Free Speech in America

By William Deatherage

The following article is based on what we call Theoretical Applied Theology and should not be taken as dogmatic or doctrinal Church teaching. Its intention is to provoke thought by bringing in outside subject interests to interact with Theology and propose ideas that stretch the imagination, even if someday proven wrong. I appreciate all feedback but would rather wait a little to discern better responses, rather than immediately answering.

Please be sure to post questions and comments below. I will do my best to address them and update this periodically. Thank you!

Abstract: Free speech allows for the most authentic versions of people to come together and debate how the Kingdom of God should be built. Any government or corporation who tries to get in the way of this natural process only worsens the situation by isolating the party they oppose into an echo-chamber of hatred and frustration, and isolating the party they support in an echo-chamber of hive-minded affirmation that turns into dead dogma rapidly.

Terms Discussed

  • Apathy: a lack of care or action in regards to a situation.
  • Liberalism: school of thought characterized by individualism and autonomy from government.
  • Consumerism: an economic system where the relationship between buyer and seller of product drives social dynamics.
  • Self-Esteem Movement: a time-period in psychology when it was argued that a person’s self-perception was based entirely on exterior factors, so their self-value was dependent on affirmations from others, even if such affirmations were manufactured or false.
  • Self-Care: the balanced notion that while the environment does impact people’s behavior, the human person is equipped with self-reflective tools that assist them in their development.
  • Harassment: categorized by systemic slander, inciting violence, or direct repeated remarks that infringe on the target’s privacy.

SUMMARY (TLDR) OF THIS ARTICLE IS BELOW IF YOU SCROLL DOWN ALL THE WAY

Freedom of speech is under attack. This is nothing new, but it’s coming to a boiling point in the post-2016 election era. Over the past few months, I have observed the sly and deceptive techniques that many platforms across different media have used to push censorship in the name of “social justice.” Yes, social justice: that very term Christians have cherished for millennia, which has (ironically) been appropriated by a force more terrifying than anyone can comprehend at the moment. The worst part is that we’re contributing to the problem ourselves by refusing to stand up for these God-given ideals, in part because of our lack of awareness, in part because of our laziness. In this article I will address the philosophical and theological implications of political apathy, consumerism, socialism, censorship, taboos, and hate speech.

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Essentially what we’re doing to ourselves.

Apathy

“First they came because I was a socialist, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist.” These harrowing words uttered by Pastor Martin Niemoller in reference to the Holocaust represent the Achilles-heel of modern Western Democracies. After all, from Aristotle to Tocqueville, democracy was hardly touted as the perfect form of government: it was simply the least flawed. Political apathy is poison. It is antithetical to God’s commandments that ring true to us from the first verses of Genesis when He Himself gave us authority and stewardship over the Earth. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain’s callous reply to the Lord when asked where his brother was exemplifies Christ’s command to love one another. It is, therefore, not simply our duty to care for the Earth, but to care for one another just as well.

We are members of the body of Christ, meaning we all have an equal responsibility, a duty, to care for one another. However, as much as our Western ideals would like to tout this claim, we fail to live it out, and our flawed political system creates immense chasms for us to tumble into chaos as a society. Here in the United States, we have this disordered vision that we are autonomous individuals. It has been ingrained in our thoughts that government is unnatural, and we have been taught that if we don’t enjoy a particular way of life, we simply can and should abandon it in favor of another. This is not God’s plan, but even more understandable, it is not natural in the slightest. If you’ve read my other writings On Art and On Free Will, you will surely understand my utter disdain for the arrogant individualistic approach that even I was once a slave to. As Catholics, as human beings, it is imperative that we understand our dependencies on others and acknowledge the goodness and beauty in such dependency. For a body to function properly, its parts must be kept well. But a broken or tired part cannot decide to leave the body, so what will it do? It will simply give up and stop working, making it dead weight.

