The face of creeping totalitarianism
Someone named Tanya Cohen penned a paragraph that, if you understand the difference between a right and a privilege, will make you cringe in horror:
One of the most admirable things about Europe is that most (if not all) of the right-wing rhetoric that you hear in the US is explicitly against the law there. For example, attempting to link Islam with terrorism, saying that gay marriage isn’t really marriage, or saying that trans women aren’t really women would get you charged with discrimination and/or incitement to hatred. Numerous European public figures have been charged with hate crimes for implying that large-scale immigration is connected to higher crime. In fact, a politician in Sweden was prosecuted for hate crimes for posting statistics about immigrant crime on Facebook. Assaults on the human dignity of Muslims are simply not tolerated in Europe, and Europe cracks down hard on any attempts to incite hatred against Muslims. In a notable example, a woman in Austria was convicted of a hate crime for suggesting that the Islamic Prophet Muhammed was a pedophile. Recently, a man in Sweden was charged with incitement to ethnic hatred for wearing a T-shirt saying “Islam is the devil.” Nobody in Europe believes that these laws interfere with their sacred, guaranteed right to freedom of speech. Rather, these laws protect freedom of speech by ensuring that it is used responsibly and for the purposes of good.
There are so many awful things about this paragraph it is hard to know where to start. First, however, a right is something you have to ask no one’s permission to exercise. It would be fairly synonymous with “freedom”. So when you say “freedom of speech” it is something you exercise without permission.
A privilege, however, is something which is granted by some authority which defines what is or isn’t acceptable. It is something which can be withdrawn, basically by whim. What she lauds Europe for is “privilege of speech”, and she just happens to agree the speech they’re punishing is “hateful”. You have to wonder if she’d feel the same way if her opinions were labeled as hate speech (and frankly, to any freedom loving person, it is hate speech).
That’s the other thing about what she notes here – every one of her cites involves someone’s opinion. What she celebrates isn’t freedom but conformity of opinion decided by some authority. Her. And she’s fine with using the coercive power of the state to punish opinion which she and those in authority decide constitutes “hate”. Remember Hayek’s definition of freedom? “Freedom is the absence of coercion.”
“Freedom of speech” as a right means that while we may “abhor what someone says”, we will “defend unto death their right to say it”. Her interpretation of “freedom of speech” is we may “abhor what someone says” and we reserve the right to “punish them for it” if it conflicts with “proper thought” on the subject. How screwed up is that?
I can’t imagine a more dangerous idea than what this woman is presenting. It is the germ seed of totalitarianism. It is what has infested our institutions of higher learning thanks to leftist infiltration. These aren’t “progressive” ideas she’s presenting. They are as old as slavery. They are as old as dictatorship. Cohen then goes on to attempt the redefinition of “repressive”:
Consider the case of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson. In a civilized country with basic human rights, Phil Robertson would have been taken before a government Human Rights Tribunal or Human Rights Commission and given a fine or prison sentence for the hateful and bigoted comments that he made about LGBT people. In the US, however, he was given no legal punishment, even though his comments easily had the potential to incite acts of violence against LGBT people, who already face widespread violence in the deeply homophobic American society – and his comments probably DID incite acts of violence against LGBT people.
Most countries have freedom of speech, but only in the US is “freedom of speech” so restrictive and repressive. Not only is the US the only country without any laws against hateful or offensive speech, but it’s also the only country where the government cannot ban any movies, books, or video games, no matter how dangerous, demeaning to human dignity, or harmful to society they may be.
So, says Cohen, “civilized” countries have restrictive speech codes that define what is or isn’t acceptable speech and jail those who violate them. A country in which you have the right to state your opinion without censure or fear of punishment is “restrictive and repressive”. Black is white, up is down.
Apparently what she doesn’t understand about our “freedom of speech” is it is specifically identified as a ban against government doing precisely what she wants. It bans government from abridging free speech. It protects everyone from government interference and oppression. She calls specifically for government to be the instrument of punishment of speech she doesn’t like. Given her freedom hating rhetoric, we can then assume that “civilized” can be interpreted to mean “totalitarian.”
She then makes an absolutely incorrect assertion:
In Europe and Australia and the rest of the civilized world, the ultra-libertarian, free speech absolutist position is that not all offensive speech should be illegal, but that incitement to hatred should always be illegal.
No, Ms. Cohen, that is absolutely incorrect. Wrong. No.
Libertarians agree that incitement to violence isn’t a part of your right to free speech. Because, you see, libertarians believe you are free to exercise your rights as long as they don’t violate the rights of others. It is that difference that separates the free from you. Incitement to violence against another is indeed a violation of the right to free speech. Other than that, a person gets to say what they want – it is the price of freedom, a price you are unwilling to pay. Your path is the road to serfdom. Stating your own beliefs without the fear of censure or punishment, as long as you don’t try to incite violence by doing so, even though others vehemently disagree with you, is freedom of speech. There are plenty of ways for society to punish what it considers to be hate speech – just ask Westboro Baptist Church. That’s how a free country takes out its trash.
Before moving to the US to work with human rights organizations here, I grew up in Australia, which is a much more civilized and progressive country than the comparatively backwards United States, with a much deeper respect for basic human rights.
Condescending and wrong.
Qantas is ready when your are, Ms. Cohen.