It’s not just “hate speech,” and speech questioning climate change, and conservative speakers on campus, and professors using offensive words to discuss how we should treat offensive words, and political speech by citizens banding together to support candidates and express issue positions. and employees making jokes that others choose to find offensive. Increasingly prominent progressive elected officials, activists, scholars and pundits are advocating the elimination of free expression in realms that have been long protected by the Supreme Court, and that are currently protected as First Amendment speech by the Constitution.
Witness New York Times columnist Ros Douthat’s recent op-ed flippantly titled, “Let’s Ban Porn.” Buried in the essay’s Authentic Frontier Gibbberish designed, I assume, to numb the ethics alarms is a call for content-based government censorship, meaning that communicating “porn”–which the Supreme Court never got closer to defining than Justice Potter Stewart’s famous and pathetic “I know it when I see it”—would be a crime.
How can a journalist, of all people and professions—excuse me, “professions“—advocate doing what the Bill of Rights specifically prohibits? By stooping to an argument like this one..
“But we are supposed to be in the midst of a great sexual reassessment, a clearing-out of assumptions that serve misogyny and impose bad sex on semi-willing women. And such a reassessment will be incomplete if it never reconsiders our surrender to the idea that many teenagers, most young men especially, will get their sex education from online smut….The belief that it should not be restricted is a mistake; the belief that it cannot be censored is a superstition. Law and jurisprudence changed once and can change again, and while you can find anything somewhere on the internet, making hard-core porn something to be quested after in dark corners would dramatically reduce its pedagogical role, its cultural normalcy, its power over libidos everywhere. That we cannot imagine such censorship is part of our larger inability to imagine any escape from the online world’s immersive power, even as we harbor growing doubts about its influence upon our psyches.”
No, Ross, the reason that we can’t imagine such censorship is because the United States of American is predicated on the core principle, among others, that the government restricting what can be imagined, said, expressed, written and published is far, far more dangerous that any content that can be imagined, said, expressed, written and published, and thus the remedy for controversial, ugly or otherwise controversial speech is more speech, not laws. What Douthat’s op-ed translates as, and heaven knows it needs a translation though there is no “Leftist Virtue-Signalling Bloviation” to English handbook that I can find on Amazon, is that porn is bad for people, though apparently only men, because the Left’s official position of the moment is that Men Are The Problem.” For example, douhat writes,
“So if you want better men by any standard, there is every reason to regard ubiquitous pornography as an obstacle — and to suspect that between virtual reality and creepy forms of customization, its influence is only likely to get worse.”
We cannot trust people who reason like this. Progressives and Democrats whose brains and values still thrive cannot trust people who reason like this. The reason is obvious. Douhat wants to ban a form of expression, art, and speech because one of the Left’s core constituencies don’t like it. All righty then! That’s good enough, don’t you think?
I’d go through the usual slippery slope exercise of listing all the other forms of expression, including campus speeches, demonstrations, and courses, literature, artwork, films and more, that some segment of the Left would happily make illegal—all the better to indoctrinate us with—but I have a headache, and I assume that if you’re visiting Ethics Alarms you’re smart enough to do it yourself. And you should. It’s fun. Scary too. Fun and scary, like “From Dusk ti Dawn”!
Over at Reason, the excellent libertarian site, Peter Suderman actually thinks about what a competent columnist should have thought about before writing such junk, namely, what would banning porn entail? After enumerating what would be required and why it still wouldn’t work, he concludes,
“The real barrier to banning pornography, the objection that matters, is not cultural defeatism or lack of public will. It is that attempting to ban porn would at best be a foolish, expensive, and futile project, and at worst a path to a new and radically expanded police state devoted to punishing people for engaging in acts of consensual self-expression. A federal war on porn would be just as winnable as the federal wars on drugs and alcohol—in other words, not winnable at all”
Of course, drugs and alcohol aren’t speech, either.
Day by day, drip by drip, the modern American Left is signalling its contempt for core democratic values, and giving off the increasingly strong and noxious stench of totalitarian rot and an “ends justify the means” approach to government and social policy. Until it comes to its senses and the odor abates, it will be irresponsible to entrust it with power over our lives.
