Freedom of Speech Matters

Freedom of speech is essential. Only in the light of this type of freedom we can rationally evaluate evidence, reason about it and progress in all types of knowledge. We were extremely lucky to get such a complicated language in the course of our evolution, and it is the reason we are where we are now. If we wish to progress even better and faster, we need to allow for all ideas to come to the forum of thought and have a say. Only there we can judge them based on evidence and logic.

This is why I tremendously enjoyed Christopher Hitchens’ vigorous  defence of this freedom.

 

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thetruthfulheretic

Dear fellow Homo sapiens, or if you prefer conscious mammals! And of course, friends nonetheless: I created my blog in order to speak my very weird mind, mostly about three subjects (as I identify myself and my state of mind with them): Atheism, as I was born in the Middle East and saw and felt the affects of Islam; Homosexuality and equal rights, as a gay man who has tasted the Homophobia and also Sexism in that society; and Liberalism and political philosophy, which I think is a good ground for secular values and criticism of fundamentalism. If you wish, visit and join your state of mind to mine. I hope they don't short circuit!

7 thoughts on “Freedom of Speech Matters”

  1. Freedom of speech is a red herring. The freedom which counts is the freedom to not have someone initiate force against you (assault, murder, kidnapping, rape etc). The initiation of force also includes the threat of these things.

    This freedom can be summarised as the Non Aggression Principle (NAP) and freedom of speech is naturally derived from the NAP so it is better to argue for the adoption of the NAP rather than just freedom of speech.

    Remember, slaves can be kept in a cage and still granted freedom of speech by their captors. Freedom of speech means nothing on its own.

    Whole populations can be indoctrinated and dumbed down and still given freedom of speech, so they can repeat their indoctrination and irrational beliefs. In this scenario promoting freedom of speech actually *helps* the rulers to rule by having the population repeat falsehoods to each other endlessly. This is actually how most modern democratic ‘free’ societies operate.

    1. Thanks for the comment, unfortunately these days I’m busy writing another title, but I shall try to adequately address the comment section.

      In the first part it seems you disagree with the existence of any notion of negative freedom. How is not being hurt by others a freedom that I have? It seems to be a bit similar to a right that I poses. Say, do I have the freedom to dance naked in my room, or to go to Bahamas, or maybe abort a pregnancy or even take my own life? Are these freedoms, rights or red herrings? We do not necessarily have to choose one over another. If I own myself, then I have choices, and if I have choices then I have freedom.

      “Remember, slaves can be kept in a cage and still granted freedom of speech by their captors. Freedom of speech means nothing on its own.”

      Indeed, and I was not suggesting so.

      “Whole populations can be indoctrinated and dumbed down and still given freedom of speech, so they can repeat their indoctrination and irrational beliefs.”

      Maybe, actually a very weak maybe since I disagree with this mostly. I cannot seem to imagine a society that does have freedom of speech and not be progressive, unless of course we do not have other freedoms to accompany it (i.e. freedom to access information on what we wish for example). But even that seems very unlikely to me, the society that possesses freedom of speech cannot limit other freedoms without limiting speech as well.

  2. “..How is not being hurt by others a freedom that I have?..”

    I never said it’s a freedom you have, I said it’s the freedom which counts. The NAP is really the only thing a society needs to recognise and adhere to if we want to protect our own freedoms and everyone else’s, too (including, but not limited to freedom of speech).

    “…I cannot seem to imagine a society that does have freedom of speech and not be progressive…”

    What we are capable or incapable of imagining can be influenced by language itself – a limited language or perverted language can greatly limit our imagination.

    ‘Freedom of speech’ is thought of mostly in terms of our freedom to speak to each other openly, without being harassed or bullied. But there is another very important aspect (perhaps far more important) and that is our capacity to use language correctly.

    Language is like a tool box and if half the tools are missing, or have been rendered useless, or we’ve never been shown how to use them properly, then we end up about as helpless as if that toolbox had been confiscated…. and if we still believe our tool box is complete and in perfect working order that’s even more dangerous!

    Ask the average person on the street (or even the average university educated person) to define basic words like “law”, “government”, “virtue”, “terrorism”, “truth” and they will struggle!

    I maintain that ‘democracy’ is fundamentally based on perverted, subverted, euphemistic, ‘double speak’ abuses of language.

    For example, through the manipulation of language a ‘voter’ is trained to believe he is ‘voting for policy X’. But in reality he is ‘voting’ for a third party acting on his behalf to force his neighbours at gunpoint to obey and fund policy X, and if they refuse to be kidnapped and put inside a cage (and possibly shot if they try to resist or attempt to escape the cage). Would he ever behave in such an extremely violent (and immoral) way on his own? I highly doubt it. Does it make a difference that he’s getting a third party to behave that way on his behalf? Not really – certainly not in a moral sense. Getting a third party to commit murder, theft, rape, fraud (etc) on your behalf is just as immoral as the committing those crimes yourself. So presumably getting a third party to threaten his neighbours with extreme violence on his behalf so they will fund and obey certain policies is also just as immoral as threatening them himself. Yet through the use of special words (‘democracy’, ‘voting’, ‘elections’ etc) this violent and coercive behaviour is defined in terms of freedom, liberty, civilised behaviour and even virtue.

