It feels like something an enthusiastic redditor would cobble together in 30 minutes to win an argument against someone.
> Freedom of speech isn't just a legal assurance that congress shall make no law abridging it. It is also a set of cultural norms rooted deeply in a long lineage of hard won ideas. It is Friedrich Nietzsche's dictum that only insecure societies are threatened by quirky characters with weird ideas. It is Evelyn Hall's principle "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it". It is my friend Daniel's observation that tolerance is the experience of suffering through unpleasant ideas.
I hate seeing that happen because it shows how little people value their ability to freely express their minds on a public forum. Or if they do value this, it shows how they're willing to disconnect that notion from the one that gave rise to encoding the freedom of speech into our constitution.
> Yet in many other countries— perhaps still in most of them— mob justice, unethical businesses behavior without complaint, and complete disregard for any rights of criminals is a normal daily occurrence. Their citizens know that far away silly Americans bother with fair trials and non-ironically litigating the temperature of coffee, but it would never occur to them that it may be a reasonable thing to try in their own society.
I hate to break it to you, but the rest of the world does not view the US as some bastion of liberty. Most of the rest of the world has much the same set of rights and protections that US citizens enjoy.
What's truly amazing is that the author fundamentally misses the point of the article, that while you can say whatever you like, you are not shielded from the consequences of saying that.
If you are the public representative of company x, and you post something awful on twitter, then people are allowed use their free speech to say they no longer wish to do business with company x while you are the representative.
It's appropriate to share one of those memes just as stupid, harmful and widespread as that xkcd comic here. Maybe even more so, maybe this really does refute the author's premise. Taken to its logical conclusion, it would justify any kind of punishment for speech. The consequence for critizizing Kim Jong Un in Noth Korea is that you get thrown into a labor camp. Freedom of speech, after all, does not mean freedom from consequences.
The fundamental error here is to speak of consequences as if they are things that just happen, like a law of nature, and not a conscious attempt to punish people.
"you get thrown into a labor camp" seems to be a different kind of consequence than "others use their free speech to disagree with you."
I don't like it when my bad ideas or ignorant statements or heck, even my true but unpleasant statements are criticized by people who either know better than I do or worse, don't, but nobody is actually throwing me in a labor camp. I can continue to speak back to my critics and either accept their correction or continue to disagree with them.
If someone says something racist, homophobic or sexist, then yeah, maybe I want to punish them by not buying their product or not voting for them or whatever.
But we can judge the response on its merits too.
Being thrown in jail for criticism of the government? Not ok. (Reductio ad absurdum, btw... no one has suggested that what someone says gives you carte blanche)
Boycotting homophobic sandwich restaurant?
Firing your employee for something they said on their own time?
Exceptionally murky and very much case by case.
The trajectory of the argument doesn't point anywhere near that conclusion.
And if you're black, a business can use their freedom of association and refuse- oh, no, wait, no they can't. That would be a problem. Even though the constitution allows it. But this, this isn't.
As for the murderer bit... well, if we already know it was murder, why are we bothering with a trial? Lets just ask Facebook, and sentence him accordingly.
Point is, those are individual judgements and I kind of doubt that you really want to advocate being mandated by law not to do so.
There's a difference between an individual making a judgement, a payment processor making a judgement, and a communications platform with over 2 billion users making a judgement.
Perhaps not (yet) legally, but we should at least be able to admit the effects on society are very different. In fact, we do, when it suits us. Talk about Facebook "allowing hate to spread", and all those "private company they can do what they want" arguments disappear (or get made by an entirely different set of people), as some people miraculously become able to understand the difference in kind between a single individual and one of the largest companies on Earth.
TL;DR of the article is... “Freedom of speech isn't just a legal assurance that congress shall make no law abridging it. It is also a set of cultural norms rooted deeply in a long lineage of hard won ideas.”
What about the freedom of those stating they don’t want your speech on their platforms?
Freedom of speech goes both ways. Beautiful thing is, if the author doesn’t like it then he can write an amendment to the constitution and request a vote.
It has become fashionable to argue the "I might disagree with you but I will defend to death your right to express it" to which is appended "in the NY Times, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Youtube and every private channel that exists."
First, the disagreeable opinion part is wrong since every open+democratic society has a section of speech that is curtailed - sedition, libel, incitement to riot, etc. These extents of censorship vary by country. The USA is relatively liberal but the UK has stricter limits on libel. The author demonstrates a poor to no understanding of these limits.
Second he/she conflates the limits on government prohibition on free speech rights to the right on the property of others - i.e. the right to free speech is the the right to publish on privately owned media channels. The Sulzberger family which owns significant equity in the NY Times (>$1B) and controls it has the right to decide what gets published in the NY Times, which you might agree/disagree with. Similarly for Twitter which is privately owned.
However I don't think it should be flagged ;)
One of these things is not like the others.
Stretching the author’s argument, you’re not abiding by the culture that the First Amendment and other laws have wanted to create, and you’re as guilty as xkcd in unsubscribing (re-emphasizing that it’s according to the author).
