final thoughts, for now, on free speech


Here, here, and here are some of the instances i have expressed myself on the question of free speech. I should make it clear in case I had not done so that in talking of freedom of speech, I mean the government shall not hinder the free expression of thought. I would extend this to include institutions of learning. I have read of several claims of students in universities in America demanding safe spaces and universities responding by prohibiting some forms of speech. I am of the opinion this shouldn’t be the case. What we end up with eventually is either the Rushdie affair of the Polish affair, both unfortunate.

In the third link above, I expressed my disagreement with the hate speech act that created the national cohesion commission as both a waste of funds and a means to stifle disagreement or dissent.

In the last post, I agreed with Pink that the humanitarian (term borrowed from J Rauch) challenge to free speech is quite a hard challenge but insist that in the face of reprehensible, offensive speech, more speech is what is required not restrictions.

You or me have no right not to be offended or give offense. Anyone who makes his business to create offense by saying reprehensible things should be ignored.

In the same context, all those attempts by different states in the Uneducated States of America to legislate teaching of creationism in schools should not even be taken seriously. No body has asked their parliament to legislate teaching of algebra, so what is this nonsense about creationism that should be given so much airtime?

This short video represent my final thoughts on the matter and I am open to criticism

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

70 thoughts on “final thoughts, for now, on free speech

  1. How does this policy affect medicine (like vaccines) or teaching at schools? Should creationism be given the same weight at certain schools based on the freedom of speech doctrine? How about fake cures and vaccine scepticism? Personally, I think freedom of speech alone is a worthless concept unless tempered by verifiability. Without some sort of accountability being required all order and progress made by civilization is drowned out by noise.

    Liked by 3 people

    • makagutu says:

      Good question. And this gets to the bottom of the issue. Verifiability. And this is done socially. One makes a claim and it is verified by others. Creationism has failed in this respect. It’s proponents should be ignored.

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      • Not according to them. Are you trying to undermine their free speech? Their god tells them the world was made in 7 days by a snake who had sex with a woman who lived on an ark with animals who then gave birth to Jesus. Freedom of speech.

        Liked by 1 person

        • makagutu says:

          Let them shout it everywhere they want to, but not in a classroom. Unless they can subject it to verification, peer review by the community as happens to other ideas.
          No one has stopped Hambo from making money off his Ark convincing Americans that the Ark really set sail.

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          • But how does verifiability come in to it? Through the law? There has to be a formal mechanism, otherwise schools and medicine and social well being are at stake

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            • makagutu says:

              Not through the law. The theory of relativity was not verified through law. It is different people testing the claims and coming to the same conclusion that leads to verification.

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              • The theory of relativity didn’t have people’s lives depending on it. Are people allowed to sell fake cancer cures? And teach that fake cancer cures work at schools – without consequence?

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                • makagutu says:

                  Selling fake cancer cures is fraud and there are laws to deal with that. But there is no stopping anyone from saying they have discovered a cancer cure. Last week I read a post about a lady claiming she has discovered a secret medicine for weight loss. She can shout all she wants about it, but for her to gain respectability for this position, it must be tested. The community must verify it.

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                  • So you mean fraud statutes limit speech? Otherwise the seller of the fake cure can continue selling his fakes, right?

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                    • makagutu says:

                      Fraud statutes limit obtaining money through false pretence- in this case selling fake cure. That is not speech.

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                    • Interesting. How does that work in practice? Can fraudulent cures still be promoted? Can they be promoted at universities? Can they be promoted by doctors? How about hydroxychloroquine for covid?

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                    • makagutu says:

                      A medical school that promotes fraudulent cures has lost its standing. I like the case of hydroxychloroquine for covid because while no one was prosecuted for saying such nonsense, all reasonable people didn’t take it seriously as we should do to all crackpot ideas.

