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No, that's where you are fundamentally wrong. There is no comparison because we have more freedom than China or Iran. We can criticize the president. People in China and Iran can't - at least not without high risk.

I can say things in America that people deeply disagree with, including the government, and I still will won't go to jail. I can join the KKK or Neo-Nazis without repercussion. I can call for genocide or revolution on facebook or twitter, and the government will ignore me. That is the freedom we have in the USA.




You can criticise the president because it's a safe subject.

If you join the neo-nazis (or any similarly unpopular group) and posts that on facebook, you will lose your job, your customers will shun you, and if you are sufficiently famous the media will make sure it stays on your record forever. You will also have no platform and no way to gather like-minded people. Whatever social media you use will ban you or seek to limit your voice constantly and in imaginative ways (cf shadowban). Whatever hosting service you use to communicate with your group will shut you down unannounced when you are of sufficient size, forcing you to move, bleeding members all the while. Paypal will refuse to process your donations.

At some point somebody will dig through your past writings/interviews and misconstrue you as a pedophile.

At the end of the day you will be just another destitute crackpot that nobody pays attention to. Why bother with the jackboots?


There's a difference between those two things. The first one is protected under the First Amendment: the government cannot attack you for it. The second one has nothing to do with the government. Such a person may feel oppressed, but that's just being socially ostracized for having an unpopular opinion. People aren't entitled to being treated a certain way by their peers as long as they don't stray from the law.

To be fair, doxing is a problem and -- especially as a group -- people can get awfully close to that line of the law. This does need to be addressed, though I'm not sure how.


If the chilling effect is the same and the curbs to your freedom is the same and at the end of the day you still cannot say what you want for fear of reprisal, does it matter whether the coercion comes from someone directly on state payroll?

If the government outsources the jackbooting to private sector, does it stamp your face less hard? What if I design a governing structure that's distributed between a small elected 'government' branch and a large, permanent network of corporations?


So what would you have done? Make it so people can't say mean things about you? Nullify the right for people to choose who to do business with? (Sorry, Anti-Discrimination laws don't protect against discriminating against hate speech.)


I understand the need to defend unpopular speech, but this is such a weird hill to die on when so many other things have unjustified stigmas attached to them. It'd be nice to hear people yelling about how it's supposed to be a free country when a gay or trans person has offended someone by existing.

Richard Spencer is still on Twitter, and still definitely has an audience—though the video of him being attacked is now very well known. Alex Jones has the President's ear. Steve Bannon is an advisor to the President with access to classified information. The President is, well, the President, despite plenty of material that could be and was used to accuse him as a pedophile. (I realize this is pedantically incorrect—I also realize the general public doesn't really care.)

Milo fared less well, but apparently appearing to advocate pederasty was a bridge too far even for many of his fans. Directing a harassment mob towards a celebrity was a bridge too far for Twitter, despite years of spewing the same not-exacty-PC views.

And espousing supposedly PC views isn't exactly safe either. Remember that time Anita Sarkeesian received multiple bomb threats for threatening to say unpopular words in public? What was THAT about, and why weren't the freedom lovers jumping to her defense in droves?


Do you suppose these weapons are only useable against people you don't like? Do you suppose 'the other side' is powerless to retaliate, using the exact same tools? Trump is the president now, as you have said. Half of America voted for him, and I'm sure many of them wouldn't be sad for people on your side of the trench to suffer the same treatment.

On a tangential note, this constant demand to focus on other causes whenever somebody points out something's wrong is a big part why most activism fail. Every cause gets piggybacked on by a hundred 'greater' causes that it has to expend all its resources to support. Every member has to agree with all one hundred or they can gtfo. At the end of the day nobody gets anything done, but at least you can show your friends on Facebook how virtuous you are.


Nothing makes people more interested in freedom of speech than the fear their own ideas will be suppressed. Precious few people are willing to defend both Milo and Anita's right to speak freely. Don't you think that's strange?

It's almost as if hardly anyone cares about free speech beyond using it as a shield against meaningful opposition.

> At the end of the day nobody gets anything done, but at least you can show your friends on Facebook how virtuous you are.

For such a useless and thus non-threatening group, they sure get a lot of blowback. Let's be real—I couldn't have possibly cared less what Alex Jones had to say until people started parroting his unsubstantiated conspiracy theories en masse.

And there's something way deeper going on with fierce opposition to social justice movements than a burning desire to prevent people from continuing to be wrong on the Internet.


So what's your point? Are you trying to argue the USA has the same level of freedom as China or Iran?


I'm arguing that it's a more sophisticated and on the whole more humane system of suppressing dissent, but we shouldn't deny that it exists and serves the same functions.


Is it even possible to have a society that doesn't suppress dissent to some degree? And would such a state even be desirable?


