Home / General / And now: The dumbest thing anyone has ever said about freedom of expression.

And now: The dumbest thing anyone has ever said about freedom of expression.

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And if you don’t want to appear with a Nazi. You’re … NOT a Nazi. So there!

But the day is young. And I haven’t delved into the the event page yet.

Implying that the people who cancelled are attempting to disrupt the event is worth at least five finger kisses. Or 10 middle fingers.

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  • CP

    And now: The dumbest thing anyone has ever said about freedom of expression.

    That is a very strong claim when there are so many candidates for the honor.

    ::reads on:::

    … Never mind, it’s true.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      But Doughy Pantload hasn’t rolled out of his nest of crushed Cheetos this morning, so there’s more “dumbest thing anyone has ever said” heading down the sewage pipeline for delivery later today.

  • Spencer is a walking toilet of white supremacist bullshit. I wouldn’t want to share the stage with this asshole either, nor dignify any event that gave him space to spew his hate.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      I can think of a number of RW fascist wannabees that I’d like to see sharing a stage with Spencer.

      And by ‘stage’ I mean ‘scaffold’.

      • rea

        You want them to emulate Hitler by painting houses?

        • so-in-so

          “No Mr. Rea, I want them to die!”

  • Amadan

    Ooh, can I try?
    “By refusing to sleep with me, you are denying my right to reproduce!” (Akshully, this is A Thing among some MRAs, n’est-ce pas?)

    Or how about “By refusing ​to let me shoot at you, you are denying my Sacred 2A Rights”?

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      “By refusing to sleep with me, you are denying my right to reproduce!” (Akshully, this is A Thing among some MRAs, n’est-ce pas?)

      Silly MRAer, ‘sleeping’ isn’t the part where you ‘reproduce’.

      “You want to ‘reproduce’, good for you! Got this Xerox machine just waiting right here for your reproduction needs. Now, you just push in, right *there*, and ”

      AAAARRGGGHHH!!!! owww Owww OWWWEEE1 (falsetto screams)

      “Yeah, the fusor unit gets kinda hot. You wanted ‘hot reproductive action’, didn’t you?”

      • Amadan

        Silly me! I thought they called this “the Scanner gif” because of a film title!

      • Amadan

        … and in fairness, the Xerox machine is mercifully quick and relatively painless compared to the old method involving a Remington typewriter, carbon paper and a secretary concerning whose posterior the MRA has loudly remarked in the canteen last week…

        • kenkohl

          … and the old mimeograph machine was no bargain, either.

    • cpinva

      “By refusing to sleep with me, you are denying my right to reproduce!”

      had I only thought of this in college! of course, most of the people I was in school with were reasonably intelligent, so I suspect I would have still ended up with the same, or close to it, success rate. good thing though, I couldn’t have afforded all those mini-cp’s running around loose.

  • N__B

    “kowtow”? Really?

    • tsam

      Kowabunga, dude.

      (That’s Ninja Turtle shit)

  • NobodySpecial

    I would totally take their money to stand behind Richard Spencer giving a speech. I would make balloon animals the whole time. Then I would punch him after he stopped talking.

    I figure I’d come out ahead on money AND satisfaction.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      If you’re standing behind Spencer, sure, start with balloon animals. But he’s not going to stop talking until you give him a lumber massage.

  • McAllen

    Oh god, there are billions of people I’m not sharing a platform with right now. Billions who I am denying the right of free speech to. I’m a monster!

  • NewishLawyer

    I’m starting to develop a cranky lawyer view that only lawyers (and then only some of them) should be allowed to talk about what is and what is not free speech because nearly everyone gets it wrong. And does so in such ways to confirm their priors.

    Here, dropping out is a form of free expression/association and not understanding that is a sign of moronacy.

    On the left, it is just the repeated mantra of “Freedom of Speech is not Freedom of Consequences” that gets to me because there are and should be times that freedom of speech is freedom from consequences. Plus sometimes people don’t seem to understand this a double-edged sword.

    The issue with the free speech uber alles tribe is that they have a hard time imagining free speech as anything more than a polite tea party. That is, they think all discussions can be held in the tones of an exceedingly polite tea party like this:

    “Spencer: Say chap, I do believe that Jews are the root cause of all the pain in the world and need to be driven from the Earth.

    Jewish person: I must disagree with you there old fellow.”

    Of course this isn’t going to happen. A lot of free speech uber alles types also seem to have an issue with the fact that sometimes a show of force and resistance drives authoritarians away like the Battle of Cable Street.

    But I do worry about things escalating to a never-ending game of gotcha for ideological opponents.

