Deeply unconvincing argument

The language of “free speech” and “censorship” is old, but the fervour of this panic is new. Of course, this could be entirely due to a sudden rise of censorious behaviour. But this explanation is hard to credit for one obvious reason: the current wave of “free speech” advocacy has coincided directly with the rise of social media, amateur publishing and the “citizen journalism” that is now possible at virtually zero cost. The proliferation of platforms that grant anyone a public voice should, in principle, have put concerns about censorship to rest. After all, even very bad writers with offensive opinions can now see their words published – or broadcast their voices via YouTube and podcasting. By any measure, speech is less regulated or inhibited than ever before. This has spawned some ugly argumentative tactics, including the hostile mobilisation of online supporters against opponents, which have made public debate angrier and less inviting to many. But, as unattractive as this is, it is not censorship. The claim that free speech is under attack is often a mask for other political frustrations and fears.

The complaint isn’t about censorship, it’s about the censoriousness. Say something the mob don’t like and watch as the pitchforks wave to silence that view. Sure, that is rather what free speech is meant to be about, we all get to say and suffer the consequences. But the real complaint is about eh smug self-satisfaction pf those doing the shouting……

21 thoughts on “Deeply unconvincing argument”

  1. How very dare Guttenberg allow any old rabble-rouser to get his ideas to the masses without it being controlled by those that know better.

  2. ” Spiked’s Free Speech University Rankings, which purport to reveal a censorship crisis, often treat any written code of conduct (such as an HR policy on the use of abusive language) as a form of censorship.”

    When the snowflakes get to define ‘abusive language’, that’s exactly what it soon becomes!

  3. What I find irritating is that blatant hypocrisy and inconsistency from the left. How many articles have there been in the guardian bemoaning the “silencing of women” through mean tweets and article comments?

    In fact that article repeats the claim that Cathy Newman suffered a “vicious trolling campaign, including death threats, from Peterson’s admirers” after her disastrous interview with Jordan Peterson.

    Of course nobody ever provided evidence of those threats, and the trolling was 99% well deserved mockery, but that was condemned as silencing and censorship by her supporters.

  4. But censorship is one thing being complained of. If allegedly neutral platforms like Facebook and Twitter refuse to publish things that is censorship.

  5. ‘… but the fervour of this panic is new.‘

    There was plenty of fervour around back in the day when the agents of Holy Mother The Church were in full panic mode and were burning people for publishing the Bible in English or reading it out loud in English.

  6. Bloke in Germany in Hospital


    Thanks for asking. I will go home alive soon. For that alone I have to be grateful. It was only the quick actions of staff that prevented me experiencing oneness with the universe when I first came in.

    There will be lifelong sequelae but the top docs have reasonable optimism that they will be tolerable and manageable without further major interventions. Let’s see.

    I should be dead. Merely 50 years ago I would have been. Instead I will carry on living, in increased awe at what this species has achieved, in eternal gratitude to the amazing staff (all of them) here, to the imperfect system that enables it, and in greater appreciation of every new day.

  7. It’s been interesting to see the way the Trudeau grope thing has been downplayed and the claims it’s not the same as all the other stuff, pure hypocrisy

  8. What is really new is the ability to quickly whip up an online lynch mob.
    In the past, people might tut and moan to anyone in the same room about something they read. The rare person would bother to pen an easily ignored letter of complaint and that was almost always as far as it went.
    Now someone can post an opinion more easily and unedited certainly, but they can then be fired within hours following an instant digital trial and conviction.

  9. Bloke in Germany in Hospital

    They are about the least Marxist Marxists you can imagine though. In fact if Tim is looking for another writing gig, I don’t think he’d feel too out of place there.

  10. Pcar said:
    “spiked is online Living Marxism newspaper”

    Living Marxism was interesting. I subscribed for a while in the ’90s, not because I was interested in their left-libertarian approach.

    They seemed to want to bring about Marx’s prediction that, under communism, the State would wither away. Doesn’t happen that way of course, but it’s a world away from the Guardian-style lefties of taking offence on behalf of special interest groups.

  11. Bloke in North Dorset


    In that case best wishes, it sounds like you’ve got the fortitude to deal with it in those dark moments.

  12. Glad to hear you have survived Biggie.

    Since your remarks suggest you might be somewhat less robust than before, all the more reason to get that gun. Before you need it and don’t have it.

  13. Amusingly, I made tentative enquiry a couple of days back. Purely coincidence the timing of course. They don’t pay. And if I’m to write for free hen why not here?

  14. Re: Pat

    “But censorship is one thing being complained of. If allegedly neutral platforms like Facebook and Twitter refuse to publish things that is censorship.”

    Twitter is shadow banning prominent US lawmakers, as they try to get the documents they want out of Rod Rosenstien re: the FISA abuse.

    Trump will have to take them on before 2020 – or the tools that won him the election in 2016 wont be available to him then…..

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