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                    • It would be great if that were true, except many people died because of hydroxychloroquine. For a good period, no one lost their standing and in reality the “cure” is still promoted in many circles today. Well, not in France where doctors who promoted it are having to justify their decisions to the medical board – but in Brazil it’s another story.
                      I think where people make a huge mistake in these discussions is in trying to isolate a concept from a system. Freedom of speech exists as part of a system for a civilised society. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum or as an absolute. Every right has to be tempered by the rights that precede and follow it. In a very basic sense, no right I have should interfere with the right of another citizen to, for example, be alive.

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                  • basenjibrian says:

                    I am confused about this “community”. What is “the community”? In the United States at least there are multiple communities talking past each other, drowning each other out. And too often, the “community” whose voice is heard and who dominates this decision making process is the community with wealth…or political power.

                    Sorry, Maka. Some of your arguments here rely a bit too much on faith in a Deus Ex Machina “the community”. Just like people who say we should “abolish the police” and let “the community” impose law and order. They ignore a reality that we already do that in under-policed areas with weak states: it’s called “drug gang wars”.

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                    • makagutu says:

                      The community, here, really is no one particular. There are peer reviewers in many fields and these are the discrete communities I refer to. Not a special group. Knowledge is public.

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    • makagutu says:

      And I can add that the same is true of Mary Baker Eddy of First Church, Scientist claim that prayer heals. It has been shown it doesn’t work and only crackpots believe that nonsense.

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      • basenjibrian says:

        And yet..there are still faith healing churches of various stripes. “It has been shown” doesn’t seem to work. Should there be consequences or a parent who kills…through religion-besotted neglect…their kid?

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        • makagutu says:

          Of course, parents have been taken to court for neglect and I am aware some of them have argued they gave the best care they could have to their charges but I don’t think this has persuaded any court

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  2. renudepride says:

    As an educator, I always thought it our responsibility to teach others all the views on a certain subject or topic. 🙂 Naked hugs!

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  3. Nan says:

    I agree and disagree with this fellow. Total censorship is not a good thing. But neither is free-for-all speech. IMO, saying whatever comes to mind without concern or responsibility of its effect on others is not necessarily the intended use of “free speech.”

    There are ways to express oneself –even when its pernicious– without creating backlash and repercussions. Yet in today’s world, it tends to be a free-for-all with no restraints … and the offended be damned.

    Liked by 1 person

    • basenjibrian says:

      Offense is often THE POINT. See the Trump cultists. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      Some speech will always offend someone. Many of the people we interact with on the blogosphere write things that I guess many believers find offensive. Should it be stopped because it causes offence?

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      • Nan says:

        The written language is, unfortunately, a whole ‘nother animal. And as for Christians being offended. they have thin skins anyway so it’s difficult NOT to “offend” them.

        Probably an equitable solution would be for blog owners to take more responsibility and set blog rules related to offensive comments. But then, of course, the question becomes … who determines “offensive.” *sigh*

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        • makagutu says:

          I want to give two or three examples why more debate and not censorship is what we need for moral progress.
          1. It is not through censorship that we came to the conclusion that women are just as capable as men in academic pursuits while for generations this was held as not the case. How did we change? Experience and debate. There is no law, anywhere that I know that stops anyone from holding such a belief but no one would take you seriously.
          2. Until 1970 or thereabouts, the APA in its books held that homosexuality was a sickness. It is through debate spearheaded by people like Kameny that changed this not proscription.

          3. An Egyptian imam said on national TV that an atheist he was debating was mentally ill for expressing his non belief. Only more debate can bring moral development not censorship. If we insist that anyone who says this be jailed, we will be the poorer for it. It will not eliminate the prejudice.

          Unless I am missing something, I contend more debate is the best way to deal with reprehensible speech.

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          • Nan says:

            Among intelligent and learned individuals, I would agree that debate is a viable tool. But debate for its own sake? In most cases, it generally yields little. Too many in today’s world consider their perspective the only correct one and thus, “reprehensible speech” becomes the norm.

            Liked by 1 person

            • makagutu says:

              I agree, and generally people are discerning. You don’t generally engage in debate for the sake of it. You just ignore such comments on your blog or elsewhere.

              And we should not fall into the philosopher King proposal of Plato’s Republic where only the wise are allowed to speak.