We humans are rational creatures. We are not designed to be dead weight. We know better than that. Perhaps more striking, we feel better than that. Friedrich Nietzsche once cited man’s will to power, his ability to overcome challenges, as his driving source of purpose. Martin Heidegger understood this as angst and resoluteness. But where I break with the former in favor of the latter is in the idea that our experiences are not meant to be competing or even isolated; they are meant to be shared. Unfortunately, a democratic system like ours in the United States is not set up to promote such a concept. Democracy presents us with an illusion: choice. This illusion is nothing related to my controversial claims about free will, though; instead it is rooted in what is being chosen. According to our system of governance, if we don’t feel a compulsion to participate in civic duties, we can simply choose not to contribute to a political conundrum by doing nothing. This in itself is illusory, and it’s a tactic that is pushed by some nefarious bodies with even darker intentions. There is no choice whether or not we participate in a democratic process because by living in one, every action we take (or don’t take) has serious implications. If an election comes only twenty percent of registered voters go to the polls, and a lunatic comes to power, I will have no problem condemning the actions (or lack) of the eighty percent. What kind of caretakers stand by as the world descends into madness because of a few ballots? By standing idly as the votes pour in, we are just as bad as the bystander who observes the weakling being thrown into a trash can. Apathy matters.

In thirty years, how will we look back on history? Will we stand proud knowing we did everything we could to protect the rights of our children, or will we be left scratching our heads wondering how we got there, whispering “Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”

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We really have.

Consumerism

Capitalism is a wonderful thing. I’m not even being sarcastic here. It believe it gives us the optimal ability to exercise our free will (in the social sense) so that we may have an opportunity to live authentically and develop our character. However, it, like any system can be abused. I just personally find it most expedient in enabling citizens to live authentic lives, as they should. So, let’s break capitalism by introducing the system to its own worst enemy: tyranny.

Capitalism and libertarianism traditionally build on the idea that control over human behavior is a terrible thing. This, as I’ve already hinted at, is a bit reductionistic and unrealistic. As I mentioned in On Free Will, I wholeheartedly believe that we have far less agency over our conscious decisions as Enlightenment-thought has conditioned us to accept. Again, I find capitalism and libertarianism appealing because they enable us to live authentically. They work well with our natural curiosities, wonder, and sense of agency: nothing more, nothing less. Ironically, the Enlightenment view of individual agency has the potential to be quite tyrannical using its own logic to justify itself.

  1.     Mary Ryan (Director of Production) believes she is totally free from all external control and government influence.
  2.     Knowing this, she demands an end to my reign of tyranny over Clarifying Catholicism and leads a revolution against me.
  3.     Once I am deposed, Mary’s primary agenda as Queen of Clarifying Catholicism is to eliminate as much regulation over production of articles as possible. People can write whenever they want, wherever they want, etc.
  4.     However, as part of this anti-regulation editorial policy, a number of secretly anti-Catholic advertisers begin to creep up and give money to certain writers who they deem worthy of hosting their ads.
  5.     Soon, said content becomes featured more prominently on the website, while writers whose views do not align with said advertisers, no matter what quality they reflect, are relegated to the outskirts of the website (A.K.A. the About Us section).
  6.     Thus, Clarifying Catholicism falls into a new type of tyranny. No longer is it a power-hungry Executive Director like myself, but it is a gang of like-minded corporations who buy out the website and dictate the content that appears on it. All as the viewers are blissfully unaware they by clicking on certain content, they are actually supporting the malicious anti-Catholic advertisers.
  7.     Viewers don’t want to go to other websites for content. Clarifying is the only good place to get your dose of Catholic news. Besides. The companies have bought out all the other major Catholic publications.

I think you get the picture. The very freedoms we are promised by a democratic system can be compromised at any moment. Unlike socialism (an article for another day), though, this slippery slope rests entirely in our hands as consumers. Authoritarian socialism (the most pragmatic way to go about it) at least puts the blame on a handful of leaders. In a liberal democracy, though, the blame can be put on the shoulders of the people, even when they are apathetic. Consumerism reigns supreme in a liberal democracy that supports capitalistic principles. Think about it. Every product we buy, every message we send, every stitch of clothing we wear all puts that much more money in the hands of someone who could snap Clarifying Catholicism out of existence if they wanted to because with enough money, they can do just that. Just as the devil’s best trick was convincing us he doesn’t exist, mass corporations do the same by assuring us that their intentions are noble. Brave New World depicts a society that is dystopian by choice. The people choose to take a powerful drug, soma, to inject happiness into their lives. Knowledge, being powerful, is replaced by eternal orgies and parties, but none of this is done by the hands of the government. The people crave soma. They need it. Think about all the products we buy into and rely on. Whether we know it or not, soma exists, and the government doesn’t need to do anything to spread it. We are effectively our own worst enemy.

