Hey everyone I decided to blog today to get out on paper a lot of stuff that is clattering around in my head like marbles. This week has felt exhausting but that isn’t really all that different from any other week this year. It seems that the world is going insane and the only way I can manage to control how frustrated that makes me is to write and blog and talk. First of all, I would like to speak about the recent removal of Alex Jones from various media platforms such as Spotify, iTunes, and finally YouTube. This has ignited a firestorm over one of the most contentious issues that still manages to be irritable these days: free speech. The right often uses it as a political football in order to complain whenever they are unable to spread their message through various platforms. By claiming to be free speech martyrs they lend their ideas legitimacy by harkening back to a supposed core liberal value: free speech and rational debate of ideas. The fact that the right are never consistent in following their own set of rules, is besides the point.
I have come to the conclusion that the main problem with arguing with the right is that, we simply do not agree enough on basic values to make any outcome favorable to the left even slightly. The right and especially the alt-right, uses the liberal values as an excuse to spread formerly discredited ideas, under the auspices of intelligent debate and the need to crush bad ideas. But while most centrists definitely do go out of their way to pander to the liberal framework they love, the right will never do that because, it doesn’t actually help them win with their ideas. The right will always win when you allow them to claim the moral high ground, by agreeing to their framing. The assumption that they will follow the rules is, frankly, stupid. So when the left came out to defend Alex Jones, I was very very mixed. On the one hand, the ability of private institutions to decide what ideas are worth distributing, is worrying and always will backfire on the left, the right always can get their message out, because money creates opportunities to create new platforms. Alex Jones is still on radio. Rush Limbaugh is still on radio. There are nowhere near as many lefty hosts on AM radio. The right has the funding to create as many platforms as they need to distribute their ideas. The problem isn’t a lack of diversity of ideas. The problem is that all supposed liberal media outlets, will go out of their way to provide the right a chance to oppose even the most centrist of ideas. Most right wing organizations don’t even pretend to care about diversity of ideas. Most people who work at those places are right wingers and they never attempt to hire left wing voices. They pander to their audience and understand that nobody who pays attention to them is interested in listening to other points of view. Corporations will never even give the left a chance. But we also do not need to always be so concerned with ideological consistantcy when, lets be honest, we don’t have the same values or set of moral structure as the right. If you cannot agree on a set of rules, why give the other side the chance to set rules they never intend to follow. Politics are about disagreement. You cannot expect everyone to agree on everything and just because you don’t have the same underlying values isn’t something that should be the primary concern. We must be willing to engage the other side but we also cannot let them set the framing. The right cannot win with their ideas without pandering to values that they themselves, do not adhere to. So does this mean I side with Facebook or Apple over Alex Jones and am against the critique of private power? No I believe that free speech is something that is not as absolute as we might thing and that we need to be able to actually make judgements based on context. I can hate Apple and I can still be glad Alex Jones has lost a platform he used to spread hateful ideas that caused actual violence. I would suggest reading counterpunch’s article about this as, it is far more eloquent. I am open to criticism. I believe that the right will always try to shut down the free speech of the left regardless. I believe that being ideologically consistent is nice, if you want to feel morally superior for a minute and to get pats on the back. But speech has consequences and so does policy. Words can cause harm and do. Ideas can fester and cause violence. At some point, you cannot take the high ground in an arena where you don’t agree on the set rules. Here are my general thoughts on free speech in general:
1. The idea that we should be willing to discuss ideas and their merits/ consequences is incredibly important. The government should not be able to simply censor for no good reason
2. But all speech has consequences as does social interaction. Your ideas and values say something about your and therefore we must consider context when interpreting ideas and values.
3. You are not free from the consequences of your ideas or speech. Also you cannot escape responsibility for actions or responsibility to your community. Your rights will always come into contact with someone else’s and we must figure out how to best navigate the murky waters that that entails.
4. Your way of life and your values might effect others and be intolerable to other people’s way of life and values and appealing to some universal standard is, in many ways, just helpful to the powerful who are the only people who can escape social responsiblity.
5. Human beings are responsible not just for themselves but how they effect others.