Mar 8·edited Mar 8

"humans have long shown a robust ability to distrust most all purported info sources. They will surely continue to do so"

Nah. People mostly believe what they are convinced high status members of their tribe believe, without thinking critically about it. This is why we have religions, truthers, birthers, qanoners, 2020 election deniers, and believers in many other unfounded conspiracies. "Distrust" and "critical thinking" usually extend only to claims made by outgroup members.

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A beautiful post with a beautiful sentiment, but it's a bit like standing in the center of Kherson while bullets are flying both ways around you and holding up a sign "Violence is morally wrong".

I think free speech and democratic representation are already dead, alongside basic rights like bodily autonomy. The damage is irreperable. They were useful coordination tools in theory, but in practice, getting people to adhere to them was just another commons problem we failed to coordinate against. You can't even use broad-spectrum conformity pressure to solve this, because free speech is a form of anti-conformity.

Four years ago, I would have expected a controversial political party like PNVD to be defeated, but I expected they would be defeated though threats of violence (without carry-through), negative or absent media coverage, cancelling on social media, and perhaps difficulty of activists to find a job or an apartment. And of course voters voting against them. They were indeed defeated, but the methods used were much more criminal than I expected. All of the above happened, but in addition: Repeated physical attacks, including attempted murder (for which the attackers never saw prison sentences), prison sentences for the political activists themselves, explicitly to punish their opinions, false evidence created by fraudulent NGOs (e.g. Tim Ballard) and dirty cops to accuse the activists of crimes they never actually committed, leading to additional prison sentences, freezing of bank accounts of anyone showing financial solidary with the activists.

Scott Alexander has this Machiavellian idea that you can fuck some minorities over if you don't do it too often and they are unpopular enough. Basically slide down 20% of the slippery slope, catch your footing and pretend you're the kind of people who would never slide on a slippery slope. And then maybe you're at a sweet spot where you like the view better. I think he might be right, but it's not a reliable process. I think there's a high expectation that the woke left and the auth right will continue to ban each others representation rights, and neither side can expect meaningful solidarity from anyone when it happens.

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I agree that free expression is important, but usually find purely procedural arguments unpersuasive, because I feel that the problem is usually substantive.

That is, there is some speech that should is justly regulated: Verbal harassment so extreme that being exposed to it makes a space unusable for many people. Or active seditious incitement or unambiguous libel, or whatever. My argument isn't for complete absolutists, but I think it's common to make basic carveouts; my personal attitude towards speech issues I think would be characterized as rather libertarian.

When progressives are exercised about "violent" speech, I think that they are incorrectly putting speech which (I think) should be recognized as acceptable into the bin of of permissibly-regulated speech. That is, they would be making a legitimate procedural move IF they were substantively correct that the speech was violent or dangerous, but they are not because it is not. This is a harder case to make, both because it is necessarily particular and so is hard to make in general, and because it's uncomfortable and impolite to tell emotional people that they are overreacting or being irrational. Hanania says that this is about women, but it's true in general and as much about our particularly sensitive culture and popular psychology.

I think people generally implicitly recognize this; defenders of controversial statements or victims of public shaming generally don't stop their argument with the simple "this is permissible speech, and so should be devoid of consequences." Instead, they make context-specific arguments about why the speech wasn't, in fact, bad (which are usually right, but often don't go far enough, again because I think there's a kind of shame to saying something like "it must be an unwavering expectation of an adult professional that they maturely tolerate intense, unfair criticism."). Similarly, although some progressives (mostly young ones) will sometimes affirmatively say they don't support free speech, I think they are often taking a reflexively aggressive posture, and what they want is "generally free speech, with starker restrictions on XYZ," which would result in the same state of affairs as weakening substantive burden for harm, but put into procedural language... because those are the preexisting terms of the debate.

The basic liberal argument (that I agree with) is just that substantive evaluations of the legitimacy of speech are likely to be slanted in favor of the evaluators, and so a strong procedural norm must counterbalance that. But that strong procedural norm, in practice, is just "make sure that the speech is in fact really, really bad"* before it waives its right (for the harm standard). So I think arguments can't just be made that defend goodness of the right; arguments must be about what the right includes and excludes, which decays into an argument about how harmful some speech is.

* = I am not convinced that we couldn't have an Objective List-type rigorous breakdown of what makes speech permissible or im-... I imagine a kind of weedy, involved applied ethics paper or chart, but such a list would itself be subject to debate. Moreover, I think the best list would be rather inelegant: The difference-makers, when made explicit, would seem unsatisfying and arbitrary. Anyway, I don't know anyone who's attempted it, and it goes without saying that no government would take it up.

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There are many people on both the left and the right whose opinions I find stupid, absurd, and/or disgusting. But I've always considered their freedom of speech as the price that I have to pay for my own. And I'm happy to pay it.

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"Democracy tends to be better"

Well yes - the financial, military, and political top dog is the US, and they favor democracies.

China seems to have improved much more quickly over the last thirty years than democracies.

Is your claim that democracies need freedom of speech to function well, they need freedom of speech to remain technically democracies, or that without freedom of speech, the spirit of democracy is weakened?

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Certain types of free speech are important for democracy such as the right to criticize government. One reason we've seen a decline in democracy lately is due to the rise of misinformation and that type of speech is harmful to democracy, so we need more censorship/regulation there as many democratic govts are doing, while at the same time protecting speech critical of govt.

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Robin, isn’t free speech to some extent necessary in any nonstatic society? I mean that insofar as a society’s collective process of conjecture and refutation is one of our fundamental generators of knowledge, and that collective conversation can’t happen without free speech, democracy or not. No?

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If the government owns and runs the schools how can it not "regulate" them? Or is this only about private schools?

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Some market regulations are (nominally, at least) for the health of the market, like monopoly regulation. Can regulations contribute to market competitiveness? Are there analogous speech regulations?

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