Freedom of speech and academic freedom in the midst of government of fools

This article points to a problem of democracy that is made highly relevant by the current state of the American democracy and the discourse it spawns, it a problematic discourse in regard to its effectiveness at discovering truth or degrees of truth.  The issue of control of speech and control of ideas is not a left/right, liberal/conservative issue because for both sides and everywhere in-between there are those who want to limit speech and argue to do so in reference to freedom; freedom of speech must be limited so none are afraid to speak for fear that they may be attacked for what they say, this interpreted too often to mean hurt by what is said, this translated so that it actually means things cannot be said by which some  particular somebodies disagree and disagree with enough that negative emotions are aroused.

The article describes how the push against hurtful speech has come to be used to repress what some find to be disagreeable speech, the publication of ideas with which they disagree.  Hurt of some meaningful kind may result from the expression of certain ideas but the fact that some are hurt does not necessarily signify that the ideas are bad ideas.  In the case of the kind of speech that is the that of the Boycott Israel movement, the true motive for the speech is to help people, certain people.  That help, for the Palestinians, because of the circumstances in place, will affect others, non-Palestinians, the residents of Israel, most of whom are Jewish.  Right and wrong here are no so easy to determine, who should be supported and who should allowed to be harmed basic to the debate that is central to the issues of speech and academic freedom considered in the article.

Interestingly, the pursuit of truth and even its discovery can and, in this case, will cause hurt for some and so open and free discussion of the topics related will cause some to feel that the mere existence of such debate is hurtful, that things would be better if only the ideas that serve side be allowed expression.  The element of hurt, potential and real, is now used as an argument against argument and here it is the government that, at the behest of those hurt, who believe they will be hurt and those who do not want to allow for hurt, to determine which arguments can be presented.

The push to abolish what is thought to be hateful speech, hurtful speech, often by those who would argue strenuously for protection of speech, has created opportunity for those who are not necessarily much concerned with freedom of speech to use the argument of freedom of speech to curtail speech.  If “hurt” is a factor, can be used as a factor in determining the limits of speech, then, in cases such as that discussed in the story, the communication of ideas supporting the cause of the Palestinians, no matter how true and valid they may be, because they “do harm” to Israelis and, therefore, Jews, can be banned, antisemitism a powerful argument against criticism of Jewish people, even if their ideas and behavior do harm to others, in this case, Palestinians.

What a mess to untangle!  Here is the article:


By lafered

Retired professor of education concerned with thoughtfulness

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