When I was at Point Park, our final English Comp 2 project was to craft an argument for or against some proposition. The same professor had given us the simple instruction to write a story about a friend of ours the year before. The objective was simple: write well, present well. No arbitrary page requirement, word count, nothing. Just make your case. Because it was a theater school primarily and a cinema school a close second, there weren’t many conservatives in the room save for me and a running theme of the presentations was always a conclusion of “what the government should do” to correct this or that societal malady. It’s a pattern that continues on the left, even in matters of the Constitution. The government needs to pass hate speech laws, the government needs to take away guns, the government needs to protect people and so on.
And I noticed a theme here in the discourse, everyone who disagrees any of the above is declared to be one who hates the poor, likes the status quo of people dying senselessly or some other emotional ploy. But what I realized was that, like most things on the left, good intentions are used to hide intellectual cowardice or some other insidious agenda.
Let’s take the first point, the one about hate speech. What we’ve seen over the last several years, especially on the left, is that hate speech is quite often a dissenting opinion. We see this with the numerous loud interruptions of right wing lectures, the internet is increasingly becoming a reflection of society and not just a cesspool one can handwave as “well, that’s the internet, people aren’t like that in real life” and the media sends a constant message that right wing beliefs are couched in hatred. There seems to be, especially on the left, an aversion to debate. After all, who would want to debate racists, sexist, bigots and their racist, sexist, bigoted viewpoints? Are they provably racist, sexist, bigots?
The above mindset demonstrates more about one who uses these tactics than it does about his opponent/victim. Christian apologist and philosopher William Lane Craig observes in multiple lectures and in his book “On Guard” that those with a firm grasp of their beliefs, and a relatively solid understanding of the opposition, are more likely to be calm in the face of that opposition. There is no need to attack the person when one can defeat his argument. To do the former is quite easy. More insidiously, to protect from the accusation of racist for instance, the speaker’s gaslit victim need only submit to the speaker’s beliefs without a single counter point being made. The speaker can simply say that any point his victim does make is just a subconscious way to avoid facing his blatant racist tendencies (or transphobic, or homophobic as occasion demands). Identity politics, which often claims some moral justification for attempting to shut down debate before it even begins, is a weak argument from an insecure mind which then justifies gaslighting to get the upper hand. To put it another way, what does it say about the strength of a person’s belief that he needs to resort to the techniques of abusers to make others agree with him?
One further point about the mentality of someone who supports “hate speech” laws. Let us pretend that the speaker honestly believes that these laws will only ban words like the n-word or f***ot. He claims that government will exercise restraint in policing language and only attack those words which are reviled by 90-95% of the civilized world. This. Is. Delusional. There is no evidence that the government, certainly not one the activists are envisioning most of the time, would exercise some form of restraint here. All one needs to see is that progressive mind in particular sees mere opposition as hate speech. As Christpoher Hitchens asked in his legendary lecture (which was technically a debate), to whom would you give the job of national censor of ideas? Take care how you answer this question. For one day, in this republic, the position of “idea czar” may be occupied by someone who finds your beliefs worthy of censorship. In a republic, even the worst parts of government will eventually bite the hand that fed it with the usual “good intentions” that created the overbearing compulsion inherent to the PATRIOT Act and Obamacare among others.
There is no better example of the dangers of self-appointed censors than the progressive activist. Progressive activists are doing a fine enough job making being a Trump-supporter for example a rather dangerous and societally unacceptable business without the backing of the law. There seems to be a story or three every week where someone is assaulted for wearing a MAGA hat, left-wing sites like Salon have run several articles suggesting that people cut themselves off from friends and family who voted for Trump, and there are slogans such as “not all Trump supporters are racist, but every racist is a Trump supporter” being screeched by groups like the Young Turks. As John Stuart Mill writes in his essay “On Liberty”, this “social intolerance” doesn’t kill anyone and doesn’t technically kill a belief, but it does drive people who hold “undesireable” believes to disguise them and “abstain from any active effort” for their diffusion. They can’t actually stop someone like a Ben Shapiro or an Andrew Klavan, but they can get them banned from college campuses. Leftist professors can’t stop their students from believing something else, but it can affect their student’s grades should they ever express them. In this culture, the passing of hate speech laws simply means these fascist speech police actually have the power of law to shut down dissenting opinions and not merely, as C.S. Lewis would say “the approval of their own conscience” which is bad enough.
