|On the Limits of "Free Speech" by Steven Jonas|
April 11, 2017
In a previous column, I discussed the appearance of the self-styled "scientific racist" Charles Murray at Middlebury College, VT, the content of his earlier, widely publicized work, The Bell Curve, the student response to his appearance that kept him from speaking, and the issues concerning the matter of "free speech" raised by the whole episode. The bulk of the column was devoted to an abridgment (long enough in its own right!) of Appendix VI to my book The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2002: A Futuristic Novel, which used the extensive academic literature that took apart the Murray hypothesis many years ago.
At the end of that column , I dealt with the issue of "free speech," in the context of what happened to Murray at Middlebury. I said:
But what about 'free speech,' then? An editorial on The New York Times on the subject was entitled 'Smothering Speech at Middlebury.' Oh really? Supposing that Murray was a well-known anti-Semite (and given Breitbart, etc., in certain circles anti-Semitism is being given a certain buffing. Further, anti-Semitic violence is now occurring on a regular basis, certainly without any national outrage greeting it). If he had indeed been invited (which he almost certainly wouldn't have been because although old-fashioned racism is OK for discussion in certain 'liberal' circles, like the one inhabited by the President of Middlebury, one Laurie Patton) anti-Semitism almost certainly would not be. But wouldn't that be 'silencing free speech?'
Following publication of the column, I had a lengthy private exchange on the matters of "free speech," "liberty" and their limitations (or not), between me and my dear friend and long-time colleague Dr. Don Ardell, widely known as "The Dean of Wellness." He and I have much in common: professional work and writing in the Wellness arena (Don much more than I -- he was the first to broadly develop the whole concept, beginning in the 1970s), triathlon racing (Don has won many age-group World and National championships; I have finished many races); politics; a life-long interest in and promotion of atheism. We disagree on few matters, but this one of them. With Don's permission, the balance of this column is devoted to a presentation of excerpts of our discussion on the matter.
I believe speech in a public forum should be 'free,' in the sense that any point of view, particularly a 'scholarly' (or pseudo-scholarly) argument/theory/etc., should be allowed, tolerated and/or otherwise made accessible to those who wish to avail themselves of the pros and cons of a subject -- regardless of who might choose to be offended by one unpopular side of it, however much it seems racist, prejudicial, cruel, hateful, etc. Even arguments the majority finds horrific should be tolerated, not necessarily respectfully, but tolerated for an agreed upon period of time under academic conditions wherein 'the correct' or several varied/different perspectives are available as counter-views.
To which I responded:
A) Indeed, you are skipping past the question of whether or not college campuses are required to host pederasts or anti-Semites. Suppose a 'campus group' decides to invite one. Then what? Right now there are different standards for racism and anti-Semitism in this country. But led by such publications as The Daily Stormer, which is picked up now and then by Bannon/Breitbart, since the candidacy and election of Trump, connected or not (Stormer had pics of Reagan and Trump on its mast-head -- now taken down), anti- Semitism is making a strong comeback. Suppose a campus group invites Anglin (the Stormer's editor/publisher) to give a talk? Is he protected by 'free speech' on a college campus when just as easily a community hall could be hired? That is a slippery slope, man.
To which Don replied (in part):
We are much closer on prevention/wellness (it happens that Don and I have a disagreement about what that spectrum actually is, but don't worry, dear reader, I'm not going to go into that subject here!) than we are on speech and its limits/protections. Since our friendship is immune to opinion differences and we both have the intellectual discipline to consider views at odds with our own, we might consider continuing the exchange so long as it interests us both to do so. ...
To which I responded further:
Thanks for continuing to pursue this matter, as between friends. I am delighted to know that we are not as far apart on prevention/wellness as we are on what 'free speech' means. (BTW, although it is often said, 'free speech' per se is not guaranteed by the First Amendment. All it says is that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech...") And so, let me say that I am going to go no further on this one. Our respective positions have been laid out (and many, many people do share yours).