This is the ugly side of capitalism: the side that Pope Francis warns against. The side that was exposed in the 2016 Presidential Election here in the United States. Regardless of who you voted for, you have to admit that an intense amount of distrust in the media and big corporations came out of that tumultuous ordeal. After all, it’s not like it was revealed that certain media groups donated money and leaked information to certain political parties in exchange for favors. Or that one party conspired to start a grassroots movement in the Catholic Church to overturn our teachings. It’s not like one of those same networks revealed personal information over Reddit posters who made fun of them. Or it’s not like a Supreme Court justice nominee was slandered and denied innocence in the name of a movement that actually deserves attention and consideration. Or that the President was subject to a similar mentality of presumed guilt. Or that time a high school teen was labeled as the face of hatred because he stood there as a grown man banged a drum in his face. No. No. Not at all. Oh. Have you seen the new Disney movie yet? Forget about the fact they control a quarter of the movie industry. Or downloaded the new photo filter on the same application that shoves borderline porn in the faces of children? That’s right. Just forget. Forget about it all. Just keep buying their products, yell at the TV while you watch their networks, use their social media, and talk about exactly what they want you talking about. Those who were afraid of a government who exerts too much influence over us should be quaking in their boots, as the very computer or phone they use to read this post was likely made by a company that probably gives boatloads of money to abortion clinics. And what are you gonna do about it? Get off the phone? No. Consumerism is the new tyrant in town. And, quite frankly, it makes me nervous.

Image result for mickey mouse earth
The picture NASA never wanted you to see

Feelings and Freud

Before we move on, let me assert that the government has no place in regulating the activity that media platforms use to moderate discussion. Hannah Arendt wrote a fantastic chapter in Reflections on Little Rock that I highly recommend, where she states the importance of social solutions fixing social problems. Remember that corporations, no matter how large they may be, are not our government. With enough social support, corporations can be forced down at the mercy of consumers. Our Church has over a billion members. I’d like to call that a start. Nevertheless, I will admit that the media’s insistence on virtue-signaling has taken on characteristics of educating the masses. This, coupled with vast support from many public officials, is never good for us. Political change is almost always reliant on social change. The media and corporations, being social entities, have the power to change people. They control how information is presented and spread. So, what exactly is it that they’ve been pushing?

Modern psychology is fun. I’ve briefly mentioned Sigmund Freud in the past, and I must admit that he has some good points. Some. I repeat. Some. One of the ideas his brand of psych pushed was quite consistent with some of the arguments I’ve made in this essay. We are far more dependent on others, as well as our surroundings, than we realize. Unfortunately, this gets taken to an extreme by Freud’s contemporaries and successors as “We are entirely dependent on others and our surroundings.” This reductionistic interpretation of psychology has yielded some horrific results, in my opinion, such as the now infamous self-esteem movement that ruined the lives of children. This movement was quite complex, as it takes the idea of dependency to a totally new level. To be happy, a person must be affirmed constantly, even if it is not earned. I recall receiving participation awards as a child, and in hindsight I hate every one of them. This is because once children grow up and hit reality, they feel the brunt of a wake-up slap to the face. Turns out not everyone in life can be a winner, not everyone in life wants to give you a cup of cocoa and a cookie, and not everything in life is fair. To get through life, you need thick skin, and you need to realize that such skin is built through intense self-reflection and endurance.

