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Mark @MRensema

Shutting down hate speech events in a public forum – say, at your university – is not restricting freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech grants everyone the right to express their opinion without fear of prosecution, but it does not grant people the privilege of a podium, especially not within an institutional context that legitimizes their views.

Granting, say, even fascists freedom of speech does not mean you have to grant them an institutional platform so they can recruit and organize.

@MRensema Freedom does not mean licence. It’s an intentional and very American misunderstanding of the word freedom to use it in this way.

@rotatingskull

True, Americans are perhaps the most un-dialectical of all nations in this precise way. They tend to want to reduce everything to principles which are then absolutized, there is no sense of contextuality or nuance in the way they approach (especially political) ideas sometimes. Very much an either/or way of thinking.

@rotatingskull

Incidentally, this is also why many aspects of the American debate about gun rights are so difficult to grasp for us Europeans. To take myself as an example: it took me quite some time to realize that many Americans absolutize the Second Amendment to the extent that they do. It was only recently that I realized that many Americans think the Second Amendment grants them some sort of timeless, irreversible right that is guaranteed either without restriction or not at all.

@MRensema Right. There is also the idea that with the passage of the 13th ammendment (abolishing slavery) that the second ammendment also goes away with it, because the “well regilated militia” mentioned in it were slave hunting militias. But asking the USA to face up to its own history is too much to ask apparently.

@rotatingskull

More like revolt-suppressing: Killing a runaway defeats (most of) the purpose.

@MRensema

@MRensema Also the misunderstanding of the second ammendment is quite intentional. Over the entrance to the NRA headquarters the words “ the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” completely skipping the first half of the sentence, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,”

@MRensema And then interpreting that half or a sentence to mean “All guns are legal without restriction.” is simply asinine. It’s who we are. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

@MRensema And then of course there was the time when the Black Panther Party for Self Defense started marching in the streets of Oakland and the NRA and Governor Ronald Reagan immediately came out for gun regulations. What was different about that situation? Let’s not think too hard about this…

They’re mendacious and they know exactly what they’re doing.

@MRensema So in short, the USA’s gun debate is so difficult to grasp for Europeans because the fascist side is intentionally making it difficult to grasp.

@MRensema And yes, Americans are suckers for principles. If you can offer us a reductive explanation for anything we’re ready to pay you money for it.

@rotatingskull

Well, there is a good side to this: if I fall on hard times, I can at least still have gainful employment working as a ghostwriter for some right-wing think tank back in that big old US of A, generating one reductive principle after another. 😈

@rotatingskull

Oh, and I will use pie charts and memes too. They are going to love me if I do!

@MRensema

You joke, but sometimes I wonder which is more horrifying: That people who promote those politics are in it just for the money, or that they're true believers.

@rotatingskull

@MRensema there is the social custom of free speech which is loosely defined and then there is the legal aspect.

If it's a government-owned institution or land, it may be a public forum (sidewalk, park, empty land) or limited public (government buildings, meetings).

For public, the manner can be restricted but not content. I.e. no megaphones.

For limited, the manner can be restricted even more. I.e. no speaking out of turn or on other topics.

Private, you make your own rules.

@MRensema I'm not sure if the Constitution allows a university to deny event space based on content (pro white supremacy, say) when they would ordinarily allow the same exact thing for different content (say, pro feminism.)

The usual denial categories revolve around technicalities of following policy ("we require all events to follow these codes of conduct") but you explicitly can't say no just because you're worried about a riot.

@MRensema I'm all for deplatforming, it's just hard for government institutions to do it constitutionally. If you have sources on 1A vs deplatforming I'm happy to read.

@wilbr

Well, that depends on your country a lot, too. At any rate, I was not speaking legally, but ethically. I assume that there can be a considered and widely accepted ethical concept of freedom of speech, which is distinct from both social practice as it exists and legal definitions as they are used in different states. I appeal to that, not to some legal decision I do not heed anyway (especially of a state I am not a citizen of, since I am not an American).

@wilbr

I mean, I am totally fine with it if you are a big fan of your particular constitution, but I am not bound by it anyway, and some of your fellow American citizens might not think they are bound by it either (and I am sure they might make some arguments about why they should not be).

@wilbr So, when dealing with people like me, you have to make arguments, referencing political documents you happen to agree with yourself won't persuade me (because I don't believe in the legitimacy of those documents myself).

@MRensema I'm not here to tell you you're wrong... I think you're right. But if someone "representing" an American government organization follows your advice, they could cost their group millions of dollars in legal fees. That's all.

@MRensema I'm very curious how various american universities recently managed to deny alt-right speakers though. Maybe their direct involvement in the deadly Charlottesville protest drew the line between "we're worried antifa will show up" and "we don't book people associated with violent organizations."

Which kinda lends credence to the fatalistic notions I've heard, that people will die before it gets better. Gotta learn the hard way I guess.

@MRensema ideology aside, when reading your advice literally and in America, it's unfortunately bad advice from the university's perspective unless we hyperfocus on stuff like "institutional context which legitimizes their views."

America's interpretation of public forums is seemingly a lot broader and so universities can get into real big trouble denying stuff on unconstitutional grounds. Americans love expensive lawyers.

