Comment of the Day auteur Glenn Logan (one of many at EA) has helpful thoughts about the intertwined issue of speech control/ racial epithets/ intent and political correctness. I’m behind on COTDs again, but jumped Glenn’s ahead in line because the blog has been active on related topics today.
Here is Glenn Logan’s Comment of the Day on Bret Stephens’ discarded op-ed and the post, “Ethical Quote Of The Month: Bret Stephens’ Critical Column About New York Times Cowardice And Hypocrisy That The Times Tried To Censor’:
This is an excellent inquiry into the current state of political culture. The left has discovered one of the things it has historically eschewed — the concept of strict liability, and the power it brings them to redefine the English language in America, and by extension, the political environment. For years, liberals have found crimes which didn’t consider intent offensive, and for good reason. Alas, it seems that is no longer the case.
At the risk of being pedantic, strict liability — for those who may not be aware — is a type of crime or regulatory violation where intent does not matter. The quintessential strict liability crime example is statutory rape, where violation of the statute requires no general or specific intent. Regardless of whether the violator knew, had reason to know, or intended to have sexual relations with a minor person, the fact he/she/xe/them did is all that matters.The word “nigger” has now become, in the world of the Left, a strict liability offense when uttered in any form and for any reason. More and more, this is also becoming true of descriptive constructions like “n-word, ” “n*****,” “n—–,” or “n_____.”
The recent incident with the Times shows just how successful this effort has become, and is sure to become a model for other words considered to be offensive at some fundamental level. There is no reason to believe the proponents of this new morality will be circumspect in this expansion, either.Using the power of the mob, the Left has found that they can circumvent the First Amendment by ginning up social outrage and placing pressure on companies to do what the law cannot — punish speech.
Make no mistake, losing your livelihood is about as strict a punishment short of prison as can be imagined, at least in the West. Not only that, how long do we suppose it will take before the mob looks for a way to attack the social safety net (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.) to prevent the “canceled” from accessing its services? Impossible? Don’t you believe it.This is already being expanded further to pressure service industries and even the banking sector to deny their services to people, businesses, and even whole sectors of the economy that the Left can incite the mob to “cancel.” The road to perdition is paved with strict liability offenses, which is one reason why they are so rare in law. Cumulatively, strict liability offenses can be a doomsday weapon that destroys not only its target, but also its wielder and the society they hope to create.
The Left also knows history, and history shows over time that once actions begin to have social consequences outside the legal arena, the legislatures begin an assault on that problem. Eventually, the zeitgeist will force the legal community to adopt laws that reflect it. At that point, the First Amendment will be as dead in fact as it is becoming in spirit.
Stephens’ column is important, and its spiking instructive — arguably even signature significance. I doubt that observation requires further exposition in light of the foregoing. Stephens’ spurned column may well turn out to be the ethics quote not just “of the month,” but a signpost on the way to the Long Night of the American experiment.