If the comment were demanding that substack remove the article, or if the commenter was trying to get the author fired from his job for this article, I would consider it against the idea of free speech. Note that this does not equate to a demand for any legislative change or government action.
The view expressed in XKCD 1357 is that there would be no free speech issue since it isn't the government trying to prevent the author from making his article available to those who wish to read it (again, no one is asking for a right to an audience or right to be protected from disagreement) or threatening his livelihood as retaliation for publishing the article.
Consider these in degrees:
* Allowing anyone to write any message they please on someone else's face.
* Allowing anyone at any time to drive through public streets with a megaphone announcing any message they would like.
* Allowing anyone to burn a cross on someone else's private yard.
* Allowing anyone to post any political advertisement they want on your front door.
* Allowing anyone 10 minutes of airtime on a privately owned, closed circuit television station.
* Allowing anyone to post any image they please on the front page of Google.com.
Until you recognize that
1) there are other rights beyond free speech,
2) those rights often come directly into conflict with free speech, and
3) those rights are not simply superseded by free speech
We can now have a fair discussion of whose rights matter.
I don't see how anyone can argue it's not okay to be able to write any message you want on someone's face or front door without consequence, but that their website is fair game.
...and that unpopular speech, should be broadly tolerated even on private platforms, as a matter of culture - not law.
I mean, when we're talking about competing cultural norms, now you're including "fire in a theater", "think of the children", "I know it when I see it", "fighting words", taboos, morals, indecency, fighting words, Popper's intolerance of intolerance, "slippery slopes", and all kinds of restrictions on speech that aren't seated in anything but "cultural norms."
Better to stick with the legal arguments.
Calling people out for calling people out on grounds that it’s un-American seems to be what this article is trying to do. There’s
still no right to have a TV show or right to not be yelled at.
You have to ask the question why we think restrictions on speech for the government are a bad idea. Is it a fundamentally better idea that we have de facto restrictions on free speech because our communication channels happen to be controlled by private companies?
What happens when your preferred political party is no longer in charge of those private communication channels? You've already established the norm that these private channels will censor speech that they don't agree with. Imagine in the future Facebook, and the vast censorship apparatus they're now building at everyone's insistence, is now in the hands of Rupert Murdoch, or the Koch Brothers or someone else you all hate even more than Mark Zuckerberg.
I can imagine a court saying that FB has enough of the population on it to force it to follow similar laws. Sure, it might have some indication of “free speech”, like a red box, but it would still be viewable, like it or not.
The comic also does two things. First, it implies that the canceled person is indeed an asshole, providing justification to the cancelers. It might be better to just say “they don’t like what you say”. The second, it gives the impression people are all individually canceling someone on their own judgement. This really isn’t what happens. What happens is someone says / does something, it’s presented in a certain way to maximize hatred of the person, the effects of the “crime” are often greatly exaggerated, even questioning the event and asking for details gets one branded a Nazi, all the past accomplishments are tainted, and all the while, many others are doing far more, but are lucky enough not to get enough attention to form a mob.
There is a reason we have libel and slander laws. Many people would be guilty if it weren’t so expensive to bring charges and so cheap to tweet.
This. This is the crux of the issue. If the "public square" has moved to Facebook and Reddit, then the Constitution should apply there.
We are told multiple times that the Constitution was intended to be socially normative, yet no historical evidence for this is provided.
then we are told that Munroe’s comic has been hugely damaging because it doesn’t acknowledge the premise, which again, is unsubstantiated.
But what we aren’t told is what damage is done or how discourse has been affected.
Nice theories. No evidence.
Defending to the death someone’s right to not be imprisoned for objectionable opinions is quite different from enshrining a right to be free from social isolation.
I don’t understand what part of internet culture is being missed.
And none of this has anything to do with a piece of paper. The world is not some chaotic place (like the author describes) where mob law still applies.
This is just idiotic to be honest.
> It’s wrong because it contains a profound misunderstanding— that America’s founding documents are nothing more than legal tools.
The constitution _is_ the foundation of the law in the US. That is its purpose. It may imply social norms or inspire other connotations, but fundamentally it is a legal document.
> Whenever I think about what did the most damage to internet culture over the past ten years, this comic comes out on top
This comic did not affect internet culture -- it just conveys a truth that conflicts with the author's understanding.
Yes, it is good to seek contrasting points of view and empathizing with earnest people who disagree with you. But no, we do not have the _right_ to use privately owned platforms like facebook and twitter as our stage, just as we don't have the _right_ to pen editorial articles in our local newspapers.
And this is where I think where maybe lies some of the confusion? It seems that the generation who never knew a world without massive social media platforms -- they seem to think of them as public utilities. Less like newspapers, and more like phone companies. So maybe from that perspective, there could be an argument that they should be regulated and/or broken into smaller entities. But in the present, that is only a dream and not much to do with reality.
I read the book The Coddling of the American Mind  a while back and think I can sum it up with that modern American equate disagreeing with someone opinions as a personal attack and that we need to avoid touchy subject for the sake of tolerance.
