Saturday, October 13, 2018

Tribal culture is rapidly undermining free speech in the US


Reason offers an important piece by Matt Welch from the November 2018 issue, (tribal) “Partisans united against free speech” with the byline “The culture of free speech has been deteriorating for long enough that politics, sadly, is catching up.”  Tribal partisans on both the right and left erode it, especially the left.

Reason notes some pro free speech rulings by the Supreme Court, with the retired Anthony Kennedy as among its most ardent supporters.  In particular, SCOTUS has ruled against “compelled” speech as with public union “dues” being applied to collective political activism.

That’s an important clue to the problem   The Left sees activism in terms of group oppression (lately, especially with respect to race, but sometimes even with issues like gender fluidity) and needs to amass loyalty among its troops when it comes to raising money, stomping for favorable candidates, and advocacy for less appealing “victims” in our increasingly unequal world. Their style of activism gets compromised when there are too many “moderate to libertarian” pundits like me insisting on “personal responsibility” more connected to individualism.  The effect of the highly individualized speech by libertarian-leaning bloggers, vloggers, and citizen or “independent” journalists is to make activism supporting the truly disadvantaged or more obviously needy much more difficult.  (Example: it’s harder to get support for transgender in the military than for cis-conforming gays in the military.)


Reason goes on to note some damaging legislation (FOSTA, applied even retroactively) and hidden anti-trust actions against media companies (especially Sinclair). It also says that now “voters want to see speech suppressed” as the more collectivist-thinking groups are willing to become increasingly combative and dox speakers whose output is seem to attract jeopardy to their disadvantaged or oppressed groups.
“Independent” journalists (especially if they don’t actually make a living off it) may have moral questions:  why are they so offended by being asked to give up their right to cherry-pick their own causes?  Why are they so put off by volunteerism or joining in with others in group demonstrations? (EI’s video is interesting and it makes you realize that what makes sense for the individual can be devastating to groups representing people in need). 

Yet one problem that far Left misses is that it sabotages its own moral arguments, on how better-off people should behave, when it makes everything about race and even symbolism of oppression like Civil War monuments.

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