    • McAllen

      On the left, it is just the repeated mantra of “Freedom of Speech is not Freedom of Consequences” that gets to me because there are and should be times that freedom of speech is freedom from consequences.

      Can you explain this a little more, because it seems literally impossible to me.

      • humanoid.panda

        He seems to be missing the word ״legal” from his sentence. Because sure, free speech means most time there won’t be legal consequences to your words. But if there are no consequences, positive or negative, to speaking, what’s is the point of speech?

        • BiloSagdiyev

          To hear your head rattle? I’m convined some people are motivated by that alone.

        • JonH

          I would guess he also means things like being expelled from school or fired from a job. Things that would have a chilling effect on speech, including speech you might agree with.

      • sibusisodan

        I can make sense of it in terms of freedom from backlash: speakers who make us uncomfortable should not be silenced purely because we are uncomfortable.

        But it’s not quite the same thing as the reasonably foreseeable consequences desired by the speech itself.

        ‘ We

        • humanoid.panda

          But that’s an impossible standard : it says that the only way to protect speech is forcotjer people to shut up.

        • LeeEsq

          That’s how I understand Newish’s point. Take Laura Kipnis for example. Her thoughts about love and sex are not right wing but don’t fit well into current liberal thinking either. Kipnis’ writing tends to generate a lot of backlash and denouncements and calls for people to know that Laura Kipnis is simply wrong even if she isn’t being silenced exactly.

          • Bloix

            Kipnis is a professor which provides her the protections of academic freedom, which is related to First Amendment free speech but very different in origin and purpose.

          • McAllen

            Kipnis’ writing tends to generate a lot of backlash and denouncements and calls for people to know that Laura Kipnis is simply wrong

            All of which are perfectly legitimate exercises of free speech.

          • Hogan

            she isn’t being silenced exactly.

            “Exactly?”

        • The way I think of it is that legal protection of free speech and the toleration of expression in a free society are related and overlap but do not share the same boundaries. There are conceivably expressive acts not protected by the First Amendment that are ethically defensible (the speeches Debs was jailed for come to mind). There are also expressive acts protected by the First Amendment that are still vile and insidious and should be loudly rejected.

          It is possible to have a society with the speech protections of the First Amendment that is still censorious and fundamentally illiberal. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed explores the possibility of this kind of situation in an anarchist society. So defenders of a free society have an obligation to consider free expression as something that can be at risk from more than just legal suppression. But falling back on “it’s legal, so it’s OK” is also an abdication of responsibility.

          • JonH

            The problem is that “expressive acts protected by the First Amendment that are still vile and insidious and should be loudly rejected” is very much in the eye of the beholder. There are probably people who think Schindler’s List fits that description because of the nudity. Or that the photograph of the naked, burned Vietnamese girl fleeing napalm was indecent and shouldn’t have been published.

            Etc.

            • Sure. There are few bright lines in civil society. That’s why we have laws. Laws draw the lines. Society fills in the blanks.

    • keta

      I’m starting to develop a cranky lawyer view that only lawyers (and then only some of them) should be allowed to talk about what is and what is not free speech because nearly everyone gets it wrong.

      Now that is fucking funny.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Reminds me of the old Tom Lehrer line, “There are people in this world who do not love their fellow man and I hate people like that!”

      • Lost Left Coaster

        I assumed that the irony was intentional? That along with the fact that the whole comment misrepresents what freedom of speech is in the way that the commenter complains others do?

        A work of art, in a sense.

    • CP

      Isn’t the lawyer view of free speech “free speech is whatever I can convince the jury it is so that they’ll rule in favor of my client?”

    • aturner339

      Food for thought: What makes you think we aren’t already in such a game? Or that any other equilibrium would be stable?

      We can’t preserve the condition of speech without consequences because it has never existed. I take the point that the “real politik” approach to speech can be taken too far and I think current legal protections are appropriate but beyond that what is there except the game?

    • On the left, it is just the repeated mantra of “Freedom of Speech is not Freedom of Consequences” that gets to me because there are and should be times that freedom of speech is freedom from consequences. Plus sometimes people don’t seem to understand this a double-edged sword.

      Nice try but sorry. This doesn’t come close to Mr. Merwin’s level of derp on free speech.

    • cpinva

      “Here, dropping out is a form of free expression/association and not understanding that is a sign of moronacy.”

      yeah, color me stunned. I blame both the republican party and the evangelical fundies for this. everyone has the right to speak freely, without (mostly) gov’t interference or sanction. this doesn’t give you a right to venue/audience/lack of refutation. ever since this was deemed a “denial of religious freedom” (because people had the audacity to exercise their right to not listen), the whole damn concept has just gone swirling down the tubes.

