“There was a time when men were afraid that somebody would reveal some secret of theirs that was unknown to their fellows. Nowadays, they’re afraid that somebody will name what everybody knows. Have you practical people ever thought that that’s all it would take to blast your whole, big, complex structure, with all your laws and guns—just somebody naming the exact nature of what you’re doing?”
The ironies have gone beyond my ability to capture them in an original and unique manner. But that doesn’t matter, for Jonathan Turley has captured them for us:
Unable to convince users to embrace censorship, [Hillary] Clinton and others are pressuring corporations and foreign governments to deter [Elon] Musk from restoring free speech. Since users are embracing the new Twitter, the campaign has focused on preventing them from signing up by removing the app from the Apple and Google stores. In the meantime, Apple is joining the boycott by withholding advertising revenue to coerce Musk to reverse his free-speech pledge.
Musk, however, is sitting on the ultimate weapon to bring this war to an end: free speech itself.
Professor Turley is in danger of getting himself “read out of meetin’,” as the old folks used to say before we censored them. The shade of Eric Frank Russell must be applauding wildly. At any rate, he should be.
We know that the Left’s censors aren’t “offended” by freedom of speech. They’re threatened by it: most particularly, by the possibility that uncensored speech will reveal their crimes to all and sundry. Their efforts to silence us have largely been strokes in their own defense. But they have a little problem. The Left, historically, has championed freedom of expression so fiercely that they’ve raged against any kind of suppression thereof. Obscenity? Pornography? Slander? Threats? Incitement to riot? “Freedom of speech! they shrieked. “Carve-outs are a slippery slope straight to Hell! There must be no exceptions!”
It’s come back to bite them on the ass, and it’s glorious.
Needless to say, they haven’t given up. They’ve simply invented an exception of their very own, a truly exceptional exception: for “hate speech.” “Hate speech is not free speech!” they trumpet. But what is it? “Never mind!” comes the reply. “We know it when we see it!” If memory serves, that was the Supreme Court’s test for whether a movie was obscene enough to be banned, back when.
Over the years the Church of the Left has grown ever more dogmatic. Time was, there were such things as pro-life Democrats. No longer! Nat Hentoff, one of the fiercest advocates of complete freedom of speech, found himself shunned by persons who agreed with him on every other subject, because he was against abortion and said so freely and fearlessly. If memory serves, toward the end of his distinguished career he was denied a lifetime-achievement award for that very reason.
I’ve reached an age and a condition such that few things reliably make me giggle. It’s nice to know that hasn’t been reduced to the null set just yet.
Many are the things the Left doesn’t want anyone to say openly. Discussion of certain subjects – for example, the influence of federal regulation and the profit incentive on the behavior of large pharmaceutical companies these past few years – has been ruled completely out of bounds. Discoursing on such a subject on any of the big sites risks being banned and shunned as a “hater.”
The tendency has been for persons who value their participation in various social media – ironically, about the most antisocial phenomenon that has ever existed – to “self-censor.” Contact with their “Facebook friends” is simply too vital to endanger. Combined with the Left’s swiftly pouncing “banning brigades,” ever ready to bring the sins of others to the “trust and safety” cadres, this has stifled public examination of developments that have deserved close, widespread scrutiny.
It’s become a kind of self-mockery. They who, once upon a time, would have been strident in demanding absolute freedom of expression for themselves are now the world’s most minutely scrupulous censors. (I almost wrote “sensors,” and what would Mr. Spock think of that?) The significance is too plain for anyone to miss. Their edifice of lies and betrayals has grown so large and so fragile that for a single popular site to dismantle its suppression mechanisms threatens its very existence.
I would not have credited the possibility before Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter. Indeed, I did not. Perhaps my imagination is failing me. That’s a terrible thing for a novelist to contemplate.
I’m fortunate in being immune to “cancellation.” No one alive has anything to hold over my head. Therefore I can say what I think without fear. That isn’t true of most Americans. Even on the newly liberated plains of Twitter, there are still hazards in publicly going against the Left. If you’re in business, or earn your living as someone else’s employee, or have a significantly “diverse” social circle, you must still weigh the satisfactions of plain speaking against the possible consequences.
But there’s a chink in the armor at last, and it’s thanks to one maverick, slightly eccentric billionaire, who saw the wrong and set out to right it as his personal cause and at his personal cost.
To Elon Musk: Thank you. To his would be-censors: Have a nice day.