So, yes, feelings are reactive in the context that our entire existence is rooted in a complex systems that mold our subconscious and outlook. But we aren’t children, and we certainly are not stupid. I have written extensively about the mind’s ability to sharpen itself through mere reflection; it is a pinnacle of human biological achievement, after all. The moment we convince ourselves that we have no hope of molding our mind for the better is the same moment we have lost, and we may as well louse around in a life of instant gratification via sex and drugs. This isn’t quite how we are engineered, though. To stay in physical shape, we cannot avoid pain. In Nietzschean terms, we must will ourselves through it. In Christian terms, we must carry that cross. I speak of both models, as they both see suffering as something that should be endured, not shirked. We are born to stretch ourselves: to experience agony and angst that will extend our imaginations and perspectives beyond the limits of our ancestors. If we lose the reflective aspect that we as individuals (even if we are just bundles), we lose what makes us human: reason, critical thought, wonder, and so much more.

Image result for charlie brown doctor
Poor guy. All he needed to do was help himself,

Hate Speech

As Christians, we are not called to wait for God’s Kingdom, rather we are charged with building it ourselves. If the body is God’s temple, then humanity is God’s city. But we sin. How can we mere mortals even begin to comprehend what such a heavenly masterpiece as God’s Kingdom looks like if we turn Him away from ourselves on such a regular basis. This invisible behemoth expects us to understand Him? I’ve written about Immanuel Kant a few times, and probably because his idea that God’s glory is sensually unattainable makes sense to me. So, does this mean we give up? Or is there a different tool we can use to understand the natural laws that we have allegedly been charged with upholding?

If there is one single quality that I wholeheartedly enjoy from the Enlightenment, it is its renewed emphasis on and pursuit of reason. Reason is our greatest compass that will point us in the direction of truth, whatever that may be. Later this Summer, I will be writing a piece on worldview, and how Heidegger and Thomas Kuhn expound on the subject. In a nutshell, the two philosophers talk about how knowledge is very contingent on systems of thought that every human processes differently. Yet, it is truly fascinating, if not amazing, that despite all of our differences, we can still come together and acknowledge some fundamental statements, however few they may be. From mathematics to beauty, there is a force beyond sensuality that unites us in our pursuit of knowledge. We are like curious puppies who can smell the steak but fall just short of tasting its glory, which sits upon an unreachable kitchen counter. God may be infinitely distant from us, but that will never stop us from craving His divine glory. His truth. We can smell it. We seek to immerse ourselves in it. And reason is what we use to sniff it out.

To build the Kingdom of God, we need words. Language. Expression. Provocation. And yes, stupidity. I’d like to bring in John Stuart Mill, the utilitarian philosopher. Controversial as he may be, there is one section of On Liberty that I particularly enjoyed.

“First: the opinion which it is attempted to suppress by authority may possibly be true. Those who desire to suppress it, of course deny its truth; but they are not infallible. They have no authority to decide the question for all mankind, and exclude every other person from the means of judging. To refuse a hearing to an opinion, because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty. All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility.”

This means that the moment we start suppressing a person’s opinion, no matter how rude or harsh or stupid it may come across, we assume the role of absolute authority of truth. This assumption, therefore, can be grounds to end all discussion on a subject, and those who profess it are shut up by their pseudo-parental authorities.

Let’s think about the implications of this scenario. Imagine I come across a hateful Neo-Nazi. They are clearly wrong in every sense, but I refuse to listen to them, instead insisting they shut up and listen to me instead. I proceed to systematically shut away every avenue of communication they have to voice their opinion and ridicule them in front of the masses. How will they respond? Will they suddenly see the error of their ways and realize what I say is true? Or will their anger ferment as they are slowly but surely isolated from the public sphere of discourse? Will they react with greater extremity as they recruit their friends and family to defend their basic rights to speak out? Will I be accused of being too sensitive for silencing another man’s opinion? Will people ridicule such sensitivity, mock me for it, and intentionally trigger negative responses just to see me freak out? Suddenly, the once clear-cut debate between a Neo-Nazi and the righteous man becomes a complicated mess. People with ill-fitted beliefs do not like being told what to do. Some onlookers like a good spectacle, and they certainly don’t like being denied their right to joke around and trigger people. Thus, by denying even the most idiotic and hateful individual of their right to speak, more anger is triggered in response from said individual, as well as those who enjoy making jokes about the situation. The latter may be childish, but as Catholics we are called to recognize that the former is a broken person. Let me be the first to say that there is nothing more difficult than listening to nonsense. Each hateful remark uttered against any vulnerable person is a painful lash against Christ’s back. But Christ let them whip Him, torture Him, nail Him to a cross, and crucify Him so that He could have the last word through an action that would silence the world: His resurrection. The first step to dialogue is to listen, however painful that may be. So, let the foolish speak. Break bread with sinners. Otherwise they will never listen in return.