In the battle between what I call free speech absolutism and censorship, the former is the obviously superior choice. In the former, bad words exist, people get their feelings hurt and people need to hear opinions they find offensive, however bad ideas are freely expressed and the ones so obviously couched in hatred and actual bigotry or racism can be soundly defeated in the arena. In the latter world, bad words still exist, but the laws change nearly every month. The self-appointed censors are the amorphous mob on the internet and thus the rules are enforced militantly and change regularly. Since there is no objective definition of what is and isn’t offensive, people can, and very often do, claim offense just to shut people up and get their target’s views excised from the public square so they feel safe (if I’m being charitable) or so they feel like they matter (if I’m not, which is the more realistic view).
A nation that becomes based on coercion has not and will never transform into some harmonious utopia. It’s only peaceful for those who live in the bubble of their own false sense of superiority. For the people they rigidly police, the world is suffocating. Moreover, this censorship will seep (and in some cases, has seeped) its way into arts like comedy and writing, television and movies, it has poisoned the marketplace of ideas, it has exacerbated the polarization of the country and all so some people can feel like they’ve created a better world for everyone. By “everyone”, they of course mean themselves and those of their very specific, ever changing ilk.
When it comes to what government “should do about guns”, points 2 and 3 are connected. As a refresher, these are the ideas that “the government needs to take away private guns to prevent crime” and also “the government needs to protect people”. When I say they are “connected”, I do not mean to say that point 2 will actually make point 3 easier. I mean to say that, to the speaker, they are connected because “ban the guns, stop the shootings” is about as far as the gun control advocate’s thought process ever gets, which is justified by the idea that “we don’t need guns to protect ourselves, we already have police.”
There is a great deal of the real world we need to ignore before we can play this game. So, barring the fact that the Supreme Court itself has said the police have no obligation to protect you, and leaving aside the fact that it is physically impossible for police to do so without being essentially a large, standing army, and forgetting that these same people tend to be the ones who think the police are racist, trigger-happy killers of black people, what this mindset actually does is take the responsibility for one’s own safety and foist it onto other people. It achieves this at the expense of the Constitutional rights of other individuals, even and especially those who would much rather take their own safety into their own hands. There isn’t, I believe, much to go on here, because gun control is an inherently shallow ideology that believes, against all evidence, that more guns equal more crime, that good people don’t protect themselves and that people still believe “all they want are commonsense background checks” when the gun laws of California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Washington DC and Washington State say they want so much more.
In both cases, regarding guns and hate speech, those who want decisive, unconstitutional government intervention want the responsibility to cut out differing opinions or to protect themselves outsourced to other people. They desire an on their part effortless cultivation of the personal utopia to which they are entitled. They will say they have the best intentions. On one hand, they just want to create a more tolerant society (by force, if necessary). On the other, they will say that people don’t need to defend themselves, that the existence of evil, while it isn’t a myth, isn’t as real a threat as people think. To the former, it is a mistake to give the job of national censor to a group so clearly motivated by their politics that differing opinions are not off the table. People of the latter mindset live in a world where evil can be contained, where evil is, as N.T. Wright once wrote, like the sea. It can be viewed from a safe distance on the shoreline where it sneaks up and slips harmlessly away. Further, it comes with the implication that a government that is given the power to ban speech or private ownership of firearms will be restrained in doing so, police fairly, and be able to protect the entire populace from the evil the ban is being put in place to contain. The only thing that determines how these views are to be perceived is if the speaker is ignorant of the consequences of his policy or not. If he is ignorant of the impact his policies could very easily have, and looking at our present government, this is the` most likely outcome, then he is merely ignorant and can be shown to be such with great effort. If he knows what the impact is likely to be, then he is dangerous and his views must be defeated
These views should still be expressed however, for a sound mind can easily overcome them and should not be so afraid, or so weak, as to shout them down.