All that said, I tend to agree with the general premise of this article, which is that for a healthy society, free speech ought to extend far beyond the bare minimum government limits imposed by the Constitution.
It simply shows it's disdain for the selfish idiots who use it as an excuse to showcase their personal ideas and refuse to allow you your own human rights.
- ignorance: as the author doesn't understand what they are writing about;
- straw man argument, as the author creates a fictional opponent unrelated to the referenced xkcd comic...
Anyhow, please "stop making stupid articles famous" and do not upvote this post.
Where does it lead? If one has "dissident" ideas, he can only express it on channels that allow it. In the end, one can always express it in its own home, without public, or in front of a complacent public. That's technically free-speech, but severely constrained.
Look at the situation. First there is no dialog. Second, it is no different to a dictatorship - bear with me a minute -. In a dictatorship, you can always express your own ideas in your own home in front of a complacent public. At that micro-level, the situations are stunningly similar.
Of course the outcome is different if you try to broadcast dissident or uncommon ideas in a dictatorship, or let's say in the US. In the first case, you risk for your life, in the second, you risk being cancelled. The US government, in most cases, will not limit your speech but powerful groups will do.
At the macro level, the situation is different too. In the US, powerful (understand rich) people control the medias and what is broadcast on them: e.g. Facebook (allows violence but no woman breast), the NY Times (can't find the ref: a conservative journalist who joined then left). Ultimately this leads to the formation of blocks. Of course Facebook in itself is made of several blocks of influence, or blocks of common ideas. I believe all major blocks are created around lobbyists with big money, or influence groups already trained to mute dissidents and shout louder than opposing groups. One or the other, any group of importance defends its territory by showing the door to dissidents. This is free-speech according to XKCD.
In a dictatorship there is only one group. In the US there are several of them. Still no dialog, no nuance, no complexity. Complexity is the devil for a group of influence, because complexity will dissolve the group. There a physical parallel here with ferromagnetism. That's the reason why complex problems cannot find a solution in the US (and maybe in the world). Complexity will usually not tried being understood, and will soon be interpreted as borderline or altogether dissident, or will be dismissed as pedantry.
There is free-speech, but most of it is shouting and territorial behavior.
I hate when this one is used as a response https://xkcd.com/927/. Same with the Bobby Tables one.
Perfect example of a millennial snowflake, who thinks what he says is important no matter what.
> Not Twitter. Not Facebook. This simple comic.
If we removed this comic and kept Facebook and Twitter, our problems w/ understanding Free Speech are largely solved? Hardly. Not to mention social media has become the beast we as a group don't know how to handle yet it ravages our landscape.
Also vehemently disagree - it is exactly because it is a set of "legal tools" that it boils up into society. Through the interpretation of the Supreme Court and other judges.
The author is basically stating this is a belief system and that belief system is so much more than a legal document. But lest we forget, legal documents - especially the legal founding of our country - is rooted in beliefs.
I'll admit, Hamilton the musical helped me connect to the founding fathers like I never had as a highschool student studying the material. That the beliefs of a bunch of 20-40 year olds (who are insanely smarter than me), wrote essays based on beliefs and philosophy, to form our country - legally.
By legally, I mean an agreement which we start from and enforce. The enforcement is key and XKCD rightly touches on where that line is drawn.
There is a reason why, legally, the Bill of Rights for Freedom of Speech does not reach further into society. You run the danger of telling people how to live which is extremely against the founding ideals.
Please, go live in a country where the legal precedence of free speech does not allow you to speak against its leaders.
This comic is reactionary to an existing situation, it hasn't created the situation. Same as the comic that adamnemecek calls out.
quoting the last line of the article:
> It is my friend Daniel's observation that tolerance is the experience of suffering through unpleasant ideas. We endure that suffering because the world is dramatically better on balance when we do.
There are limits to this. Unpleasant ideas continually raised by very few people adds nothing. If an idea or point needs to be continually brought up by a small group of individuals then it probably doesn't have much value. Hell, even QAnon has 'caught on', so the bar is low enough that I'd argue there's not much of a problem with the stuff that's getting filtered out. 'Proud Boys' exist, QED.
If you don't like that you're censored on someone else's platform, then build your own. If you're getting jeered while proselytising on your soapbox in public place X, keep moving until you find a more receptive audience.
Having said that, even non-public platform (FB, twitter, etc.) censorship is a situation that requires on-going re-evaluation.
Unless I'm missing the point of the article.
Forget computers. What if in 1950 every newspaper, every book publisher, every typewriter manufacturer, every mimeograph machine maker refuses to do business with you? Yes, you can still buy pen and paper, and no one is stopping you from putting up a modern 95 Theses on your front door. But aren't you effectively silenced as much as if the government explicitly acted against you?
This doesn't mean that every single website has to let anyone who wants to use it as a billboard for his thoughts to do so. But at some scale, Facebook/Twitter/Google are public forums as much as Hyde Park or Times Square, and those running those sites have the moral obligation to let the spirit of the First Amendment govern their actions as they moderate.