Mill continues:

“Let us now pass to the second division of the argument, and dismissing the supposition that any of the received opinions may be false, let us assume them to be true, and examine into the worth of the manner in which they are likely to be held, when their truth is not freely and openly canvassed. However unwillingly a person who has a strong opinion may admit the possibility that his opinion may be false, he ought to be moved by the consideration that, however true it may be, if it is not fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed, it will be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth.”

This point is critical. So, I’ve denied the Neo-Nazi his right to speak. Brimming with anger, he tells his friends and supporters that they need to rally against my action of depriving him of speech. For ages, I continue to ignore hateful dialogue, turning up my nose to every conversation that comes my way, confident that I have the fullness of truth. After a while, though, the precious arguments and dialogues that form such righteous ideas begin to fade. I can no longer recall the specific logic and reason that affirms the dignity of each person. I am simply right because I am. My beliefs effectively become dead dogma.

Again, the corporations that run platforms involving discussion have every right to ban whoever they wish. However, I warn that by doing so, they only make things worse. The social media sphere that once supported dialogue is quickly divided into two echo chambers: the mainstream and the banned. The mainstream ideologies remain unchallenged, while a sinister force of hatred accumulates in the depths of the newly marginalized opposition. Neither side talks to the other, and bad things happen. Hatred and dead dogma consume what used to be a social sphere.

Image result for civil war marvel
All they needed to do was talk it out.

What about Harassment and Personal Attacks?

I often hear people assert that while people shouldn’t be banned for their ideas, they should at least be reprimanded for their attacks on people. To that, I go back to my argument against post-Freudian psychology. If someone hurts your feelings, my quick response is to grow up and keep moving. The more attention you give those who afflict you worsens the situation on both ends of communication. First, it creates a mentality of self-victimization, and you let your self-perception be defined ironically by the very insults you seek to avoid. Second, it entices the childish attacker to continue their verbal onslaught of you. In essence, once the bee hive is poked, run, but don’t forget to take the stinger out. Yes, it will sting, but not near as much if you continue to stir the nest and refuse to take the stinger out. When you are hurt by someone’s personal attack on you, the first person you need to fix is yourself. You are hurt. You are damaged. And by engaging directly and pre-emptively with the one who offended you, I guarantee you will only make things worse. So, pluck the stinger, suck out the poison, and walk away with honor and dignity. Easier said than done, but it is much more efficient to adapt self-care (rather than self-esteem) models that value the psyche’s ability to care for itself. Still, if you need help, get it. Rely on your friends and family for support. Just don’t rely on the attacker to make things right.

This is usually the point where harassment is brought up. In my opinion, harassment crosses a line, but it’s not as clear-cut as people may think. Talking trash about a person, even publicly, isn’t really harassment, just as me talking about someone behind their back wouldn’t be considered as such. However, slander, inciting violence, or directly and repeatedly launching verbal assaults on a person in a systematic manner can be considered quite dangerous. The line is blurred, but it does exist. People have to remember that smack talk and taunting happens all the time. A public figure is indeed a public figure. Just as the kid on the playground learns to walk away from the bullies, a celebrity with millions of followers needs to learn how to ignore the thousands of vocal haters. But so long as there is no slander, violence, or repeated direct comments made against them, they have to be the better person and walk away. Remember that Christ endured so much ridicule in his ministry, and when you become a public figure, you had better expect criticism and remarks, either behind your back or in front of a camera. We are called to suffer, and eradicating the right to speak freely about a person cannot right the wrong of an insult. Children should be dealt like children, so just walk away.

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Yep. Just walk away.

