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No free speech, for the children

You know the most annoying thing in poorly executed pro-freedom novels? It’s how the villains often overtly state their hostility to freedom and their intention to strip rights away from the populace in favor of government control. Real villains are more subtle than that. They couch their incursions into liberty in soft language, justifying it as– What’s that? You say …

Oh. Never mind. The bar has apparently been moved. Carry on.

This, from a New York State Senate Independent Democratic Conference report on “cyberbullying” (crazy person caps in the original), Cyberbullying: A Report on Bullying in a Digital Age (PDF):

THE CHALLENGE LIES IN PROTECTING TEENAGERS FROM CYBERBULLYING WITHOUT TRAMPLING ON THE FREE SPEECH PROTECTIONS AFFORDED BY THE FIRST AMENDMENT. THIS PROPOSED LEGISLATION ACCOMPLISHES THAT IN THE FOLLOWING WAY:

PROPONENTS OF FREE SPEECH HAVE LONG ARGUED THAT A SOCIETY THAT PUTS PEOPLE ON TRIAL FOR THINGS THEY HAVE WRITTEN OR SAID IS NO LONGER A TRULY DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY. THE POWER OF THE WORD HAS BEEN UNDISPUTABLE; IT HAS BEEN ESSENTIAL TO PRESERVING DEMOCRACY AND, IN FACT, ITS FOUNDING PREMISE WAS TO PRESERVE THE EXCHANGE OF IDEAS: A “MARKET PLACE” WHERE CITIZENS COULD SORT THROUGH BELIEFS AND IDEAS WHICH BEST RESONATED WITH THEM AND DISCARD THOSE THAT DID NOT,74 THEREBY ALLOWING FOR THE CREATION OF AN EVER-EVOLVING, OPEN SOCIETY. MOREOVER, THEY CONTEND THAT FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS RECOGNIZED AS A HUMAN RIGHT UNDER ARTICLE 19 OF THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS,75 SO IT CANNOT AND MUST NOT BE LIMITED.

AND YET, PROPONENTS OF A MORE REFINED FIRST AMENDMENT ARGUE THAT THIS FREEDOM SHOULD BE TREATED NOT AS A RIGHT BUT AS A PRIVILEGE – A SPECIAL ENTITLEMENT GRANTED BY THE STATE ON A CONDITIONAL BASIS THAT CAN BE REVOKED IF IT IS EVER ABUSED OR MALTREATED. BRITISH PHILOSOPHER JOHN STUART MILL LONG ARGUED THAT “THE ONLY PURPOSE FOR WHICH POWER CAN BE RIGHTFULLY EXERCISED OVER ANY MEMBER OF A CIVILIZED COMMUNITY, AGAINST HIS WILL, IS TO PREVENT HARM FROM OTHERS.”76 HIS “HARM PRINCIPLE” WAS ARTICULATED IN AN ANALOGY BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES, JR. (1841-1935), AND STILL HOLDS TRUE TODAY: “THE RIGHT TO SWING MY FIST ENDS WHERE THE OTHER MAN’S NOSE BEGINS,” OR, A PERSON’S RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH ENDS WHEN IT SEVERELY INFRINGES UPON THE SAFETY AND WELL-BEING OF ANOTHER.

IN THE CASE OF CYBERBULLYING, THE PERCEIVED PROTECTIONS OF FREE SPEECH ARE EXACTLY WHAT ENABLE HARMFUL SPEECH AND CRUEL BEHAVIOR ON THE INTERNET. IT IS THE NOTION THAT PEOPLE CAN POST ANYTHING THEY WANT, REGARDLESS OF THE HARM IT MIGHT CAUSE ANOTHER PERSON THAT HAS PERPETUATED, IF NOT CREATED, THIS CYBERBULLYING CULTURE. BUT “HATE SPEECH” THAT CAUSES MATERIAL HARM TO CHILDREN SHOULD HAVE CONSEQUENCES.

IN SUMMARY, ALTHOUGH SPEECH IS GENERALLY PROTECTED UNDER THE FIRST AMENDMENT, THERE ARE INSTANCES IN WHICH RESTRICTIONS ARE WARRANTED. …

Add ten more “bad novel” points for couching the proposal to redefine rights as privileges in “for the children” language.

Truly, the novel can not keep up with reality.

Posted in Free Speech

4 Comments

  • Witness the weasel-wording here. Turning “harm” from a “punch in the nose” into “severely infringes upon the well-being” is the sort of prestidigitation tyrants are infamous for.

    The history of the Second Amendment proves beyond a doubt that no politician or bureaucrat should ever be trusted with the definition of what “infringes” and what doesn’t.

    Of course, all this could have been predicted after reading the phrase “New York State Senate Independent Democratic Conference.”

  • These are undoubtedly the same idiots who would claim there is no right to falsely shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater. There is, and there are consequences for doing so. Cyberbullying is the same way. Go ahead and do your worst, short of initiating force, but when consequences occur that you don’t like, remember you had a choice.

  • It’s not surprising that some of my fellow New Yorkers, always on the cutting edge of liberty-bashing, would want to redefine rights as state-granted privileges. Expect to see the Big Ten go up in the same type of flames.

  • Dear Mr Tuccille

    When I were a lad my Mum used to say: ‘sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt you.’

    We seem to have “progressed” to: ‘with sticks and stones I’ll break your bones, or get the state to do it for me, because your words have upset me. A little bit.’

    There have always been people who resort to violence based upon what is said, especially in school playgrounds and for older people, pubs. For the state to sanction such actions and indeed act on behalf of ‘offended’ parties, or even offended parties by proxy, speaks mightily of an institution that has totally lost the plot.

    DP

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