    • wengler

      On the left, it is just the repeated mantra of “Freedom of Speech is not Freedom of Consequences”

      That’s weird, I mostly hear this from rightwingers when they are going after professors. The only time I hear it from leftists is when they are trying to get some bigot taken off of the radio or TV by calling their sponsors.

    • JonH

      “I’m starting to develop a cranky lawyer view that only lawyers (and then only some of them) should be allowed to talk about what is and what is not free speech because nearly everyone gets it wrong.”

      I nominate Popehat.

  • mattius3939

    I’m not sure “working day and night to put different points of view in front of you” and “why would you drive all the way out to DC to see the same thing as on facebook?” are compatible. Alt righters drive all that way to an event they can’t get on facebook. That’s kind of the point of the event – exclusivity of viewpoints.

    If this guy’s really putting together different points of view to attract a bunch of alt-righters, he’s going to be quite shocked at his audience’s reviews the next day!

  • keta

    I delved. From the event page:

    I urge everyone who is coming to park elsewhere and take a taxi to the location.

    Let’s take a taxi to my tent!

  • bw

    The punchline is that the people who are dropping out aren’t people famous in the conservative world like Charles Murray, free speech trolls like Greg Lukianoff, or ostensibly liberal asswipes like Sam Harris. They’re ​hardcore fascist Trump idolizers Jack Posobiec and Laura Loomer.

    • humanoid.panda

      Someone really needs to do a remake of the Judean People’s Front sketch with these asswipes …

    • HeRocksInALab

      Is Sam Harris actually speaking at this thing? That would be perfect.

      • bw

        Sam Harris is, I dunno, on the C-list in the political talking head world? All the non-Nazi speakers at this thing are on the ZZZ-list. The Facebook event page for it lists Spencer, fellow Nazi Nathan Damigo, Augustus Invictus (mentioned downthread), plus a handful of Trump worshippers who call themselves “journalists” but were too stupid even to work at Breitbart.

        Other than maybe “Justin Smith” (I have no idea who that is, and Google isn’t much help) it’s all Nazis, Milo-wannabes, and much-less-competent James O’Keefe types.

    • Roger That

      “Punchline” in reference to a Richard Spencer speech has a different meaning, akin to the passenger slapping scene in Airplane!

  • Not sure you can call it a free speech rally when they’ve got Kek and Proud Boys logos on their event graphic. It’s a Nazi rally, and that’s all there is to it.

  • Murc

    I… what?

    I’m one of those “free speech should be as close to an absolute right as is practical without making ‘stalk your ex’ and ‘yell fire in a crowded theater’ legal” guys and this makes no sense even to me.

    I mean, let’s go through this thing:

    several speakers have dropped out due to the confirmation of Richard Spencer as a speaker. Now, not only is this horribly hypocritical, but it is also bordering on an Antifa principle.

    So now being antifascist is considered a bad thing, beyond the pale of public behavior? When the fuck did that happen? People aren’t supposed to be fascist. I mean, for god’s sake, you’re about to spend a whole post bitching about freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is the sine qua non of not being fascist! This is just incoherent.

    And then we come to his reasoning for why this is hypocritical:

    By not sharing the platform with someone you disagree with you are therefor not supporting their right to speak.

    Oh, boy, here we go.

    I keep seeing this as a declaration of principles or worse, of fact, all the damn time. It seems to be a very widespread viewpoint.

    The thing is, it only makes sense if you define “platform” to mean “the entire public square.” You are only plausibly not supporting a persons right to speak in a generic sense if you’re taking the tack of “if they open their mouths in public they should be arrested, or at the very least met with violence until they shut their mouths.”

    But a shit-ton of people seem to apply this general principle to specific cases, as if every single platform is or should be a microcosm of the public square as a whole. Like, if you set up a platform, a platform that is yours and belongs to you, for the discussion of X, you are obligated to accept everyone who comes along to discuss X, regardless of their viewpoints, and to also provide them with a right to respond. And if you don’t do that, you don’t really believe in free speech.

    And it’s like… no, dude. That’s not just ludicrous, it is also unworkable. Someone might choose to set up the most open forum possible, where they’ll allow anyone and everyone to get in there and do their thing. Someone else might choose to make judgments as to which people are there in good faith and which aren’t; they won’t kick out fascists, but they will kick out ‘kek kek u mad bro’ guys who are bombing the place with .gifs. Another oerson might declare ‘no Nazis in my house.’