What you're describing is usually called "sociology of deviance" [1] by scholars. Formally,

> In sociology, deviance describes an action or behavior that violates social norms, including a formally enacted rule (e.g., crime), as well as informal violations of social norms (e.g., rejecting folkways and mores). [...] Norms are rules and expectations by which members of society are conventionally guided. Deviance is an absence of conformity to these norms. Social norms differ from culture to culture. [...]

Note that the opposite of deviance in this context would be "normality", the Gaussian bell.

Howard S. Becker [2] is one key contributor to this topic. His outstanding book "Outsiders" (1963) is one of the best food for thought I've ever read.

Deviance being such a key concept in pretty much every human group/society/civilization and even fictional stories, it's generally agreed upon that it's a characteristic of our species' social interactions (whether biological or psychological or both), more innate than acquired (since we all evolved towards these behaviors, probably back in immemorial times when it had a survival purpose).

Moving on to political science, specifically law-making and state 'architecture' (i.e. Constitutional Law, that which creates Institutions and ultimately defines a Regime such as Democracy or Dictatorship), most schools of thought in 'free'/'democratic' countries are very conscious of the intricacies of protecting minorities and their opinions/rights. It is an integral part of the praxis of making law and you will find such fail-safe mechanisms even in authoritarian regimes (notoriously in China where, believe it or not, citizens have much local power on paper). Obviously in the real world, politics and corruption shift all of this, from the netherland of 'toxic deviance' to the promised land of 'hot-buzz-bait cause'.

Where I personally think political science is mistaken is precisely in labelling regimes into 3-4-5 neat categories; imho every country has some of each kind and should be rated on a scale for each kind of regime. It's the idea that democracy is never an absolute but a freaking wide spectrum, and that you can live in a 'weak state of democracy' combined with a 'normally high state of surveillance or authoritarianism'. And maybe a 'touch of dictatorship' emanating from the top exec office (usually PM, President) or top spiritual order (e.g. theocracy). Currently in the West, given the oligarchic configuration of the elite and the relatively high degree of corruption and low level of public debate, I wouldn't rate our countries very high on the democratic scale (the People has little power if any); freedom still is at an all-time high in the grander movement of history; however the development of surveillance technologies opens a wide door towards authoritarianism (also unlocked by an oligarchic rule).

I have one faith in the fact that big data is also possibly the solution to aggregating public opinion in ways that previous generations could only dream of (if we care to make the machine intelligence necessary for that), and that we also now (well, soon) have the capability to tailor a regime to each and every individual if need be (there's something to be said about a huge victory for freedom if we ever get to that, basically "make your own --pizza-- regime").

There is still the matter of circle-jerking once we're all free to group with like-minded individuals; but that one may prove to be a hard problem for humans.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deviance_(sociology)

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_S._Becker#Sociology_of_...


You can publish copyright protected movies on public websites in China and won't get arrested. In the US you can get arrested for that.

Different countries have different freedoms. If you think political speech is the most important freedom, then good for you, but some people think being free to have whatever they want without paying is even better.

You can't call for genocide in the US if you're too specific. That's part of what's not counted as free speech. Nor can you publish information like what Snowden and Manning did, nor information protected by an NDA, nor threaten to kill someone. There's a long list of what you're not allowed to say in America. Sure it's largely a subset of what you're not allowed to say in China or Iran, but it's not exactly a subset.

In short, you're defining free speech to be the specific and narrow meaning that has evolved over hundreds of years of US politics and law. That's only one arbitrary way to define it.

Even worse. In America in the '60's and 70's, civilians were forced to fight in the Vietnam war! You would be imprisoned if you didn't go to war. That's the extreme opposite of freedom. Today, there's a huge amount of unjustified imprisonment of innocent people. Again, that's the opposite of freedom.


> Different countries have different freedoms.

I'm not sure what you are trying to argue. In parts of Africa you are "free" to loot villages and rape women. Convincing me that America is just as free as China or Iran (just in different ways) is a hard sell because I value different freedoms with different weights. The freedom to steal people's IP and profit from it is not a freedom that is very beneficial for humanity.

> Today, there's a huge amount of unjustified imprisonment of innocent people

Do you have any evidence that the imprisoned people are innocent? Or are you referring to drug arrests? In those cases the people are definitely guilty of the crime (possession, using drugs). Sure, you may disagree with current drug laws/punishment, but law enforcement doesn't arrest literally innocent people and throw them in jail except on extremely rare and unusual occasions.


You lose your job, family, future, if you join these groups. Just like in oppressive regimes. During the Soviet United it was same. I know because I come from there, they didn't send you directly to Siberia for everything, but no university excepted you, you couldn't work in positions that you wanted, because I you were the event of state, etc. Just like you can't work in SV when you support Trump. Unless you have money and are Thiel, if course.


So we aren't free until I'm required to do business with neo-nazis and the KKK?


They probably said something similar 50 years ago.


It seems to me you are confused about freedom. Either you have freedom or you don't, there's no "more freedom than" except to convince yourself that you are free when you are not.

Flint tap water being more drinkable than ammonia does not make it potable.


Freedom is binary?




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