No Shame in Shame: The Problem with Identity

I would like to conclude with this brief thought. Taboos and shaming are not intrinsically bad. I think certain actions, such as murder, are worthy of great shame. But this does not apply strictly to such extreme acts. To build the Kingdom of God, we need to understand the cultural taboos that have come up across history. The separation of person from action is integral in this practice, which is why it is just as important to shirk personal identity from actions altogether. In fact, later this summer I will argue that identity is a psychological and social construct. After all, am I the same person I was ten years ago? Ten minutes ago? Ten seconds ago? Our society today is obsessed with tying qualities to identity. In Aristotelian terms, we tie accidentals to the essential. There is a fascinating divide in the philosophical community between those who believe there exists a constant unchanging part of us that makes up our identity (substratum theory). Others say this does not exist, and all parts of us change (bundle theory). Those who say an eternal essence exists will agree that ever-changing qualities cannot be tied to who a person is. Those who think no eternal quality even exists will say that it is even more foolish to tie yourself to a specific quality, since nothing is constant about identity: it is ever-changing. Identity politics is king right now, and it makes no sense in either regard.

What does this mean? Two notions. One. To tie your identity to a specific quality, whether that be race, gender, sexuality, etc. is foolish. But the second is that judging people, or hold prejudice against them, because they happen to have one such quality is even more immature. We can and should be able to criticize the actions of people without tying it to their identity (whatever that may actually be).

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It’s a trick question, guys.

So What?

I’ve seen social media platforms ban far right wing content from their services, promising that they would stop at only the most extreme producers.Over the past few months, though, such standards have significantly shifted to the point that any remotely controversial right-wing statement cannot post their opinions without losing their revenue. Some have told me that this doesn’t matter, as it has no real political implications. To that, I signal to Europe, where the very countries that pioneered Enlightenment philosophy have enacted laws that restrict freedom of speech for the sake of “protecting people.” Here in the United States, the line between corporation and politician is quite blurred, and if the former can prime the social sphere to support censorship, it leaves us ripe for the picking when a vocal minority votes away our rights as we sit there and watch.

I could write for ages on this subject but I am just as curious to hear what your opinion on the matter is. To summarize this, I will say that free speech allows for the most authentic versions of people to come together and debate how the Kingdom of God should be built. Any government, or corporation, for that matter, who tries to get in the way of this natural process only worsens the situation by isolating the party they oppose into an echo-chamber of hatred and frustration, and isolating the party they support in an echo-chamber of hive-minded affirmation that turns into dead dogma rapidly. It is our duty, Catholic and non-Catholic, as creatures of faith and reason, to recognize this and act accordingly. Is it realistic to boycott all platforms that engage in modern censorship? Well, I’ll be posting this on Facebook later, so I’d say not really. But, just because we can’t do away with a corrupt system doesn’t mean we can’t change it, and the first step in such change is to raise awareness about it.

So, I appreciate your time and consideration. As always, have a wonderful day. Keep fighting the good fight. God bless.

Summary: TLDR

Apathy

  • Liberal democracy promotes the idea that individuals are autonomous, naturally free from governance, and should be self-determining.
  • The reason democracy is so flawed is because it allows for, and often encourages, citizens to be apathetic if they don’t like the way their government is run.
  • The reason liberalism is so flawed is because individuals are not as autonomous as it claims.
  • Despite this, liberal democracy is still one of the less imperfect models of governance.

Consumerism

  • In a liberal democracy, far more power is placed in corporations, as the lack of regulation allows for them to grow without restrictions.
  • While corporations are at the mercy of consumers, apathetic consumers will often ignore shady business practices.
  • When corporations begin controlling means of information, they can manipulate their consumers.
  • In this sense, capitalism can be broken quite easily.
  • Unfortunately, people are easily tricked into pursuing lower pleasure when they are apathetic.
  • Thus, consumerism when mixed with apathy pose a dangerous combination for society.
  • However, this does not give the government the moral authority to interfere with businesses. In a liberal democracy, business is upheld by the social consumers, not political actors, and should therefore be addressed by social consumers.