    And that’s okay because it is their house. You have no more right to be able to unilaterally dictate your own content there than they do in your house. And doing that in no way, shape, or form impinges on their right to speak, because you know what? You can go get your own soapbox! Very easily! And you can shout as loud as you like from it! And if anyone tries to stop you, the state will intervene on your behalf no matter how vile you are. That is about as free as speech gets, folks.

    To put it in more concrete terms: this blog has banned Jennie. And Captain Tau, I believe. And ThrottleJockey and a few other people. But that doesn’t impinge on their right to speak. It doesn’t even impinge on their right to respond! They could very easily register “lgmwatch.blogspot.com” and do their own “Why Scott/Erik/Robert/et. al. Are Wrong, And Bad, And Also Wrong. And Why Did They Let Those Bitches Onto The Masthead, Am I Right Boys?” in-depth fisk of every single post made here, with copious and extensive links. Indeed, there’s a long tradition of doing just that; SullyWatch used to be a thing. So did DeCal. Neither of those writers occupied a platform that allowed direct engagement, so folks made their own.

    People don’t seem to understand this. For some of them, it appears to be genuine; they just believe that freedom of speech extends to a right to response and a right to invade other platforms and that you don’t have a right to not engage. For many others, I suspect it boils down to “if I start my own platform I’ll have an audience that might not even extend to my own family, so I’ll hijack the platform of others.” (Like when those Black Bloc fuckers show up to unrelated protests, kind of.)

    Anyway.

    I have been working day and night to get different points of view in front of you because I believe you shouldn’t be fed the same ideas over and over.

    Laudable in some ways. But other people aren’t obligated to cooperate with this if they don’t agree with ideas smorgasbord you are offering. They just… aren’t. This isn’t hypocritical unless they knew what they were getting into from the start.

    I WILL NOT kowtow to people trying to disrupt this event.

    See, here it is again; the idea that he has some a priori claim on peoples time and participation, and that if they don’t give it to him, they’re disrupting his even.

    Dude. Bro. Listen. You’d be on much stronger ground just arguing from a classic “if you want to take down Richard Spencer, come here and destroy him rhetorically. Make him look like a third-grader who wrote his notes in crayon” direction. I don’t think I’d agree with this necessarily, but it is a much stronger argument and not so laughably easy to demolish.

    • bw

      LOL, dude. The people running this thing think antifa principles are bad because they themselves are literally fascists.

      What makes this so hilarious is that the reason these speakers don’t want to be associated with Spencer isn’t that they find his white nationalism abhorrent. It’s that a) he’s radioactive with everyone who isn’t an alt-right true believer and will make them unpopular by association and b) that his white nationalism is an actual principle and they literally don’t believe in any principles beyond slavish worship of Donald Trump.

      2017 is Walter Sobchak’s lines from The Big Lebowski come to life.

      • aturner339

        LOL, dude. The people running this thing think antifa principles are bad because they themselves are literally fascists.

        I think a supple version of this is a very important point. Everyone has views they would oppose giving a platform to (As Murc says this does not abridge the right to free speech).

        The question is which views and the answer depends a lot on the ideological priors of the answerer. People who blow a gasket because white supremacists get heckled? Often aren’t as sensitive to white supremacy as a threat.

    • BigHank53

      You’re overthinking this.

      Many participants in the so-called culture wars are playing to lose, difficult as it may seem to believe. If their side is losing, they can feel sorry for themselves. Have you ever seen them pass up an opportunity to roll around in their self-pity?*

      It also gives them the moral license to break the rules, since they are good and the forces of evil are winning: this country is going straight to hell, so I’m not going to declare any of my cash income! And I’m paying any stupid building permit fee when I remodel my kitchen! And then…I’ll see if the babysitter would rather earn fifty bucks an hour for some action on the down low.

      *For an example, read any Rod Dreher essay.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        You can’t make me! La la la la la!! (covers eyes)

        Intentional losing is the goal of some of their public prayer antics, like a city council starting its meeting with a Jebusy prayer. The goal is to attract an ACLU complaint, have it taken to a BLACK-ROBED LIBRUHL JUDGE! (shake fist) and lose, and then tell your rube base how their Christianity is under attack by the liberal-dominated government.

        If they win, they take the win. If they lose, they get to pander to their rube base about their martyrdom, and incite more resentment and more attempts at breaking down the wall between church and state.

        If the ACLU sees their little prayer is a gambit but decides not to say anything about it … they win this way, too.

    • cpinva

      “This is just incoherent.”

      Murc, you didn’t seriously expect coherency from these clowns, did you? if that were the case, they probably wouldn’t be “these clowns” to begin with.

      • Murc

        Well, if I’m being honest, about half the time when I do this kind of takedown it is from the standpoint of “I should be able to utterly demolish this. If I can’t, maybe I’d better rethink my own position.”

