Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Free speech is dying a death of a thousand exceptions

"This is not a free speech issue!" Or so goes the slogan of the crusading censor.
Benny Huang is enthusiastic about the new book by the author of There is No Such Thing as a Free Press.
Mick Hume, free speech advocate and author of Trigger Warning (Is Fear of Being Offensive Killing Free Speech?) daftly disassembles the arguments of the shut-your-piehole crowd. Hume argues that the expression of controversial ideas is becoming nearly impossible in the West despite its professed adoration for free speech.

While Hume assures the reader that his book was not written in response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre which occurred just as he was wrapping up the project, he does discuss the hypocrisy of the European elites who suddenly became staunch defenders of Charlie's artistic expression—and acted as if they always had been. Western nations are full of censors, he argues, and many of them are in high places. Banning sentiments that might offend Muslims was fairly pedestrian before the Charlie killings and continued unabated after the fact.

While almost most people claim to support free speech in theory, plenty of people rationalize exceptions to the principle that essentially nullify the sacred liberty. Free speech, he argues, is dying a death of a thousand exceptions. He focuses primarily on his native Britain, where the situation is dire, but warns that even the United States, despite its expansive first amendment, is succumbing to this dangerous trend. Hume obliterates some of the common rationales for censorship, including "That's not free speech, it's hate speech" and Oliver Wendell Holmes's "You can't yell fire in a crowded theater!" His analysis is spot-on.