Sparta Report

Is Free Speech in America in Trouble?

Damon Linker wonders whether free speech in the US is in trouble:

At the figurative center of the clash is the norm of near-absolute freedom of speech and expression, which its defenders like to treat as the American default. A number of ideological challenges have arisen in recent years to overturn this norm.

On many college campuses, groups of left-leaning students insist that free speech should be conditional on speakers adhering to explicit standards of diversity and avoiding the infliction of emotional harm on the members of marginalized groups through the spreading of “hate.”

From the opposite ideological direction, President Trump believes that the government should “take a strong look” at libel laws to keep news organizations from subjecting his own administration to negative coverage.

Finally, from the center-left come calls to use anti-discrimination law to punish organizations that oppose the legitimacy of same-sex marriage and accommodations for transgender people. If that happens — either by passing new laws that explicitly add to existing anti-discrimination statutes or by courts treating the members of these groups as protected classes covered by existing law — the result will almost certainly be a significant constriction of speech, as those holding more conservative views will face sanction for expressing them in public.

Those are the trends — and each one looks to the others like the onset of democratic decline.

The reason it looks like the onset of democratic decline is because it is the onset of democratic decline. The concept of a free society centers around the free and open exchange of ideas. When government starts censoring free expression, you start to move away from a democracy and toward oligarchies and dictatorships where voting is just a formality.

For years, there have been informal speech controls in the US, but we are now increasingly seeing pressure from the left for more formalized speech controls. The argument by the left is that all conservative speech is so irredeemably racist and hateful that it must be silenced to avoid “offending” someone.

Increasingly, outspoken conservatives are at risk of being banned from social media, doxed, and fired from their jobs. This “soft censorship” has been going on for years, but it became much more prevalent around 2014-2015 with the onset of Gamergate.

The social justice movement is a censorious movement that is designed to silence the political enemies of the left. It isn’t meant to help anyone or improve anyone’s lives. No one involved in the movement really cares about “social justice” except as a way to crush their political enemies.

Linker tries clumsily to claim that “both sides are to blame” but there is no Republican mass movement to fire and threaten people who express the wrong views. Most of us just want to be left alone.