Friday, November 3, 2017

Guest Post: "Why I am a Free-Speech Fundamentalist"

from Secular Outpost on Free Speech by Keith Parsons:
"I am a free-speech fundamentalist. That is, I hold that public forums, including public universities, should be open to the free expression of opinion. Period. Even when the opinion is offensive and obnoxious. Especially when the opinion is offensive and obnoxious. There can be no free speech if it is required that the speech not offend anyone.

There can be no free speech if only certain viewpoints or ideologies are permitted. There can be no free speech if certain topics are sacrosanct and not allowed to be touched. Does that mean that white supremacist Richard Spencer should be allowed a platform? Yes.

Does it mean that professional provocateurs such as Ann Coulter and Milos Yiannopoulos should be allowed to do their odious act? Yes.

But what about those whose feelings would be deeply hurt by the mindless effusions of such trolls?

Tough. You have no right not to be offended.

You also have no right to shout down such speakers or prevent their audience from hearing them. If you do so, you should be forcibly ejected from the premises."
Why I am a Free-Speech Fundamentalist


Thank you, Keith Parsons!!

Though I never thought you would describe yourself as a 'fundamentalist;-) of any sort. (Though, of course, I get your humorous hyperbole:-)

It is so scary, so irrational, so undemocratic, so aberrational that these many humans now want to deny for others what they claim for themselves.

And the strange current view that you mention, "But what about those whose feelings would be deeply hurt by the mindless effusions of such trolls? Tough. You have no right not to be offended."

When did civilization, democracy, progress come to mean not being "offended"?!

Also, during the many years that I taught literature to high school students including basic debate (on the most controversial topics from abortion to same sexuality to war), our school never had a problem, nothing like the current upsets at some universities from New England to Berkeley. By my insisting on a few courtesy rules and that they present their views with reasoning and evidence, 9th graders and 11th graders, for years, were able to espouse ANY view they wanted to, without censure.

During all of those debates, students learned much. Never once, though they were immature teens, especially some of the 9th graders:-), did I ever have to send any one out for discipline problems. NOT once.

What is wrong that so many now demand that the free speech of others with whom they disagree, be restricted?!

In the Light of Freedom--freedom of speech, freedom of religion or non-religion, freedom of the press, freedom, freedom, freedom!

Daniel Wilcox


Infidel753 said...

I fervently agree with this view. The robust protection of free speech provided by the First Amendment is one of the best features of the American system. In some European countries, some viewpoints can be officially silenced because they're defined as "hate speech", but not here. Our system is better. I'd rather see all viewpoints freely expressed, even extremely repugnant ones like Nazi ideology, rather than be subject to someone else's definition of "hate speech".

It's an issue on which I occasionally have disagreements with fellow liberal bloggers. There are some who claim to support free expression for those with whom they disagree as a general principle, but then in every actual specific case, they find some reason to oppose it, by calling it "incitement" or whatever. No, others must be allowed to express their views even if they offend you -- even if they offend me.

Universities should be bastions of debate, not holdouts against it. No one has to attend a speech or read a pamphlet if they find it offensive, but the speech and the pamphlet must be allowed there. It sounds as if your 9th and 11th graders understand this better than some of the ideological hard-liners at our universities.

There is one point about this which I feel some people misunderstand, though, and that's the point that the right of free speech doen't include a right to force others to provide a venue. Like many people, I use comment moderation on my blog, and I do occasionally reject comments based on the nature of the views they express (if you don't do this, two or three energetic trolls can easily run an otherwise worthwhile thread into the ditch). In such cases, I'm sometimes accused of violating the troll's freedom of speech. Not so, because it's my blog. The troll in question could easily set up a blog of his own and say anything he wanted, and I would neither be able to stop him nor want to. But not on my turf. The way I like to express it is, free speech means you have the right to put a political bumper sticker on your car. It doesn't mean you have the right to put the same bumper sticker on my car, not unless I choose to let you.

Daniel Wilcox said...

I agree with you and Parsons..

Of course, I'm an Enlightenment sort from way back when. And I've been reading biographies on the leaders of late, again, just finished a long one on Thomas Paine. And today, read and skimmed his 3rd part of The Age of Reason.

I don't take kindly to all of these thinkers and commenters who claim there are no human rights, who claim that freedom of the press needs to be restricted, and those who heckle and become violent, etc.

Back in 1965 at the University of Nebraska we had a free speech area where every day various contradictory speakers would get up share their views. There was a Stalinist communist extremist, a moderate Marxist graduate student who found Buddhism intriguing, and various other sorts, including me, the liberal Christian Baptist and member of Students for a Democratic Society (back when it was very democratic and peaceful, though radical:-)

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.