    Another example… through the manipulation of language we are trained to condemn Osama Bin Laden for (allegedly) using aircraft as deadly weapons to murder civilians in an attempt to achieve his political aims, while simultaneously supporting (and willingly funding) Obama’s use of drone aircraft as deadly weapons to murder civilians in an attempt to achieve his political aims.

    Through the manipulation of language torture becomes ‘enhanced interrogation’, bombing a sovereign nation back to the stone age becomes ‘enforcing a no fly zone’, hired assassins become, ‘soldiers’ or ‘our boys in uniform’, counterfeiting becomes ‘quantitive easing’, stealing money from the as-yet-unborn becomes ‘national debt’ and so on.

    “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper names” ……. and we might add that “All human enslavement starts off with the insidious and deliberate perversion of language”

    I’ve seen plenty of public debates on the TV, radio etc where we are actively encouraged to debate which political party, or which political solution is the best one to solve some problem or achieve some goal – but NEVER in my life have I ever witnessed ‘politics’, the legitimacy of ‘laws’ and the institution of ‘government’ clearly defined, let alone any debated as to whether these are the only solutions, or whether they even ARE solutions. Perhaps they are part of the problem?

    How would we know? – it’s never discussed in this land of ‘freedom of speech’. Not ever. This NOT because discussing them and debating them has been outright banned.

    They’re never discussed or debated because we’ve all been trained from early childhood (not least in government run schools) to think that words like ‘democracy’, ‘government’, ‘laws’, ‘taxation’, ‘voting’, ‘elections’ and ‘politics’ are synonymous with words like freedom, liberty, fairness, civilised society and responsible, moral behaviour. Thus we imagine there is no need for further discussion or debate.

    And with those definitions firmly in place in our minds, the more we exercise our ‘freedom of speech’ the more we reinforce those definitions (whether fraudulent or not).

    “Let me control the textbooks and I will control the state. The state will take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing. Your child belongs to us already..what are you?” – Adolf Hitler

    The Prussian Schooling system which led to Nazi Germany was later adopted all over the world.

    1. “I said it’s the freedom which counts.”

      And I disagreed. But this is for another time.

      //

      If I remember correctly the Nazi Germany banned freedom of speech, did it not? Bringing the discussion back to speech (this post is not about Libertarianism and government coercion, nor it is about the problems of Democracy which are important on their own) We are able to debate this here and now, are we not? I disagree with your claim very strongly, not about the deficiencies of language, but about the examples you gave. But, for all that, I would not have been able to take part in this If I were still living where I was living. In fact, I would not have been able to comment in another blog. There is no freedom of speech there. People on Magic Sandwich Show are not being actively pursued by authorities because of the things the say. Funny how this could have happened if they were somewhere else.

      If we were to meet in a forum and wished to debate “exactly” the things that you said never are being debated, would you think that someone would stop us? No? Then that’s the freedom of speech we have. Even if no one listens (which I doubt), the debate happens. So does in literature on political philosophy. Rawls and Nozick may not have had a verbal debate (as far as I know), but Nozick wrote much of his political philosophy in response to Rawld (btw I think Rawls is right!)

  3. “…If I remember correctly the Nazi Germany banned freedom of speech, did it not? …”

    Nazism (national socialism) is an abstract concept.
    Germany is an arbitrary geographical area of land.
    Neither abstract concepts, areas of land or Hitler himself are capable of ‘banning freedom of speech’.

    Watch me now attempt to ban freedom of speech…… “I hereby ban freedom of speech for everybody, starting ….now!”

    See? It makes absolutely no difference. You cannot ‘ban’ people from talking. All you can do is stand behind them with a hammer and say “If you discuss these subjects I will hit you one the head”.

    In other words all you can do is INITIATE FORCE AGAINST people. But Hitler and his friends never had the resources, or the time (or enough hammers) to follow everyone in Germany around all day long with a hammer raised above their head, ready for them to say something naughty.

    That is why it is impossible for oppressive rulers to directly ban freedom of speech. What they have to do first is subvert/ pervert/ limit language itself first. So they invent words like ‘democracy’, ‘political leaders’, ‘voting’, ‘elections’, ‘laws’, ‘patriot’ and so on and use these words to confuse people over generations.

    Eventually the public get so confused they will end up supporting and obeying their ‘leaders’ and their new ‘laws’ EVEN IF those leaders are violent psychopaths and those new laws violate the most basic moral rules.

    WHat has happened is that through the gradual insertion of euphemistic words, perverted language and fraudulent definitions the public have been trained over generations that a ‘political leader’ is BY DEFINITION a noble person who is to be respected at all times….. and that ‘laws’ are BY DEFINITION moral rules and the basis for civilised society which must ALWAYS be obeyed.,…. and so on.

    Only then can ‘freedom of speech’ (or any other immoral behaviour) by effectively and efficiently ‘banned’. Instead of having to stand over everyone with a hammer, these rulers can simply say “As your leader I have passed a law banning such and such” and the public will start initiating force AGAINST THEMSELVES in order to avoid disobeying the ‘law’, or going against their ‘leaders’.

