The bully pulpit is destroying liberalism and freedom of speech

Jonathan Chait explains why political correctness and the bully pulpit of demanding silence from those whose ideas you oppose is creating a reign of terror on freedom of speech, and the worst offenders are those who should know better.

The p.c. style of politics has one serious, possibly fatal drawback: It is exhausting. Claims of victimhood that are useful within the left-wing subculture may alienate much of America. The movement?s dour puritanism can move people to outrage, but it may prove ill suited to the hopeful mood required of mass politics. Nor does it bode well for the movement?s longevity that many of its allies are worn out. ?It seems to me now that the public face of social liberalism has ceased to seem positive, joyful, human, and freeing,? confessed the progressive writer Freddie deBoer. ?There are so many ways to step on a land mine now, so many terms that have become forbidden, so many attitudes that will get you cast out if you even appear to hold them. I?m far from alone in feeling that it?s typically not worth it to engage, given the risks.? Goldberg wrote recently about people ?who feel emotionally savaged by their involvement in [online feminism] ? not because of sexist trolls, but because of the slashing righteousness of other feminists.? Former Feministing editor Samhita Mukhopadhyay told her, ?Everyone is so scared to speak right now.?

That the new political correctness has bludgeoned even many of its own supporters into despondent silence is a triumph, but one of limited use. Politics in a democracy is still based on getting people to agree with you, not making them afraid to disagree. The historical record of political movements that sought to expand freedom for the oppressed by eliminating it for their enemies is dismal. The historical record of American liberalism, which has extended social freedoms to blacks, Jews, gays, and women, is glorious. And that glory rests in its confidence in the ultimate power of reason, not coercion, to triumph.

That was the same rationale behind Dirty Politics, an attempt to silence effective voices who opposed their ideas, by using criminals and thugs and a complicit media to try to run people out of jobs, get them arrested when they were the ones actually committing crimes and to silence voices they opposed.

It is the same people who are now rushing to defend Eleanor Catton and claiming freedom of speech for her but not for those who think she is a greedy, grasping, wrong headed liberal elite bludger.

If she is entitled to freedom of speech then so are her detractors. I certainly don’t want her to stop speaking, to stop expressing her opinion, but she needs to realise that when you present an opinion you are going to get push back.

I she can’t take the push back then best she actually does just shut up. Freedom of speech cuts both ways.

Unfortunately our media are complicit in all of this, just witness the cowardice of the NZ Herald who claimed solidarity with Charlie Hebdo but then censored their work afraid of upsetting some Muslims.

The answer to strident opinions is not silencing them, it is more speech.

Holocaust deniers are despicable people, but I still think they should be able to say what they like. I don’t want their books banned, I want people to know their foolishness and they should be mocked mercilessly. Silencing them makes them martyrs.

If you have to demand the silence of your opposition then you have lost the argument. The pity is supposedly intelligent people like Giovanni Tiso simply can’t understand this.


– New Yorker Magazine