Mark Steyn points out some really horrific actions around the Western world of late suppressing free speech.
In Galway, at the National University of Ireland, a speaker who attempts to argue against the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) programme against Israel is shouted down with cries of ‘F***ing Zionist, f***ing pricks… Get the f*** off our campus.’
- In California, Mozilla’s chief executive is forced to resign because he once made a political donation in support of the pre-revisionist definition of marriage.
- At Westminster, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee declares that the BBC should seek ‘special clearance’ before it interviews climate sceptics, such as fringe wacko extremists like former Chancellor Nigel Lawson.
- In Massachusetts, Brandeis University withdraws its offer of an honorary degree to a black feminist atheist human rights campaigner from Somalia.
- In London, a multitude of liberal journalists and artists responsible for everything from Monty Python to Downton Abbey sign an open letter in favour of the first state restraints on the British press in three and a quarter centuries.
And in Canberra the government is planning to repeal Section 18C — whoa, don’t worry, not all of it, just three or four adjectives; or maybe only two, or whatever it’s down to by now, after what Gay Alcorn in the Age described as the ongoing debate about ‘where to strike the balance between free speech in a democracy and protection against racial abuse in a multicultural society’.
Here’s the thing, guys and gals, if you want to have not liberty but merely a moderately functional society, you have to allow free speech. The reason for this is that if people are not free to say whatever they darn well please without threat of official or social retaliation, then the truth will not come out. It is only by allowing everyone to have their say that we can have any chance of actually discovering what is going on. While in a place of free speech you will get a large pack of lies being said, you’ll also ensure that the truth is told, as well. And the truth will eventually be acted upon because it is, in the end, the only thing which will work.
It goes beyond just that, of course. If you set out to keep everyone polite, then you will eventually allow the most rude to control all debate. The theory behind politically correct speech is that we need to ensure that we aren’t denigrating anyone, thus allowing all people to have the courage to speak up. It doesn’t work like that because the sort of people who are most willing to be rude will simply shout down everyone else – and claim they are doing it in the name of enforcing politeness. Someone has a pet theory and then someone comes along and destroys it with facts – the rude claim that the person destroying the theory with facts is racist/sexist/homophobic/what have you and is exiled from the public square. The pet theory goes on undisturbed and everyone is now afraid to challenge it…and the rude are in charge.
I’m very sorry to all and sundry, but you simply must allow everyone to have their say and you MUST NOT seek to do anything to them for saying it. Corporate CEO writes a racist rant in a neo-Nazi website? Condemn him. Write an article refuting him. Point out to everyone that said store owner is a racist. And then leave him alone. You’ve got no business doing anything else. Don’t organize a boycott. Don’t organize a picket line. Don’t pressure local authorities to investigate his business practices. Leave him alone. He did nothing but speak his mind and he must be allowed to do that without let or hindrance from anyone, ever. You can only interfere when words are transformed into actions or where the words are clearly inciting someone to imminent action which will violate the rights of others.
It goes for both sides, of course – write the worst sort of slanders you wish about my Catholic Church. You’re a CEO of a major corporation? Fine. I’ll write about it. I’ll condemn it. I’ll point out that you’re an anti-Catholic bigot. And that is all I’ll do (well, I’ll also pray for you). It is no business of mine to try and wreck the business the CEO runs. It is no business of mine to try and get him fired. It is no business of mine to do anything to him because he has done nothing to me or to anyone else. He just spoke his mind.
We’re all in this together, my friends. There are 310-odd million of us and in such a large community there will be every possible sort of opinion. We will not ever all agree on anything. And we can’t function unless the truth comes out, and it only comes out if everyone can fearlessly enter the public square and speak their mind. Drop all attempts to interfere in what people say. Let them say it; if you think they’re wrong (or even downright evil) for what they say, then you must confine yourself to no more than saying things against them. If we do this, we will remain free and relatively rational as a people – if we keep going down this route to controlling speech, we are doomed – and I mean “doomed” as in “doomed to death” because we will not survive, as a people, if we seek to control each other.