The Austin Chronicle

Page Two: Unfortunately the Left Is Guilty of Hypocrisy Even If the Right Is More Openly Oppressive

Adding a "but" to freedom of speech is unacceptable

By Louis Black, June 2, 2017, Columns

Now in the modern political world the idea is to discredit people with different opinions, not to debate and certainly not to enter into discussion. The right feels that just saying "libtard," or that "liberalism is a mental disease," that they have dropped the mic, ending any discussion. The left has its own ill-advised political generalizations. There is a genuine glee on the right when the left tries to silence speech or insists that if a person's politics are extreme and despicable enough, then not allowing them to speak on campus or shouting them down is appropriate and righteous.

Free speech isn't pretty and is certainly not easy. It has to be absolute. Adding a "but" is unacceptable. There is, of course, the example of crying "fire" in a crowded theatre, where immediate actual harm may result. Claiming that words and ideas are just as dangerous and deadly is an attack on free speech.

These examples of intolerance by the left are especially offensive because of their insistence on tolerance. The right has long assaulted free speech and the free exchange of ideas so their efforts are not as shocking or surprising.

Unfortunately and regrettably, a tendency toward self-righteous intellectual purity does result in clear hypocrisy by some of the progressive community. This is especially upsetting coming from those championing acceptance and inclusion. Denying racists and fascists access to public stages, no matter how extreme their ideas, is to attack free speech. There are absolutes.

If one declares that certain ideas go so far as to become unacceptable, that opens all speech to such charges. What doesn't offend you might offend others.

This is an opinion; I exercise no authority here. Obviously anyone can still take whatever position they wish. But that has to be labeled as personal, partisan, and repressive rather than universal and moral.

Those on the left often advocate economic boycotts against businesses that are run by those with offensive politics. Obviously the right has long done this. Such economic boycotts and banning of speakers are regarded as legitimate public political responses/actions. It is not a false equivalency to say that despite claiming specific beliefs justify such actions, in a broader moral and absolute way this allows blacklisting. Essentially denying a speaker or urging a boycott is the same as not hiring producers, writers, and actors because of their politics.

Certainly a personal decision is a personal decision. But a public call for the organized response of an economic boycott is different. There is no difference between attacking a business because its management is too openly conservative and not hiring an actor who is openly an extreme leftist.

Personal beliefs and morality create no distinction; morally there is no difference when people with diametrically opposite views use the same tactics. Details make no difference; in the most morally absolute way they are the same.

There is legitimate outrage when conservative students begin to organize a list of progressive professors. Obviously not an abstract exercise, this is part of a campaign to limit discussion on campuses. Already, in the Fifties, teachers identified as leftists and progressives, communists and socialists, were purged.

There are those who will claim that insisting on an absolute nonpartisan morality is corrupt, that it is abstract nitpicking in the face of a well-organized and ongoing conservative repressive political effort.

A common accusation against liberals made by the right is that they can't face history, especially as regards race relations, labor, and women's issues. This dismissive, empty-minded assault is much more about conservative ideological fantasies than the past. Consider the rabid supporters of the "history" Dinesh D'Souza offers, who insist that he is telling the truth and only the truth. Which is nonsense. Intellectually dishonest to an extreme, D'Souza interweaves a few solid facts into a false and biased tapestry that has much more to do with partisan politics' overt prejudice than history.

Sadly and ironically, however, the claim is much more legitimate when it comes to the history of freedom of expression. Claiming limiting public political speech is legitimate, progressives ignore history as to how the right has always been far more successful in that effort, institutionalizing and legalizing the limiting of speech and ideas.

It can be argued that dealing with some of these issues in a broad moral way is actually immoral, that it postulates a false equivalency. But that is privileging opinions over morality. The difficulty is not just witnessing the left's hypocrisy, but the near certainty that the very same tactics will be used against it – and, if history is a guide, in ways far more comprehensive, effective, and enduring.

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