution could not envision a free society in which the foregoing tenets were routinely and gleefully violated. That is because there can be no free society where the foregoing tenets are routinely and gleefully violated.

Would you expose your children to the allurements of socialists, pedophiles, drug dealers, etc., etc.? If not, then why on earth would you give socialists, etc., free rein to teach in public schools, dominate the airwaves, and run for political office?

Liberty is not license, despite the serpent-like pleadings of the licentious.

To put a point on it, freedom is culturally determined. Those who do not subscribe to the fundamental norms of a culture of freedom should be ostracized and, if that doesn’t work, sent packing.