To which I responded, to Don:
I did start to read Prof. West's statement below, but stopped after the first sentence. Why does not the promotion of racism, which is based on the Doctrine of White Supremacy, deserve 'full and free discussion' in places of academic inquiry, like college campuses (other than in halls hired by the racism-promoters for the purpose of doing so)? It's there in the first sentence, which suggests the promotion of: 'intellectual humility, openness of mind, and, above all, love of truth.' Racism and racists are hardly humble, they of all people are not of open minds (otherwise racism would have disappeared in this country many decades ago), and since racism is based on the fundamental lie of the Doctrine of White Supremacy, it is hardly embraced by 'the love of truth.'
And then, a final word or two, not part of my correspondence with my dear friend Don. "Free speech" has never been an absolute in the United States, even for the American Civil Liberties Union. When during the 1940s the US Communist Party came under attack for violating the Smith Act (later found to be unconstitutional) by supposedly "advocating the overthrow of the US government through the use of force and violence," the ACLU refused to come to their defense. Which was odd. First of all, the law made "advocacy" a crime.
Commission of violent acts would of course be criminal, but this Act criminalized speech. Second of all, the CPUSA did NOT advocate violent revolution but supported the concept of the "parliamentary road to socialism," in its constitution no less -- for which it was roundly, if quietly, criticized by Leninists outside the Party. (That did not prevent many members of the CPUSA national and local leaderships from being sent to prison, but that's another matter.) That particular abandonment of "free speech" by the ACLU led to the establishment of the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee by one of the wealthiest men in the United States, Corliss Lamont.
As for academic institutions, I think that they are within their rights to their own institutional free speech to deny access to their campuses by persons upholding unscientific/non-academic/hate-promoting positions, such as racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism. But then there is nothing stopping such persons from hiring a nearby private hall to offer their perspectives to the public, promoting their appearances through paid advertising.
Addendum -- Definitions of Fascism:
I. A classic definition of fascism, based on the 20th century models of Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil, can be defined as:
A politico-economic system in which there is: total executive branch control of both the legislative and administrative powers of government; no independent judiciary; no Constitution that embodies the Rule of Law standing above the people who run the government; no inherent personal rights or liberties; a single national ideology that first demonizes and then criminalizes all political, religious, and ideological opposition to it; the massive and regular use of hate, fear, racial and religious prejudice, the Big Lie technique, mob psychology, mob actions and ultimately individual and collective violence to achieve political and economic ends; a capitalist/corporate economy; with the ruling economic class' domination of economic, fiscal, and regulatory policy."
II. A 21st century definition of fascism, using the Trumpian model for the United States:
A politico-economic system in which the Executive Branch of the Government: regards the Constitution as in place only on paper; disregards the Judiciary as a co-equal branch of government and accepts the Legislative Branch as a co-equal only when Executive Branch policies are supported by it; demonizes and then criminalizes all political, religious, and ideological opposition to its policies and programs; redefines the words "truth," "science," "data," "fact," and "reality" through the use of the Big Lie technique; regularly uses the Doctrine of White Supremacy/racism, xenophobia in general and Islamophobia in particular, and homophobia, to achieve political ends; suppresses the free vote by challenging the legitimacy of the electoral system; casts "the media" as a principal enemy, with the aim of suppressing dissent and promoting distrust in it and its reporting; all in service of creating and maintaining the control of State Power by the economically dominant sector of the capitalist ruling class: manufacturing, fossil fuels, agriculture/food, pharma/health services, retail, transportation, and banking/investment/financial services."
III. A shorter 21st century definition of fascism, using the Trumpian model for the United States:
A politico-economic system in which the Racist Reactionary Religious Right controls both the Executive and Legislative Branches of government and the former dominates it; to the extent possible the Judiciary is ignored; the non-right-wing media are cast as "the enemy;” all political, religious, and ideological opposition to its policies and programs are demonized and then criminalized; the use of the Big Lie technique dominates Executive and Legislative Branch discourse and propaganda; the Doctrine of White Supremacy/racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and homophobia, are used to achieve political ends; the free vote is suppressed; all to create and maintain the control of State Power by the economically dominant sectors of the capitalist ruling class."
|This night a crime was perpetrated in the middle of the sea, by order of the government of Israel and the IDF Command.|