        • tsam

          Racists don’t argue in good faith, aren’t concerned with what is true or a blatant lie–you can destroy them all you want, and by any objective measure you might do so, but that doesn’t change anything. The side that brings the fear and loathing to the party generally wins out in these encounters.

    • efgoldman

      Thank you, Murc, for proving that someone has more time on his hands than I do.

    • BradP

      The whole of the alt-right is gotchaism over their PC bugaboo. When they describe something that falls on the political spectrum opposite them, they describe them in reference to the perceived hypocrisy.

      I’m certain if you were to ask this fella why it’s bad to be anti fascist, he would go to great lengths to explain why antifa is actually fascist.

      I’m probably just explaining something you are already well aware of.

  • tsam

    All I could think while reading that was “geez, why don’tcha cry about it?”

  • BiloSagdiyev

    So the Amish, with their shunning, are just as bad as anarchists running around breaking glass and punching people? I don’t think you could sell shunning to the antifa kids.

    I’m so confused.

    • Joe Bob the III

      Those Amish are really onto something. Shunning Trump supporters is exactly what I have been doing since Fall of last year. Shunning is a perfectly reasonable method of teaching people there are consequences for violating the bounds of socially acceptable behavior.

  • Moravagine

    The event page includes a pro-authoritarian quotation attributed to Calvin Coolidge and yeah there isn’t any reason to delve further than that. Though I am curious what nationalist/fascist/nationalist fascist orgs those weird logos represent.

  • kped

    One of the speakers is Rep Clay Higgins (R-Louisiana). Somehow, I don’t think speaking with a noted white supremacist won’t hurt his career. It’s a feature, not a bug.

    • aturner339

      Worked for the (regrettably) wounded Mr. Scalise.

  • mtraven

    The speakers list is lovely collection of Nazis and related shitbirds, but “Augustus Invictus” is extra-special — he’s the libertarian/satanist dude from Florida who has written in favor of ritual murder, and is perhaps the one person who could lower the tone of an event featuring Richard Spencer.

  • farin

    In his defense, it actually is hypocritical for Confederate apologists to balk at sharing the stage with nazis.

    • Lost Left Coaster

      Ha ha, excellent point.

    • DocAmazing

      One field-gray uniform is a lot like another.

  • Johnnie

    Special snowflake Colton blocked me from his page and the event page for using the “haha” react in response to his posts. My speech rights!

  • Freedom of expression is a multifaceted thing. There’s the legal dimension, which is not only that government is not supposed to make laws to stop you from expressing your opinion, but is also supposed to protect people from certain types of “consequences” of said expression. For example, it would not be acceptable for the government to stand by while protesters are attacked by pro-Trump thugs, nor would it generally be acceptable for it to let employers fire people for their political opinions.

    Then there’s a more social aspect- the idea that a well functioning civil society should, within reason, let people express themselves freely so that everyone can be included and can participate in our society without fear. This goes beyond laws and regulations to encompass moral and ethical concerns.

    I say “generally” and “within reason” because there are certain jobs that are incompatible with expressing certain opinions, and because certain types of expression are designed to silence and exclude others from participating in our society.

    And this gets to my main point, which is that no person’s freedom of expression can be absolute. The demand that someone is entitled not only to speak, but also be heard by everyone, without any negative consequences of any kind, is a tyrant’s demand, because it places tremendous obligations on everyone else, putting undue restrictions on their freedom of expression.

    • Joe Bob the III

      Per your legal dimensions, political affiliation is not a protected class ergo there is no legal prohibition on an employer firing someone for their political views. The only thing that restrains people from doing it, at least publicly, is the potential business and social backlash.

      • Zagarna_84

        This is not really accurate; I believe a clear majority of states (something like 28?) either have laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of political affiliation, or else have “lawful activities” laws that prohibit any discipline for legal off-workplace conduct (which would obviously encompass political participation).

        To be sure, it’s somewhat amazing that ANY state allows people to be fired for political participation, but such are the wages of at-will employment.

    • BradP

      The government would not permit the attack because a physical attack is illegal, not because the protest is protected.

      • DocAmazing

        If “the government” is the DC police, the first part of the sentence is inoperative.

        • BradP

          Touchè

  • Zagarna_84

    Aside from the many, many other idiocies riddling this comment that have already been pointed out, Merwin apparently fails to grasp the distinction between “defending” someone’s right to speak and “supporting” it. I’ll defend Richard Spencer’s right to spew his hateful garbage, but I support any lawful tactic that might coerce him into shutting the fuck up.

    • Colin Day

      +Voltaire

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