Feelings

  • After the rise of Freudian psychology, a greater emphasis was placed on the environment’s impacts on a person, rather than their own individuality.
  • The effects of the self-esteem movement were catastrophic, and models of self-care have replaced it in many instances.
  • Self-care is a more comprehensive outlook that values both the individual and their environment.
  • Humanity derives greater pleasure from overcoming challenges, rather than avoiding pain altogether

Hate Speech

  • Christians are called to build God’s Kingdom, not wait for it to happen.
  • The two sources of knowledge that the Church recognizes are faith and reason. The former relies on God’s divine revelation, which is not always at our grasp.
  • Therefore, reason should serve as our primary tool to uncover truth.
  • Reason, however, relies on perception, which varies between people. This creates vastly different worldviews. However, there are consistencies, and while we may never discover all the secrets of the world, we can and should pursue the allure of knowledge.
  • This is only accomplished by sharing ideas, even stupid ones.
  • However, if language is censored or banned, it immediately halts such discussion for two reasons:
  • The person who is censored is never given the opportunity to speak, so they will not likely listen. Instead, their frustration and anger will only ferment, and they will convince others to support them in what they view is an attack on their freedoms.
  • The person who censors deprives themselves of a debating partner. Their refusal to debate, over time, closes them off to new ideas. Soon, they cannot even argue or even recall the logic behind their convictions. This leads to dead dogma.

Harassment:

  • Personal attacks cannot be avoided. While making fun of someone in front of a million viewers is childish and immature, it is the same as trash-talking them at a schoolyard playground, just on a larger scale. However, said trash-talking cannot consist of harassment.
  • Harassment consists of slander, inciting violence, revealing personal information, and other remarks that invade the target’s privacy.

Shame and Identity

  • Identity is a psychological construct. We are ever-changing beings (materially) and should not tie specific qualities to our identity.
  • Thus, it is foolish to attach a quality to your identity, or to let yourself be insulted if someone attacks said quality.
  • However, it is even more foolish to judge or attack someone based on their identity. In this sense, both parties are wrong, but no significant action should be taken, unless harassment has occurred.

So What?

  • Over the past few months, large corporations have preyed on the apathy of people by gradually censoring more content. Months ago, only the most extreme producers were taken offline. Today, anyone branded a controversial conservative is at risk.
  • This matters because corporations shape how information is spread, and thus how people are formed.
  • Social change almost always foreshadows political change. So, if a society engages in self-inflicted censorship, it is only a matter of time that the government adopts said policies.
  • Free speech allows for the most authentic versions of people to come together and debate how the Kingdom of God should be built. Any government, or corporation, for that matter, who tries to get in the way of this natural process only worsens the situation by isolating the party they oppose into an echo-chamber of hatred and frustration, and isolating the party they support in an echo-chamber of hive-minded affirmation that turns into dead dogma rapidly.
  • It is the Church’s duty as a social institution to stand firm against censorship of all kinds.
  • While we cannot abandon the technologies that are being used to censor people, we can always reshape it, and the first step in such change is to raise awareness about the problem.

2 comments on “Dealing with Hate Speech: On Free Speech

  1. Poseidon

    The problem with free speech is that it means we have to accept obscenity and pornography. You may say that people can choose to boycott and avoid porn, and thus overcome it in a capitalist way. The fact is, porn is the single largest internet market, so people clearly aren’t choosing to avoid it by a long shot, & there’s no signs that they will anytime soon. Just like the government has the right to suppress streakers, it should have the right to suppress people who use profanity–same kind of public disturbance, just of the ear rather than eye. This is the only way we’ll ever make any progress in restoring morality, if that’s still possible.

    Defending freedom of speech is useless to those defending Christian morals & mostly just helps gay activists to promote their propaganda to little children. If our goal is to defend our right to express our values rather than actually bothering to defend those values, we are in a rather pitiful state indeed.

    Like

  2. Uncle Joe

    “By standing idly as the votes pour in, we are just as bad as the bystander who observes the weakling being thrown into a trash can”

    Please explain how voting helps when there’s only one candidate on the ballot. After all, the percentage of people who voted in the Soviet Union far exceeded those of the US today. Does that mean that they were more responsible than us?

    Like

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