              Liked by 2 people

  4. Ark says:

    The problem of free speech when it comes to teaching creationism in schools, for example, is that children probably won’t have the critical skills needed to evaluate what’s being taught and thus are, in effect, being subject to a form of abuse and their own freedom of speech is blunted.
    But as mentioned above, verifiability is key.

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    • makagutu says:

      I think this is a problem in the US of A and Muslim majority countries where religion seems to force itself in classrooms.

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      • basenjibrian says:

        But the problem is many, if not most topics can be “controversial” S many things are not “Only the facts, ma’am” See American History. Whose history? From what perspective? What about conflicting opinions and even facts? It’s not as simple as you present, Maka.

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        • makagutu says:

          I don’t claim that it is simple. There is a lot of revisionist history flying around us. I read that some Japs think the Japanese were not aggressors in ww2 but victims. Only fact checking and a robust system of critical analysis will provide a bulwark against such. Bans. Restrictions will not.

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          • basenjibrian says:

            Those evil Chinese FORCED the innocent Japanese solider to rape and pillage in Nanking!

            Now..the United States WAS engaged in economic warfare against the Japanese before Pearl Harbor. So we in the US were not really innocent victims. But still…

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            • makagutu says:

              Revisionism everywhere.
              Orwell was right in 1984 when he said whoever controls information has power to convince that there has never been any war of aggression, only *just* wars

              Liked by 1 person

  5. shelldigger says:

    Mak I agree with your ideals. For me, teaching the the things we know as fact is all we should teach.

    Ignoring the idiots though, I fear is how we have wound up where we are at.

    We can’t just ignore them. We have to fight them tooth and nail to keep their ridiculous beliefs, in every subject, from being legislated upon the rest of us. Right now, Q has more influence in our politics than ten thousand credible scientists and the entire Encyclopedia Britannica.

    I wish we could ignore them and they would fade away into the dark, dank, fringes they emerged from. But we can’t afford to.

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    • makagutu says:

      How do you propose to fight them? Shoot any Q believer? I guess not. Just show that their ideas are crazy.

      That you have people trying to legislate teaching creationism in school is, I think, uniquely American.

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    • basenjibrian says:

      Of course, in many past eras, it was the CRAZY FANATICS who may have been right…and the consensus of the learned and wise that was wrong. Was John Brown and his band of “terrorists” right? Or the august assembled legislators and leading citizens of the Glorious South?

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  6. keithnoback says:

    Would you oppose bans on cross-burning in the US? Those statutes are aimed at creating a “safe space”. There is speech and then there is speech.

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    • makagutu says:

      Whose cross? If I make a cross, I can burn it. Burning a cross belonging to a church or someone is vandalism and should be treated as such.

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      • keithnoback says:

        The Klan’s cross. Burning it is their self-expression. What they are expressing is: You know who we are. You know who you are. You will stay in your place if you know what’s good for you.
        Though they will claim they are just representing their culture.

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        • makagutu says:

          In 2019, hundreds of these men and women appeared in North carolina with their crosses. I think banning them would do nothing to address the issue. They would simply develop a persecution complex. To ignore them seems to me the viable solution.

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          • basenjibrian says:

            That seems to be happening to some extent with the remnants of the Trump Cult. They hold rallies, and nobody shows up. Now, there are crazy ANTIFA types who also show up to protest the protest (it is fun to protest, smash, and even burn. Not sure how setting a Honda dealership on fire will change police culture, but then…)

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  7. Free Speech??????
    Does this question still have relevance in times when information is in oversupply, the disappearance of public forums and all kinds of secrecy acts imposed on the public arena? The speaker has retreated into anonymity, has become faceless, and of whatever kind persuasion can say anything, as long a suitable platform is available (Trump?). There is no accountability and no demand to deal with the consequences.
    In times where everyone is desperate to speak, we manage to drown our self’s out. We are overloaded with information, irrelevant opinions and the disappearing capacity to listen!
    Set aside the dictatorships, those developed countries that still claim to be democratic but predominantly are run by all-controlling cooperated systems.
    Critics can say what they like, acting under the illusion of having achieved freedom of expression because the system is beyond reproach and all-powerful. We are now free to criticise the puppets in government, but no one will criticise the comfort cooperate systems are suppling.

