Wednesday, August 1, 2018

#213 / Friedman On Free Speech

Daniel Friedman is the Edgar Award-nominated author of Don’t Ever Get Old, Don’t Ever Look Back, and Riot Most Uncouth. He has also written an article titled, "Free Speech Doesn’t Protect Nazis. It Protects Us From Nazis."

I think Friedman is right. Here is an extract from the article. You decide: 

Narrowing the scope of free speech protections to accommodate limitations on hate speech, or to ban Nazis, or to shut Milo Yiannopoulos up, means reducing the scope of the individual right and expanding the power of the state to to regulate speech. In order to favor expanding the power of the state to regulate speech, you have to trust the state to wield that power judiciously, and not to abuse it or use it vindictively or excessively. 
Before you empower government to police speech that is hateful or offensive, or speech that is deemed violent or harmful, then you have to consider the possibility that it will not be your sensibilities that determine which speech is beyond the pale ... 
We are living in a political moment when hateful individuals are emboldened to trumpet vile ideas in public, and can find a receptive audience for their message on social media. But we are also living in a moment in which the apparatus of state power is in the hands of a president who many people believe has authoritarian leanings ... 
It is bizarre and misguided that people who profess to fear this president and the populist movement he leads favor reforms that would chip away at the protections that prevent Donald Trump from jailing or killing his critics. It may be true that strong individual rights prevent institutions from protecting marginalized people from the speech of other individuals, but strong individual rights also prevent the state from attacking marginalized people for exercising their own rights ... 
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously wrote that the remedy for speech used in service of “falsehoods and fallacies” is “more speech.” But even if you’re skeptical that bad speech is exposed in the “marketplace of ideas,” you have to admit that regulations on speech only work if you can trust the regulator. And right now, in the United States, the regulator is Donald J. Trump. 
We must favor individual rights over institutional power, even when individuals do bad things with their rights, because institutional power is much more dangerous when it falls into the wrong hands. We protect and tolerate speech we don’t like, so that we can speak without fear that those who don’t like us will use coercive institutional force to silence us. We don’t let Nazis speak for their sake; we let them speak for ours.

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