Tuesday, February 11, 2014

the right to speak versus the right to silence

I've been banned at Oh Dear: SFWA Bulletin Petition — The Radish and at POLITICAL CENSORSHIP: A helpful guide to whether or not it’s happening to you | A Trick of Light. Which is amusing and appropriate and entirely unsurprising. What too many people cannot grasp is Evelyn Beatrice Hall's take on Voltaire's view: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

In the comments, the arguments constantly boil down to "If you support their right to speak, you support them."

Every generation has its share of people who can't think critically. The Critical Race Theorists are among the latest. The inability to understand the difference between supporting an idea and supporting the right to share an idea explains their love of subjectivity—if you have nothing objective, you either admit your mistake or double down.

I've been thinking lately about the two fists of identitarianism: One fist says, "You are privileged; you must be polite." The other says, "We are outraged; we are right to rage and mock." I recently came across Katie Roiphe's The Mockery Feminists: Caitlin Moran and Tina Fey: Feminists used to be deadly earnest. Today they’re funny, sarcastic, and ironic. What happened? It has me thinking more about mockery as a tactic, and how it encourages group cohesiveness while making outsiders less likely to join. The popularity of feminism continues to be surprisingly low: Despite the US's overwhelming support for equal pay and strong support for legal abortion, a CBS poll found that only 24% of women and 14% of men think of themselves as feminists if you don't give them a practical definition. I don't think mockery is going to help. But it will make bitter people briefly feel better, and if that's all you want, mock on.

Perhaps the desire to mock explains another difference between civil rights workers and social justice warriors. Civil rights workers want the right to speak. Social justice warriors want the right to silence.

ETA: Just left this comment at Facebook: "There was a time when the SFWA Bulletin allowed writers to say what they pleased. No one was ever silly enough to think that everything in it represented the SFWA group mind. That has changed, obviously. Your defense of a free speech zone is hardly the same as defending free speech. Free speech is messy, but the only way to make it tidy is to eliminate "free". The right to say what offends no one is no right at all—and I am not blind to the irony that astonishingly abusive things are said by people who claim they only want to prevent anyone's feelings from being hurt."

ETA 2: Several people have thought I was upset about being banned. I'm not. Your blog, your rules, of course. I was amused. I thought that was conveyed in my second sentence, but obviously, it didn't work for everyone, so I just added "amusing" in the hope that'll help. I'm amused because people who love to silence show their love of silencing by quickly banning critics. This should fall under deeds speaking louder than words, but it is remarkable how people's belief systems can interpret both words and deeds to protect their faith.

RELATED: the right to offend is the heart of free speech

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