    Free speech has become a fine-tuning exercise of rhetoric, practised and left to those in the known. Technocratic terms of speech have become incomprehensive to the public, which finds its forum in the so-called free press.
    Public free speech has been reduced to a parody and is not taken seriously by those being addressed!

    Liked by 1 person

    • basenjibrian says:

      I would give this 100 likes, but our corporate overlords’ software limits my ability to do so!

      Beyond “speech” it is sickening how everything has become an exercise in finely tuned MARKETING. Everything is sold through insidious rhetoric and feel good images. People spend more time on marketing than doing.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. basenjibrian says:

    Outstanding discussion about “truth”. Marcus is an excellent, if rather gloomy, writer.

    https://freethoughtblogs.com/stderr/2021/04/27/the-lingering-reek-of-shiro-ishii/

    Like

  9. Just watched the video. O’Neill’s argument is ineffective because it’s lazy. Getting offended is unreasonable; people only censor speech out of being offended; therefore curtailing free speech is unreasonable.

    All of his examples were of people challenging false assumptions, not giving offense for offense’s sake. While his assertions of dominant leaders creating acceptable and unacceptable speech do have some merit, he doesn’t explore the implications of that. Just because someone says, “I don’t want to listen,” it does not mean that someone is getting censored. It also doesn’t mean every dismissal of an idea is warranted.

    According to his position, creationists should totally be allowed to take up student time in university. It doesn’t matter that creationism has been debated and debunked, or that creationists can’t bring anything new to the table which supports their position. The only thing that matters is that someone might be angry about creationism, so they have a duty to carry the subject onward.

    Like

    • makagutu says:

      Creationists have been allowed much rope to do their things. They are pushing their luck by asking that it be the law to teach nonsense in schools. And this the government shouldn’t do. It can’t legislate what should or not be said.

      No atheist I know of has ever demanded that government legislate non belief, that is, make it a crime to be a believer.

      Every day we make decisions not to listen to A but listen to B without asking the government to legislate. If some broken radio want to go on yapping about the benefits of apartheid, they can but I don’t have to take him or her seriously.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nan says:

        I REALLY like this remark: No atheist I know of has ever demanded that government legislate non belief, that is, make it a crime to be a believer.!

        Maybe that’s something we should think about … 😈

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      • I get that Mak, but if legislatures can’t establish a public education curriculum, what can they do to stop a public school from teaching only creationism? Is it better for students to be forced to endure lectures on bronze age myth, or to give them one lecture on why those myths aren’t factual?

        I say this as someone who would like to see creationism go the way of the other creation myths. But creationists keep getting it into schools because they claim a free speech right or a religious exercise right. They keep establishing a means by which to corner students and force them to hear out the bullshit.

        Schools should be given the ability to avoid discussing certain ideas if they are misleading or factually inaccurate. As long as the school can articulate why, it shouldn’t be an issue. It would also finally put the burden on creationists to demonstrate the validity of their claims rather than assume their own correctness.

        And are there people still going on about apartheid? I shouldn’t be surprised, though it is disappointing.

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        • makagutu says:

          There’s a religious problem in America. No one is trying to push for teaching of the theory of assisted falling in place of gravity or astrology. On Christian fundamentalists in America insist on this version of truth being the law and that is where the problem is. And more especially because some scientists support this nonsense.

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          • Actually, there are people pushing for teaching creationism in place of real science. They’re usually church-run private schools.

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            • makagutu says:

              That’s a religious problem. And parents should not take their children to such schools. If many were to do that, they would have to change tact.

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              • I agree that parents shouldn’t take their children to those schools, but sadly this isn’t happening. There is a persistence of people who are convinced creationism isn’t fraud.

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                • makagutu says:

                  This, my friend, is a national tragedy. To believe that a country like yours has an Ark museum where adults go to be told dinos and humans lived together happily 6k years ago is a real tragedy. No amount of legislation can cure this madness.

                  Liked by 1 person

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