Censorship

The Battle of Ideas Turns Coercive

Too many people (and governments) want to shut down and punish speech they disagree with.

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censorship
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A couple of months ago, Marriott fired Roy Jones, a 49-year-old social-media manager. His offense? He liked a tweet praising Marriott for listing Tibet as a country, rather than as a part of China. The Chinese government objected, and soon Jones was gone. (Marriott said its own listing of Tibet as a country was a mistake, but its mistake was not enough to save Jones' job. Neither was the fact that Twitter is banned in China, so most citizens can't access it.)

China's government is notoriously touchy; it doesn't like Winnie the Pooh, whom it thinks looks too much like Chinese President Xi Jinping. It also is hyper-vigilant about those things it finds offensive. In a column for The Washington Post, Josh Rogin quotes Katrina Lantos Swett, head of a human-rights group, who says "China is not content with censoring and controlling its own citizens. It is using the immense power of its financial resources in every country in the world."

That includes the U.S., where major corporations such as Apple are cooperating with Chinese censors to control what Chinese citizens can see.

This is totalitarianism: not merely an effort to maintain authority over a populace, but to wield total control over everything even remotely related to China, and to stamp out anything that presents even a minor threat to official doctrine.

There's a lot of that going around these days. Witness, for instance, the pressure campaign against companies that advertise during Laura Ingraham's show.

Ingraham wrote a tweet mocking Parkland shooting survivor and gun-control activist David Hogg for being rejected by several colleges. This was a stupid and mean thing to do, but hardly a crime against humanity. Ingraham apologized. Nevertheless, an assortment of activists began pressuring companies that advertise on Ingraham's show to drop her. Many did; her show now carries about half the advertising it did previously.

Stipulated: Freedom of speech emphatically does not grant people freedom from consequences. Fox has stuck by Ingraham, but it would have just as much right to fire her as Marriott had to fire Jones. Moreover, advertisers have no duty to support any particular show or personality. And activists have every right in the world to share their views with advertisers.

Nevertheless, the effort to pressure Ingraham's advertisers does carry a whiff of the Chinese approach. Instead of simply denouncing Ingraham—answering speech with more speech—her critics have been trying to silence her.

The same phenomenon has been taking place on college campuses—and off them—as members of Antifa and their fellow travelers try to "no-platform" (that is, deny an opportunity to speak) anyone who commits what they consider a thoughtcrime. This effort reached an ironic nadir earlier last fall at The College of William & Mary, where a Black Lives Matter group shouted down Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, the head of the Virginia ACLU, who had shown up to talk about…free speech.

An even more worrisome example of censorship by proxy has occurred in New York, as Reason's J.D. Tuccille reported a few days ago. Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed bank regulators to scrutinize whether any business relationship the financial institutions might have with the NRA "sends the wrong message." The state's Department of Financial Services promptly warned banks and insurance companies that how they do business, and with whom, could affect their "reputational risks"—an area subject to state regulation.

In short, the governor was warning financial institutions that they could face government penalties for doing business with an organization that advocates for a civil right. This is not a happy precedent. Imagine how the Trump administration might wield it against banks that do business with, say, immigrant-rights groups.

The government can't go after the NRA or immigrant-rights groups directly. But it can try to silence them indirectly, by making it impossible for them to conduct their affairs.

At bottom, there are only a few ways to change other people's behavior: persuasion, coercion, and force. The freest societies rely chiefly on persuasion; the most tyrannical rely strictly on force. Coercion lies in the nebulous middle. Increasingly, it seems that those who find a given idea objectionable are no longer willing to fight it with persuasion alone. Which raises the question: How far down the scale toward force are they willing to go?

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  1. Which raises the question: How far down the scale toward force are they willing to go?

    The measure of a man is in how he treats those he perceives can do nothing to him or for him.

