A blog called Chicks on the Right claims to be a very strong proponent of free speech on college campus, which, according to them, is being stifled by the leftists, who refuse to allow robust, vigorous debate in favor of protecting themselves from hateful speech that hurts their feelings. Oh, but they’re also celebrating that a professor who tweeted Irma was “instant karma” for Texas got fired for that remark. Apparently hateful speech is a bad thing, when it comes from liberals; their post on the topic makes no mention of the countless Bible-thumpers who’ve blamed past storms on The Gays, The Feminists, The Abortions (and I doubt the Chicks will freak out over them making the same claims for Irma).
This is why I’m invariably skeptical about right-wingers who claim a deep devotion to free speech: they’re frequently lying. The same people who loudly criticized the government under Clinton and Obama also condemned anyone who dared criticized George W. Bush — don’t they realize he’s our president? Criticizing him in a time of war is treason, so First Amendment doesn’t apply (note: questioning the president is not treason). And besides, liberals are evil, and we’re righteous, so it’s totally different if we do it!
In fairness, plenty of people on all sides feel there are limits to free speech. I’ve seen lots of liberals in recent weeks argue banning Nazi protests and speech is just fine with them. I disagree (with exceptions noted at the link). However lots of right-wing bloggers and pundits set limits based purely on who’s giving and receiving the speech. If liberals say the same things about a Republican Republicans said about Obama, that’s unacceptable. If they spit out their loathing for gays/feminists/immigrants, that’s fine, but it’s wrong to criticize them back. Or identify them as Nazis.
And as Facebook, Twitter and other social media try to do more to rein in trolls, people who normally defend the rights of private companies to do whatever they want have suddenly decided that if what they want is blocking right-wing bullshit and hate speech, that’s not fair! Maybe we should start regulating Facebook and Twitter as public utilities so they have to provide a fair platform for everyone! And Google too!
I do not believe, for a minute, they want a fair platform — they just want to cover their own asses. Which is why we have National Review‘s Jeremy Carl suggesting that “if I can’t get access to the 2 billion people on Facebook because Facebook doesn’t like my politics, my rights of free expression are greatly curtailed.” Um, no. Your chance to promote yourself and sell your books/articles/whatever would be greatly curtailed, but that’s not the same thing.
Don’t get me wrong, getting shut off from FB or Twitter is a big deal (Screen Rant gets most of its readers through FB). And it’s certainly possible it could be used against people who don’t deserve it. The power of Internet companies to shut down the Daily Stormer could likewise be abused. At the same time, businesses are free to discriminate, within the usual limits. They can’t refuse service based on race, gender, religion, disability, etc. but they can refuse people for being jerks, Nazis, liberals, conservatives, etc., etc. Likewise customers and employees can refuse to work for someone who supports David Duke. To say you can’t refuse anyone for any reason is a radical step, and completely opposite most right-wing/libertarian positions on free business!
But then of course, conservatives have been shrieking for years that government should Do Something about sex on TV, regardless of their normally stated belief that the market is always right. So this is nothing new. And I don’t believe for a minute they want the same protection for left-wing ideas or anything they disapprove of.
So they may bite me.