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Principled advocacy for free speech

In response to this article by Glenn Greenwald,

The Ongoing Death of Free Speech: Prominent ACLU Lawyer Cheers Suppression of a New Book

Free speech has always been more than a Constitutional guarantee: it’s also a crucial societal value. And it’s more imperiled than ever.

Free speech! Too many are far too willing to give up others’ for the sake of having ideas they do not be disappeared, this as though keeping the ideas hidden causes them to go away.

I remember not too long ago, Steve Bannon calling for decapitation of those whose ideas he strongly dislikes, and Bannon being banned from certain social media channels for saying this. Horribly ugly speech, wretched ideas that, if they influenced even one person to act would be tragic. However, as I wrote on FB, censoring even the likes of a twisted minded person such as Bannon puts free speech on the slippery slope toward abandonment.  The problem is and will always be about who it is that gets to determine what kind of speech is censored.  Once a censor’s judgement is allowed to determine who can speak and what can be said, speech is no longer free.

Free speech is a very dangerous principle and, as the ACLU has shown by its past treatment of free speech, advocating for it in a truly principled manner inevitably leads to accusations of support for the ideas when the advocacy is for the right to express them.  Yes, speech does, often, lead to action but actions that are precipitated by speech are actions and not speech.  It is the actions that, for a principled free speech advocate, that need to be prevented or punished.

So, for those who want to suffer a bit of the intellectual agony that goes with principled advocacy for free speech, here is Glen Greenwald speaking of a new tendency within the ACLU that troubles him greatly, he being a principled advocate for free speech.  Interestingly, he, like myself, came to respect ACLU as a premiere institution for the unflinching advocacy of free speech.  The Skokie case taught me early in the formative days of my adult thinking what thinking as a principled—as opposed to impulsive—thinker was and how being principled quite often placed oneself at war within, immediate good sometimes canceled out by the long range consequences for settling for what is appealing rather than suffering for what is right by principle.

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