    1. “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” Matthew 25:40

      1. Sometimes a little coercion is necessary to achieve certain interests, particularly those of a reputational nature. And in this regard, the whole world should join in protesting, as vigorously as possible, the refusal of a so-called judge in New York to jail America’s leading criminal “satirist.” In China and in Russia, we would have known exactly how to handle such a matter; in the United States, they are still too preoccupied with the “free speech” baloney we keep hearing about from some of the politicians. See the documentation at:

        https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

        1. Not sure if sarc…

          Sometimes a little coercion is necessary to achieve certain interests

          Tyranny for one…

          1. Tut-tut, such rhetoric. Surely we all understand that America needs authority to persevere? The democratic ideals gave America this Trump, and while I see inappropriate criticism of some (not all) of his policies on this website, I fortunately see no real resistance. Where is Schneiderman now? If you begin by understanding that certain liberties must be limper to succeed in the world, and by handling your “free speech” criminals the way they are handled in Russia, then you can have a stronger America.

    2. My last month paycheck was for 11000 dollars… All i did was simple online work from comfort at home for 3-4 hours/day that I got from this agency I discovered over the internet and they paid me for it 95 bucks every hour…

      This is what I do…. http://www.onlinereviewtech.com

  2. The Political Left has always done its level best to stifle divergent opinion. There’s evidence that the Hollywood types who ‘named names’ to the HUAC did so because THEY had been subjected to browbeating, shunning, and so forth by the Hollywood pinkos for not slavishly going along with the Stalinist narrative. In short, the ‘backlisted’ Hollywood pinkos should get zero sympathy; they started it.

    1. Exactly this^ so much this^ The political right never does this kind of thing amirite?

      …..*Googles “Right-Wing Boycotts”….ignores evidence…..sits contentedly in his own echo-chamber, convinced that his team is the good one*

      1. No, the Political Left establishment and the Political Right establishment are Establishment before they are Left or Right. My point is that nobody should be surprised; the Left has done this kind of thing all along.

      2. There is a huge difference between boycotting (peaceful measures) versus violent measures; even among the left-right spectrum, there is a difference in behavior generally speaking. Without going into great detail, the vast amount of conservative/libertarian movements are very peaceful. There are few examples of violence in Tea-Party rallies, Ron Paul/Rand Paul rallies, NRA support rallies, Gun-rights rallies (with plenty of the demonstrators actually armed), etc.
        Contrast this with ANTIFA, Black Lives Matter, Occupy, the various college protests (i.e. UCLA, Berkley, etc.) and the list continues – some were peaceful, most were violent or best case disgusting (i.e. Occupy demonstrators pissing/pooping everywhere; littering; etc.) People were beaten for simply wearing the “wrong” T-shirts or caps. Professors engaged in this behavior too.
        Now the most recent examples where authoritarian lefties (students and teachers) are keeping conservative/libertarian speakers from the stage…this stems from the authoritarian left, not right.

        You’re comparing apples to orange paint tainted with lead. Everyone has a right to speak and demonstrate, no matter how brainless their ideas are, but there is organized opposition to even this basic principle, and the vast amount of guilt does not lay on the right.

        1. Exactly, great comment.

    2. “There’s evidence that the Hollywood types ”

      Does anyone smell joopoo?

  3. Cuomo intimidating financial institutions by threatening to use a regulatory power in a novel way shows thel danger of not being absolutist on free speech. Who argued when it was passed that regulations on “reputationsk risks” would be used to ostracize a citizen’s group who is on the outs with the governor’s ideology? I expect that a significant part of its supporters would have backed off.

    Political hacks like Cuomo need to be rebuffed when they come up with these novel ideas.

    1. Cuomo wss probably getting legal advice from his brother. That guy is brilliant.

    2. “Cuomo intimidating financial institutions by threatening to use a regulatory power in a novel way shows thel danger of not being absolutist on free speech.”

      I hope someone brings a case against him and it goes all the way to the high court. Cuomo could not have designed a more clear-cut example of government suspending the first amendment.

