[ExI] intolerant minds, a different flavor

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Tue May 5 07:13:39 UTC 2009

Stefano wrote:

> On Mon, Apr 27, 2009 at 6:03 PM, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:
>> Strategically, do you think that it is a good idea
>> to prohibit reasoned attacks on religion, insults
>> of races, religions, or the Mayor's daughter?
>> Where do you draw the line?
>> And beyond strategy, where in a free society do
>> you draw the line ethically?
> What can be said is that for any doom-monger's assumption that unless
> free speech is limited on a given subject society would collapse, it
> is easy enough to offer examples where societies managed to a
> reasonable extent to thrive in spite of the fact that the "necessary"
> prohibition was not in place.

Good point. In other words, the burden of proof seems
to fall on those who would ban speech. What historical
examples are there where "it's a damned good thing that
people were prohibited from saying X"?

I appeal, of course, to our shared values.

Consider the converse: "when was it a damned bad idea
to suppress people saying X"? There are many, many
thousands of examples! To produce as many as you'd
like, simply consider the prohibitions invariably
produced by totalitarian or authoritarian dictatorships,
or ruling oligarchies.

> All in all, I think that most limitations to free speech are very hard
> to justify on empirical grounds. Not to mention on political terms for
> any political regime that claims to be based on informed consensus.

The only cases I can think of where prohibitions on
free speech make sense fall into a category that I
call "justified elitism". At a given elementary school,
for example, the adults---who really are much wiser
than the children---may prohibit one group of children
from calling another group of children names.

I also think that in the back of the minds of those
who call for prohibitions on free speech lurks
exactly the same kind of elitism. "You never know,"
I can almost hear them saying, "how such memes may
spread when picked up by the ignorant masses, and
what woeful effects will result".

I am---by the way---thereby raising the question
of just how much elitism by people on this list
or people in western societies who are well educated
is justified.


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