Correction: In the original post, I incorrectly labelled Douthat a progressive(and misspelled his name.) That was careless—I tend to get him mixed up with Rod Dreher, who is a progressive. I removed the label. None of the Times columnists are really conservative after they have been marinating in that culture, and this column proves it. The feminist push to ban pornography blows from the Left now, as do all attempts to abridge individual rights. In advocating to ban speech, Douthat is promoting a progressive component group’s current crusade. His personal label is irrelevant.
Thanks to Chris for the correction.
26 thoughts on “The Reason We Can’t Trust Progressives With Power: They Really Don’t Like Free Speech [CORRECTED!]”
Apparently, these people converted from the religious right.
Why is the availability of site-blocking software insufficient?
Because the internet doesn’t have a single choke point that you can block. Its a network of millions of interconnected nodes. Block it in the US and by using free software with barely 3 minutes of setup I can change my IP to appear to be from Canada. It’s how tech and information savy Chinese get around the great firewall of China – it’s so hard to stop that even the Chinese government doesn’t bother to try.
You’d pretty much need to the whole world, or a very very large portion of it, to agree to block the site. You also can’t block the kind of software that changes your IP. From the outside, it looks like completely legitimate traffic pattern from the US to CA – the same kind of thing that happens literally a billion times a day. It’s like looking for a specific unmarked needle in a stack of unmarked needles.
The closest anyone has come to blovking a specific site has been the Pirate Bay. Pretty much the whole organized world agrees that this site is unethical and shouldn’t exist. It’s been the subject of mult-national sanctions, raids, arrests, and seizures. The site just moves. it moves so often and so effectively that there is an entire subnetwork of sites that does nothing but track which country the Pirate Bay is in at any given moment so that it can let everyone know when it moves. Traffic hardly dips. There is always some unattended or willing island in the internet that’s hosting the site.
Take that same problem and multiply it by the, literally, millions of porn sites and compound it with the fact that porn is not nearly as universally objectionable as content piracy. If there’s a site in the world that’s willing to talk to me, or a hypothetical tech savvy teenage boy, then there isn’t a damn thing that the organized world can do to stop it. The worst they can do is throw the occasional trivial speedbump.
Site blocking software refers, not to blocking everyone in the country from accessing unwanted web sites, but individual computer owners who do not want their children to access porn sites.
Businesses also have similar software to prevent their employees from accessing untrusted web sites or downloading malicious software.
I used to think the leftists willing to give up my 2nd Amendment rights would be horrified at the very idea of losing any of their Connstitutional rights. At least the rights they use, or that they can clearly see benefit them. Now I realize how mistaken I was. Free speech? No thanks! No more books that offend anyone, no more bad words in movies, no more white actors, no more freedom to express any opinions differing from Progressive approved opinions.
Due process? Forget about it! Guilty until proven innocent these days, thanks to the #metoo movement.
Equality? None of that nonsense! People of color need their own schools, libraries, groups, etc. The only way to be equal is segregation.
More and more I feel like I woke up in an alternate universe, where the propaganda spouted hourly is “in order to be free, you must give up your rights!”, until all the people nod in unison.
Witness New York Times progressive columnist Ros Douhat
I’d love to read the rest of your article, but you are starting from a false premise. His name is Ross Douthat, and he is not a progressive. He is a conservative.
Does your title, and the rest of this blog post, all follow from your original false premise?
Good jackass imitation. Yup, I spelled his name wrong. Thanks, I fixed it. Yes, he’s not a progressive, but his column aped a current feminist argument. I removed the label. There are no conservatives on the Times op-ed page. He’s the closest, I guess. Since the post is about the argument and the column, and not him, these are non-material to the post.
I just read the rest of the post–it’s not just about the argument and Douthat’s column. It is very much about “the Left’s” assault on free speech. While I no longer deny that this assault exists and is worth condemning, his column isn’t a part of it. There are anti-porn crusaders on the left, but there are just as many, if not more, on the right.