    3. Who argued when it was passed that regulations on “reputationsk risks” would be used to ostracize a citizen’s group who is on the outs with the governor’s ideology? I expect that a significant part of its supporters would have backed off started taking notes.

      FTFY.

  4. “And stop saying “Jina’!”

    1. Daaaaayumn, Gina!

  5. Video streaming service, Drama Fever, has started listing Taiwanese movies and dramas as Chinese.

    1. I should have looked further. They’re still listing Taiwanese titles. Perhaps Taiwanese drama I’m currently watching was listed as Chinese by mistake.

      1. Taiwanese titties is what most everyone will read there.

        1. Titties or not, Taiwanese and other Asian actresses can be excruciatingly attractive. And there’s the Flower Boys if that’s your thing.

          1. There are things one can do to treat such excruciation.

  6. This is totalitarianism:

    In the west, we now call this enlightened policy.

    1. Enlightenment! Whatever would we do without it?

  7. Why Persuade When You Can Punish?

    It’s really the only way, when you believe in changing systems instead of changing hearts.

    1. Never compromise with evil.

      1. So, no pineapples on your deep dish pizza?

        1. Pineapples on deep dish are fine, just don’t stoop to call it pizza.

      2. And obviously no IPAs in your build-your-own six-pack.

        1. It would have taken forever to list out everything evil.

        2. Yeah? My build-your-own six-pack would be half IPAs and half stouts.

          1. Stouts are objectively pretty good. IPAs are objectively terrible.

          2. Make mine 6 double IPAs.

    2. Force avails when reason fails (no pun intended)

  8. A couple of months ago, Marriott fired Roy Jones, a 49-year-old social-media manager. His offense? He liked a tweet praising Marriott for listing Tibet as a country, rather than as a part of China. The Chinese government objected, and soon Jones was gone.

    *Sigh* This is what happens when Tibetans don’t hijack airplanes.

    1. Word to your Lama.

      1. I waited for days outside the temple to speak to my Lama to give him the word, but was told he hadn’t arrived yeti.

        1. You know who else had to wait a long time outside a temple?

          1. Bearers of toys that helped destroy the elder race of man?

  9. “Why Persuade When You Can Punish?”

    The answer is simple: using force to spread your ideas is an admission that your ideas essentially suck.

    If an idea is excellent, no punishment or threats of punishment are needed to keep it going.

    1. How do you explain the Macarena and the Wave then?

  10. Coercion lies in the nebulous middle. Increasingly, it seems that those who find a given idea objectionable are no longer willing to fight it with persuasion alone.

    There is a logic to arguments like this. It’s a capital investment in the relationship so that future debates end quickly with a look.

  11. What makes conservatives impervious to self-awareness?

    They whine and moan about perceived offenses to expressive freedom at strong liberal-libertarian schools, and at certain companies, yet not only do not object to the most strident censors in our society but indeed operate hundreds of censorship-shackled, viewpoint-discriminatory institutions. From schools that codify suppression of academic freedom and churches that banish infidels to organizations that ruthlessly enforce right-wing orthodoxy, just about anything conservatives control becomes a stifling pile of viewpoint discrimination, loyalty oaths, conduct codes, speech codes, hiring cartels, and thought police.

    The last thing our liberal-libertarian mainstream should be in the market for is right-wing tips on free expression.

    1. Sometimes I wonder, but these days I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a real person who actually believes this.

    2. So we inherited this asshole when Volokh moved here? Great

      1. We could retaliate, you know. But that would mean clicking on tbose weird article in the lower right section of the site where the ads should be.

    3. You’re attacking He wrong team here man. If you want them to agree with your nutty, half-baked drivel, you have to attack the left.

    4. What makes you think that you know what you are talking about?

  12. it doesn’t like Winnie the Pooh, whom it thinks looks too much like Chinese President Xi Jinping

    At first I thought that had to be a joke. Nope. Apparently they have something against the letter N as well.

    1. I think he looks more like Piglet, personally.

    2. And Trump is orange and bounces all over the place in his stances on things, so he’s obviously Tigger.

      So which leader is like Eeyore?

