Addendum: More On Free Speech

A recent article at the execrable online magazine Jezebel (one of the arms of Gawker – the sleaziest “news” outlet on the internet) is instructive in showing what leftists really think in regards to free speech. Long story short, they unapologetically announce that if you engage in speech they don’t like, they will do everything they can within the limits of the law to destroy you, including attempting to deprive you of your livelihood and ruin you economically. This works in two ways – first by actually destroying those who say things they don’t like (a la Paula Deen), and second by producing a chilling effect designed to terrify other potential critics into silence. Though this won’t shut down all opposition, it doesn’t really have to – to destroy effective opposition, it only has to work enough of the time. And it will – most people who don’t have a taste for martyrdom or penury (that is to say, most people) will keep their heads down, grumble to themselves, and say nothing.

I will, for the benefit of my readers, intentionally fall into the trap of believing that the leftist position here is sincere, and respond to it with sincerity. So here it is: free speech is not just a law; it’s a principle. The law (in this case, the First Amendment) merely codifies the principle. The principle is that society benefits most when all ideas – no matter how sane or crazy, orthodox or heretical, popular or scandalous, sacred or obscene – are given their chance to be presented in the marketplace of ideas so that they can be fairly received and evaluated, and then accepted or rejected by the citizens. For you to say – and it is what you’re saying – that you will do everything you possibly can do, with your only limits being the restraints imposed on you by the law, to intimidate people who oppose you into silence, or to harm them as much as you possibly can if they do choose to risk speaking out, shows that you have no understanding of nor respect for the principle of free speech whatsoever.

Of course, I don’t believe in absolute, untrammeled free speech either, for reasons I shall go into in more detail in a future column. But – and this what separates me from the liars and hypocrites of the left – I also haven’t, as they have, spent the last couple of centuries shouting from the rooftops that free speech was one of my most deeply-held, non-negotiable core principles. And that is the point of the exercise: to demonstrate once again that the left has no principles, only ideology. Any time that a leftist tells you that they have any core principles (with the sole possible exception of limitless sexual freedom), they are lying. Things like this prove why you should never give them the benefit of the doubt.

P. S. As a monarchist, I can assure you that no King with any self-confidence, self-respect, or dignity would sink so low as to seek to devote time and resources to finding and punishing a rodeo clown in a rural province for engaging in a few minutes of mild lampooning at the His Majesty’s expense. And he wouldn’t do it even if he wanted to – he’d know that it would make him a genuine laughingstock, as it would cause the nobles and people to see him as an insecure, petulent, overgrown child.

Welcome To Westeros

So apparently some rodeo clown managed to make himself the object of this week’s Two Minutes Hate – complete with the normal punishment of having one’s livelihood destroyed and facing financial ruin that comes with it – for making fun of the President.

I’m old enough to remember the days when television stations went off the air for the night, and a lot of other things that used to be, but aren’t anymore. I remember when one learned in the Fifth Grade that we were a Constitutional Republic, not a feudalist monarchy – that the President was not a King or a god, but just another citizen. This meant that, as long as you didn’t physically threaten him (which you couldn’t do to anyone else, either), you could say anything you liked about him. Nobody talked about “disrespecting” the President as if it were a crime, and in fact people did so all the time. For example, I remember tuning in to Saturday Night Live one evening in the 1980s (it seems not to be posted on YouTube, sorry) and seeing Howard Hesseman publicly “moon” a portrait of Ronald Reagan on national network television. It was stupid and juvenile (liberals haven’t changed much in the past thirty years), and people who supported Reagan didn’t much like it, but everyone accepted it as what we sometimes had to put up with as a result of our freedom to criticize people in power however we liked. You know, the First Amendment, and the spirit of 1776, and “I might not agree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” and all that.

Because yes, we did understand more, and expect more, of what it meant to be free citizens of a Constitutional Republic. We did not live in some dismal medieval kingdom where the smallfolk had best be careful what they said about their Lords and Ladies if they knew what was good for them. We had our rights under the Constitution, yes – but we also lived in a nation imbued with the principle of respect for free speech.

But now things have changed.

Are people being dragged off to gulags for saying the wrong things about our leaders, as recently happened to some poor comedian in North Korea? No. And maybe it never will get that bad here. But things that were impossible to imagine happening in this country back when Hesseman mooned Reagan have come to pass, and the trendline is distinctly unencouraging. If nothing else, America has lost the spirit of respect for free speech – you can already be ruined for saying the wrong thing, if not yet imprisoned for it; and few anymore see why this is either a bad thing in and of itself or, more alarmingly, an omen of even worse things yet to come.

So welcome to Westeros, Information Age-style style; where cameras are everywhere, where your Lords and Ladies know everything that you say about them, and where we the smallfolk increasingly do have to be careful what that is if we know what’s good for us.

Everyone practice your bows and curtseys.

P.S. I’m very happy to know that the economy is roaring along so well, the Middle East is calmed down enough, crime is sufficiently under control, and our foreign and monetary policies are sorted out to the point that the people who wield power in this country can all stop to care about what a rodeo clown at an obscure Midwestern state fair is up to.