I have to agree with Chris here. Douthat is widely known as a conservative commentator, and a crusade against pornography hardly denotes any departure from that position. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, more than one group, on both sides of the political spectrum, has attempted to capitalize on the zeitgeist by attributing the widespread abuse reported in the fields of media, show business, and politics to something inculcated into young boys by mainstream culture. It’s rape culture! It’s the sexual revolution! It’s… it’s nonsense. No man I know was raised to believe it was acceptable to force himself on a woman, or to whip it out in the workplace, or grab a woman by the genitals. Mainstream culture didn’t and doesn’t suggest these are acceptable. Rather, most of the perpetrators seem to get off on doing what they know to be unacceptable in mainstream culture, knowing it will be accepted or excused in their insular subculture in Hollywood or Washington.
I haven’t read or heard a conservative official or pundit calling for a pornography ban in 40 years. Have you?
I can’t remember reading a liberal official or pundit calling for a pornography ban in my lifetime either. I saw the reaction to Douthat’s column from liberals on social media; they found it ridiculous. A conservative writer can’t be “part of” an assault on basic rights by the left, and lumping him in with the left, which has largely responded to his column with mockery, is biased spin.
I see Democrats and progressives wanting to weaken the First, Second and Fifth Amendments, and challenging the underlying principles of the 13th and 14th as well. As far as I’m concerned, the idea that the Bill of Rights is open to attack is entirely the obsession of the Left at this point. I will be thrilled to be proved wrong. Douthat’s position is consistent with current progressive thought, whatever you call him. It is true that the issue divides feminists, but it is a feminist issue, not a conservative one. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-theory/wp/2016/05/24/the-case-for-banning-pornography/
The writer of that piece is also a conservative.
The writer is not the issue, in that case, but rather the feminist movement being described, which is not conservative.
The article doesn’t speak for the feminist movement, which is largely sex-positive and pro-porn. The anti-porn faction is an outlier.
I should probably clarify a bit more…
I have been arguing all day with progressive friends who want to repeal the 2nd Amendment, whether they come right out and say it or not. I have been documenting multiple fronts where the Left seeks to punish or prevent speech and expression. I know of no such movement right of Progressive Town to similarly abridge basic democratic rights. Thus I responded in kind to Douthat;s censorship endorsement, which is in support of the current feminist posse to make men cower in fear of something they might have said 20 years ago. It is part of the assault on basic rights by the Left—that this particular chapter was authored by a nominal conservative is interesting, but not material.
That was careless—I tend to get him mixed up with Rod Dreher, who is a progressive.
There must be a third writer you’re confusing both of them with, because Rod Dreher is also a conservative.
Given that the lines have blurred regarding the two different perspectives, what say the conservatives who abhor pornography?
Says this conservative: I wish it wasn’t part of our culture, but I also wish alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs weren’t part of our culture. But they are, and I think the best we can do is keep them away from minors. Anyhting beyond that at this point would be a cure worse than the disease.
I abhor it. But its protected.
I can’t say that I ‘abhor’ it, but I don’t watch it, because I find it vaguely embarrassing.
Well gee whiz! Have any of these ‘progressives’ read Chaucer, Shakespeare, Faulkner, even Hemingway — and on and on? It may have gotten ‘dirtier’ with technology allowing obscenity on film instead of just the written word, but really, if they could in fact read — or have read 350 years of classic literature — they would be burning books soon as well, a la the Third Reich. (Along with that, art, and perhaps felicitously, the new portraits of the Obamas…)
I agree it’s easy to confuse the Paleoconservative Religious Right with the Lunatic fringe of the Radical Left Feminists.
Often they work together in formal alliances now, it’s no longer concealed.
See for example the recent lawsuits by the Women’s Liberation Front supported and financed by the Alliance Defending Freedom
It’s not a Leftist thing. It’s a Theocratic thing, be it Christianity or Female Essence worship.
Good point, and that does explain Douthat, who arises from a religious scholarship background.
It is not about what they truly believe in. It is about what they can gain (power, fame and wealth) from what they claim they believe in. They are hypocrites.
I agree that most in politics today are about making themselves wealthy.