      1. Shinzo Abe?

      2. We once had Edmund Muskie, but he’s gone and nobody’s stepped up

  13. Who knew that “Free Trade” with authoritarian regimes might have downsides?

    But what does the loss of a little free speech matter? I saved 10 cents on a toaster today!

  14. Not enough people do.

    The Right fails to fight back in kind, and use Leftist censorship laws and regulations against the Left.

    One way ceasefire is surrender
    One way rule of law is subjection
    One way civility is subservience

    #FightBack

  15. A big FUCK YOU to all communists.

    FUCK YOU ASSHOLES!!!!!!!!

  16. That includes the U.S., where major corporations such as Apple are cooperating with Chinese censors to control what Chinese citizens can see.

    It also includes Reason, who think that there is no possible reason ever anybody might want to impose trade sanctions against an oppressive, totalitarian, communist regime. No. Reason. Ever.

  17. That includes the U.S., where major corporations such as Apple are cooperating with Chinese censors to control what Chinese citizens can see.

    It also includes Reason, who think that there is no possible reason ever anybody might want to impose trade sanctions against an oppressive, totalitarian, communist regime. No. Reason. Ever.

  18. I’m reminded of a story I heard so long ago that I’ve forgotten who the characters were.

    Person A, a columnist in a national magazine (maybe the New Yorker), felt insulted by something that a neighbor said. So he wrote a column denouncing the neighbor, using his best invective.

    The column came back with one sentence at the top: He doesn’t have a column.

    The moral is: it is (or should be) okay for the lesser to attack the greater about things you think they are doing wrong, even if what you are doing is “suppressing speech” by encouraging a boycott. It is not okay for the greater to attack the lesser: that is bullying.

    If the Chairman of China, or the President of the US, or the Governor or Attorney General of New York, uses his power to get somebody fired, or to “persuade” Apple to suppress speech he doesn’t like, that is not okay. In the US, in particular, it is a violation of the First Amendment when a government official does it.

    In my view, it is a violation of their oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States,” which is mandatory for Federal officials and also included in the Constitution of many states.

  19. This is a lazy piece. There has been censorship for centuries. We’ve had red scares, McCarthyism, etc. And until the late 20th century the censorship was very blatant. Try advocating for civil rights in Mississippi in the 1920s for example. Oh, you wouldn’t be that stupid because you would have been shot. We see censorship all around because we are more free.

    And spare me the whining about people advocating that advertisers not care about the political views of the shows they advertise for. Seriously, this piece is advocating that we blindly advertise for whomever regardless of their views. That is morally irresponsible. It is the ultimate expression of freedom. I would thing capitalist loving publications like Reason would understand this. And why not point out the governor in Georgia who penalizes companies for not partnering with the NRA? Why not include the fact that much speech is bought. That may cut too close to Reason because the Koch brothers are one of their benefactors.

  20. Threatening your livelihood is exactly the same as threatening your life. If you threaten my life I have a right to respond with deadly force. If someone threatens your job like this the right response is to kill them.

  21. I swear that there will be blood in the streets (and maybe another civil war) if the Far Left does not stop their campaigns against the Constitutional rights of citizens with whom they disagree (primarily conservatives) or who don’t ascribe to their totalitarian ideology (again primary conservatives and Christians).

    There has also been a dramatic and frightening rise in anti-Semitism also emanating from college campuses across the country promulgated by Muslim Brotherhood front groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Muslim Student Association (MSA) and ISNA (Islamic Society of North America).

    College administrators who are a party to this blatant racism allow it to continue citing the “free speech rights” of faculty and students. Part of the reason why may be because Jewish groups don’t stage violent protests or try to shout down Leftist and Muslim speakers when they start spewing anti-Jewish hate speech. Normally, stooping down to the level of your adversary is not a good thing to do. However, maybe it’s time to fight fire with fire. The only thing these scumbags understand is force.

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