    Hitler was not actually THAT evil, in terms of his actual behaviour. There is a natural limit to how evil ANYONE can actually be in real life. Even the most evil people typically can’t murder more than about 30 people before they are themselves taken out by a member of the public.

    In reality 99.9% of the immoral behaviour (murder, persecution, theft, assault, torture AND dragging people away for speaking freely about ‘banned’ subjects) was carried out by members of the public. It’s not that the German people had all suddenly turned evil overnight. They had been brainwashed by language, and for this process of mass mind control to be effective it must always start in childhood – typically in (government controlled) schools.

    There really is no such thing as ‘banning freedom of speech’. There is only the INITIATION OF FORCE and that only becomes a useful tool for would-be tyrants if they can first mass mind control the population.

    Without a multi generational program to pervert, distort and limit language (and thus thought) Hitler could never have ‘banned’ freedom of speech. He would have been just like me, standing on a soap box saying “I hereby declare free speech to now be banned… starting now!’

    People would have just ignored him ….. or smiled at this strange fellow and carried on with their day.

    “…..If we were to meet in a forum and wished to debate “exactly” the things that you said never are being debated, would you think that someone would stop us?….”

    Probably not if the forum has a limited audience (such as the average blog). But as that audience increases the likelihood of censorship increases. No one is allowed to discuss these issues on the mainstream TV for instance. But I agree with you insofar as the internet is allowing people to bypass the media and politics -which were previously the only platform for debate. This is why governments (and corporations etc) are finding it so much harder these days to win public support and cover up their despicable behaviour, hence their increasing use of fear tactics to push forward their policies.

    But the modern internet is still only about a decade old and the corporate media is still a hugely powerful force. And each generation is still subjected to government schooling. When the masses are so thoroughly brainwashed by a ‘weaponised language’ it really doesn’t matter to the ruling classes if a few people are able to think and speak freely.

    They do not care if a few people use their freedom of speech to point out (for instance) that the wars in the middle east are illegal, immoral and based on proven lies and that Blair and Bush have already been convicted of war crimes under the terms of the Geneva Convention.

    They do not care because they know that even if millions of people agree that the wars are immoral and must be stopped if someone actually decides to *stop funding* those wars those same people will immediately condemn that behaviour as far worse, just because it happens to break the law! (‘tax’ evasion).

    And the general public will see to it that anyone refusing to fund these genocidal wars of empire will be threatened, and eventually kidnapped and put in a cage for ‘tax evasion’. They won’t just support this initiation of force against people refusing to fund these wars (‘tax evaders’), they will actually be the ones inflicting that force – up to and including violence.

    The general public are still so utterly brainwashed they still regard ‘breaking a tax law’ as a greater moral violation than ‘funding mass murder’…. as well as their own behaviour of FORCING OTHER PEOPLE to fund mass murder.

    This is why I say that imposing limits and irrational concepts onto language itself (onto thoughts, ideas, morality, philosophy) is far more dangerous than imposing limits onto speech (the act of talking, discussing, debating).

    Freedom of speech can ONLY be ‘banned’ if the population is already deep under mind control, as a result of a corrupted ‘weaponised’ language and endless propaganda making use of that language.

    A population NOT under mass mind control from a corrupted language would never agree to ‘bans’ on freedom of speech. Nor would they help to enforce such ‘bans’. Nor would they take seriously anyone who proposed such ‘bans’.

    1. This reminded me of a conversation I had with an internet friend on “The Wall” (Pink Floyd). I pointed out that it seems “education” is taken as “thought control”. And I added that I thought it was absolutely wrong. I still think so. Not all school systems are systematically brainwashing children, none of them has succeeded completely in doing so since we all have some faculties to challenge that. The irony of me (and probably you) being here and using the same education to debate is indeed great. (I just felt to make this point regardless of you meaning it or not)

      “This is why I say that imposing limits and irrational concepts onto language itself (onto thoughts, ideas, morality, philosophy) is far more dangerous than imposing limits onto speech (the act of talking, discussing, debating).”

      Whether it is possible to do one without the other is questionable, and… well, there is the matter of our cognitive faculties standing there.

      I’m not addressing the issues of tax or war here, I only add that I disagree with most of what you put forward on those subjects.

      //

      Unfortunately as I said before I’m working on a new project and do not have much time. Later on I may post some new material about the matters discussed here, from taxes to governments etc.

      1. “….The irony of me (and probably you) being here and using the same education to debate is indeed great….”

        Every point and argument I’ve made in these comments has been the product of my own endeavours OUTSIDE of the education system (and the mainstream media). And everything I’ve said has been in direct opposition to what I (and presumably you) have been taught is true via mainstream education/ media.

        I agree that schools do not render us totally useless. The challenge for the ruling elite is to educate the masses well enough that we grow up to be competent, motivated, largely self organising producers and tax payers….. yet not so much that we are capable of understanding, let alone questioning, let alone challenging and improving ‘the system’.

        Anyway, I’ll leave you to get on with your other projects. Enjoyed the discussion 🙂

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