Sean McElwee is an ambitious young man who, from the looks of his resumé, is set on becoming a “thought leader” attached to what pass for respectable publications today (fat chance — the kid didn’t make the Ivies). He’s anti-gun, anti-Evangelical Christian, anti-libertarian, anti-Walmart, etc. However, there is an important difference between Mr. McElwee and your old hippie-style liberals: he’s an authoritarian who wants to silence people he disagrees with:
For the past few years speech has moved online, leading to fierce debates about its regulation. Most recently, feminists have led the charge to purge Facebook of misogyny that clearly violates its hate speech code. Facebook took a small step two weeks ago, creating a feature that will remove ads from pages deemed “controversial.” But such a move is half-hearted; Facebook and other social networking websites should not tolerate hate speech and, in the absence of a government mandate, adopt a European model of expunging offensive material.
Stricter regulation of Internet speech will not be popular with the libertarian-minded citizens of the United States, but it’s necessary…
American free speech jurisprudence relies upon the assumption that speech is merely the extension of a thought, and not an action. If we consider it an action, then saying that we should combat hate speech with more positive speech is an absurd proposition; the speech has already done the harm, and no amount of support will defray the victim’s impression that they are not truly secure in this society. We don’t simply tell the victim of a robbery, “Hey, it’s okay, there are lots of other people who aren’t going to rob you.” Similarly, it isn’t incredibly useful to tell someone who has just had their race/gender/sexuality defamed, “There are a lot of other nice people out there.”
Those who claim to “defend free speech” when they defend the right to post hate speech online, are in truth backwards. Free speech isn’t an absolute right; no right is weighed in a vacuum. The court has imposed numerous restrictions on speech. Fighting words, libel and child pornography are all banned. Other countries merely go one step further by banning speech intended to intimidate vulnerable groups. The truth is that such speech does not democratize speech, it monopolizes speech. Women, LGBTQ individuals and racial or religious minorities feel intimidated and are left out of the public sphere. On Reddit, for example, women have left or changed their usernames to be more male-sounding lest they face harassment and intimidation for speaking on Reddit about even the most gender-neutral topics. Even outside of the intentionally offensive sub-reddits (i.e. /r/imgoingtohellforthis) misogyny is pervasive.
When I was a kid back in the 80s, we were taught that one of the main characteristics of conservatives is that they are “authoritarian.” It was widely believed that liberals believed in individual freedom, including freedom of expression, sexual freedom, freedom of movement and so on. Until about that time, this may have been true to some extent. However, things started to change, and mostly from the top down. Political correctness took hold in universities in the 80s, largely at the demand of radical feminists. One might find it puzzling that liberating women would lead to greater restrictions on intellectual freedom, but that is in fact what happened.
As Heartiste pointed out in a recent article about women and liberalism, women are significantly more collectivist by nature, and have a lower threshold for the “disgust” reaction. Therefore, they tend to support measures that punish outsiders or people who act on individual initiative. I would characterize this as “herd” behavior, as opposed to more male-oriented “team” behavior (more on that soon).
Although they’ve played an important role, especially in universities, it isn’t solely because of feminists that “liberals” have become authoritarian; it is the nature of power to seek to preserve itself. If you’re at the top of the heap, it’s mighty tempting to try to decide which thoughts are acceptable and which are off-limits. I suspect the Internet has given even more urgency to this impulse, as the mainstream media seeks to preserve its place as the font of respectable opinion. But you’d think that they would at least continue to defend – if not embrace – the concept of a free press. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case.
Today, as young McElwee demonstrates, denouncing the free press is the sort of thing that identifies a “good young man” — a right-thinker. When I was Sean’s age, I realized that I’d never make the cut under the new rules – I’m constitutionally incapable of toeing their line – so I gave up on trying to join them. I could already see the writing on the wall around the year 2000, so I abandoned the idea of getting involved in mainstream media, choosing instead to lead a humble life. However, ironically, rejecting the constraints of contemporary political correctness has been a blessing and has given me many more opportunities to express myself. When you subordinate your own opinions and speak only within collectively-defined parameters, it feels like you’ve sold your soul.
So, in a sense I feel sorry for the young men out there who are doing the dirty work for left-authoritarians. I’d advise them, if they’d only listen, to feel free to be themselves, and to allow others to do the same. They should keep in mind that in striving to control, you can become something of a slave yourself.