That said, carry on.

@wilbr

Your practical point is duly noted, haha. 👍

@MRensema
If the speech can be shut down then how is the forum really considered public? Maybe I don't understand European definitions of public.

@Bliswell

The public space, as I use it (as well as many philosophers in the tradition of Western Enlightenment), is simply the social space in which we encounter each other not as private individuals discussing our own interests and goals, but as public individuals discussing common interests and goals to all, as well as general ideas.

It has little to do, then, with being able to spout your own idiosyncratic opinions at everyone passing by; that is not what makes a public space public.

@Bliswell

In fact, fascism, in some respects, is a radically non-public phenomenon. It always is only in the interest of some (e.g. "the white race") at the expense of others (e.g. "inferior races"). It is difficult to understand it as having public merit, since it is aimed against the large majority of human beings. It is fundamentally a private effort of one specific group to liquidate public, shared interests, and even real groups of other people with whom interests might be shared

@Bliswell

On these and similar grounds fascism might actually be treated as an enemy of the public sphere as such. And, in fact, many have made arguments to the effect that, because of this, fascism is incompatible with the values of Western Enlightenment.

@MRensema
@MRensema
Hey, I am anti fascist too.
But I don't want to live in a society where anyone is prohibited from expressing their views. That sounds pretty fascist.
I think vile thoughts should be spoken out against, not repressed. Suppressors can become oppressors, and the vileness will find an unseen way to spread. Sunshine is a disinfectant.

@Bliswell

Well, you may believe that not giving a podium to fascists is actually the same as denying them the right to free speech. But then you and I simply disagree. My whole point was, of course, that freedom of speech does not entail the right to speak at whatever venue one wishes in whatever capacity, or be granted additional resources (beyond the ones everyone already has) to spread one's views.

@Bliswell

What you are arguing for is, again, not what I would call free speech for fascists too, but giving them privileged access to public platforms and speaking resources. Think about what follows from that in practice... It is very much more pro-fascist (in the sense of being supportive of fascism) than you might think right now. This is not to say that you are fascist, of course, but that you (perhaps unwittingly) support them over others. It is not "free speech" in its ordinary sense.

@Bliswell

Seriously... Becoming an organizational facilitator of fascism under the heading of "freedom of speech" seems way closer to actually supporting fascism than... Well, not doing so, which is what I argue for. So, frankly, I find it silly to say I sound "pretty fascist," when you are the one who argues actively supporting them spreading their views. All I say is: "we should not do that, and it is not an infringement upon their rights when we do not do that"...

@MRensema
A problem lies in who holds the power to declare something fascist or otherwise unacceptable.
Actually multiple problems.
One is that all power holders are human, meaning error prone in judgement and swayed by temptation.
Two is that using the tool of suppression to keep objectionable material out of a public space then legitimizes the practice of suppression which will then be used by fascists.

@Bliswell

So, as to your first point: sure, that is a minor theoretical problem, but not really an argument against what I am saying. For example: suppose that it is good to keep children away from certain dangerous places. Is it then an argument against doing so that we might be mistaken about who is a child?

Yes, humans in general make mistakes, but this fact provides no argument against any specific action, let alone against vital actions aimed at stopping *literal* Nazis...

@Bliswell

As to your second point: the tool of suppression is used in literally every society. There is no society that has no limit on what people can do and say. So the question is simply one of where we draw the line. You cannot avoid this.

Also, it is a false equivocation to equate anti-fascist actions to fascist suppression. Anti-fascists do not aim to suppress more than half of the population and then annihilate them. Anti-fascists are comparatively *very* careful about suppression.

@Bliswell

Also, I wish to, once again, redirect your attention to the fact that you are defending the right to organize of people who want to commit genocide and who have done so in the past precisely because people adopted your attitude.

Please do consider that you might just be expending a lot of efforts to defend a cause that is just not really worth defending.

@MRensema
Genocide didn't occur because Nazis were allowed to speak. It occured because no one spoke out against them and they were allowed to act.

@Bliswell

Yeah. I'm not convinced. I'm pretty sure the Nuremberg rallies had an effect. You underestimate what certain speech acts in certain contexts can accomplish (and have in fact accomplished). We are not talking about granting people the right to share their opinions in company, but at giving sometimes literal stadiums of people to listen to them and heed the calls of their hate speech. Whipping up hostile sentiments in masses of people and directing them at specific groups of people...

@MRensema

Supressing public discourse won't have the benefits you seek.
Conversations will still occur in private, with people reaching ugly conclusions because they are isolated from the opposite point of view. Suppressing public discourse only isolates their discovery process.
That's how you ended up with Trump in power. Private conversations suprising public discourse mediators

@Bliswell

Well. Again, no, Trump had rallies (remind you of someone?) and didn't engage in just private conversations. Like this, you are just misrepresentating how these things actually work to yourself in order to defend your classical liberal values without needing to worry about consequences.

@MRensema
But I do think managers of limited resources (like speaking theaters and editorial pages) have a responsibility to optimally use that resource to facilitate discourse. Stupid arguments dont need to be fostered with the same care as thoughful ones.