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Saturday, July 30, 2022

RAW and Scott Alexander on freedom of speech and tolerance

Photo by Bill Fairs on Unsplash

I recently read a passage from Scott Alexander (formerly the Slate Star Codex writer, now writing a Substack called Astral Codex Ten) that reminded me of something Robert Anton Wilson had written. I'll quote the RAW passage, then the Alexander.

Here is RAW on how freedom of speech  for people you like also has to be freedom of speech for people you despise (source and more background):

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.

And here is Scott Alexander, from his July links edition of his newsletter. (His links collections are invariably interesting.)

33: I used to hope that freedom and tolerance would win in the end because everyone would realize that they were weird and unpopular in some way, and so tolerating weird unpopular people was in everybody’s common interest (cf. “They came for the Communists, but I did not complain…). Since then the world has taken every opportunity to disabuse me of the notion that this could ever possibly work, but I guess it’s still possible to disappoint me. The latest example is /r/forcedbreeding, a fetish subreddit fetish about men enslaving, raping, and forceably impregnating women, which shut down recently to protest Reddit for not censoring pro-Russian subreddits enough. Apparently they’re back up now, but their top stickied post is still a demand that Reddit ban anti-COVID-vaccine subreddits. Another metaphor for life?

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