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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Robert Anton Wilson on freedom of speech

[Certain recent political events and actions associated with them have revived debate about freedom of speech on social media, so I thought I would let Robert Anton Wilson weigh in.

This is from a letter published in issue No. 10 Robert Shea's zine, "No Governor." The full letter is here.  Wilson is responding to a defense of environmental radicals by Neal Wilgus in issues No. 9 and 10. All of the  issues of "No Governor" are available as PDFs here.  I obtained them from the University of Michigan in the earlier days of the blog— The Management.] 

I think Neal Wilgus has his head up his ass. With all his ifs and ands and buts and subordinate clauses and modifications, he still seems to be endorsing the idea that any "moralist" that thinks X's way of life is "immoral" has the right to come in and trash anything X owns, and I find that bloody damned terrifying. It only seems remotely akin to sanity if  you substitute some person or group you violently dislike for "X,"but put your own name in the place of the "X's " and read it again. See what you think then. If it doesn't work with "the NAACP" or "Bob Shea" or "the Credit Unions" in place of X, it seems a very dangerous idea, even if "Mobil Oil" or "the American Nazi Party" in place of X does not upset you immediately.

Civil liberties remain indivisible, and what can be done to Catholics or Mobil Oil today can be done to Protestants or nudists tomorrow. ("If they can take Hancock's wharf they can take your cow or my barn," as John Adams once said.) Since the majority always rejects the Bill of Rights whenever a sociologist tries the experiment by offering it for approval by a cross-section of the population, and since George Bush earned great enthusiasm for his attacks on the ACLU, I don't suppose Wilgus or most people will understand this point, but we libertarians  have to keep saying it over and over, every generation, and hope it will eventually register.

Maybe Wilgus thinks he knows who "is" "really" "immoral" and who isn't, and only supports vigilante action against the "really" "immoral"? I would congratulate him on having attained Papal Infallibility, except that I suspect he has only obtained the delusion of Papal Infallibility.


fuzzbuddy said...

That issue is from 1982 it looks like, so this is after Wilson wrote the introduction to "The Illuminoids" by Neal Wilgus then?

Rarebit Fiend said...

I've personally never felt RAW would be a comfortable fit in today's world of identity politics on the left and sheer lunacy on the right. I'm confident his writings will never catch on with the current social media generation since he is far too critical of groupthink and condemnation.

Monocolour said...

"Civil liberties remain indivisible, and what can be done to Catholics or Mobil Oil today can be done to Protestants or nudists tomorrow."

This is a wonderful point by RAW, and well worth remembering.

I think advocating the position of liberty and personal freedom is absolutely vital in these second circuit dominated, shit slinging times.