• Fooloso4
    3.7k
    Free speech is given lip-service but rarely is it followed to its logical conclusion: free speech absolutism.NOS4A2

    An extreme conclusion without exception is not a logical conclusion.

    Should deliberate misinformation be accepted? Arguing that we have or should such a "right" is a blind, question begging ideology.
  • Bylaw
    362
    What’s wrong with free speech absolutism?NOS4A2
    One problem with free speech absolutism is that it would create its own contradiction. Someone with power over media could destroy the free speech of someone else publishing false information about an everyday citizen. For example, accusations of being a pedophile. With the right button pushing you might not just marginalize and silence that person, but keep them from work or even inspire their murder.
  • NOS4A2
    6.5k


    The utility of censorship and the benefit to those who practice it is without question. The government and its supporters no doubt benefit from the censorship of the press. The church and its acolytes no doubt benefit from the censorship of heretics and blasphemers. Pharmaceutical companies and their shareholders no doubt benefit from the censorship of criticism.

    But I’m no utilitarian. In fact I am against it, at least wherever an individual is subject to unbridled calculations for the sake of another’s utility. I’d rather a minority does not suffer so that some arbitrary greater number might enjoy some vague and incalculable benefit at some point in the near or distant future.
  • NOS4A2
    6.5k


    Do you accept everything you read? It doesn’t follow that because one reads something he invariably accepts it. It doesn’t follow that because a kind of information is unacceptable that we must give someone the power to determine what is and isn’t acceptable, and to and punish any deviation from it. That leads to State Truth.

    Disinformation is now being criminalized and leads directly to the jailing of journalists and dissidents and regular internet users, for instance in Greece, Egypt, Singapore, Malaysia. So the question, I guess, is already settled by the authorities. But we’re adults; each of us already has the ability to accept information or not, and we don’t need to censor anything in order to do so.

    So if me arguing that everyone should have the same right as Article 19 of the UNDHR is a blind, question begging ideology, maybe someone can give me an argument why a government or some other group of people should have the right to determine what others can say and hear.
  • L'éléphant
    891
    “Measurable harms”? Like what?NOS4A2
    Copyright, patents, identity protection. Violations of any of these result in financial loss, security of personal information, and violation of personal rights.
  • Isaac
    9.4k
    I’d rather a minority does not suffer so that some arbitrary greater number might enjoy some vague and incalculable benefit at some point in the near or distant future.NOS4A2

    Again, what you'd 'rather' is not an argument from either stupidity or injustice. It is not stupid of institutions not to provide you with the service you'd prefer, nor is it unjust of them. So you've not answered the question. Why does it matter?
  • Agent Smith
    8.9k
    If censorship becomes a normal everyday affair, we must learn to listen to the silence! :cool:
  • Tzeentch
    2.2k
    Has censorship ever demonstrably produced something positive?

    Individuals are perfectly capable of looking at the data and drawing their own conclusions. It's specifically this that the censor desires to circumvent, likely because they know that when the individual looks for themselves they will arrive at conclusions that are undesirable to the censor.

    Censorship pollutes the information environment by eroding transparency and neutrality. It also undermines the individual's propensity for critical thought.

    Furthermore, censorship and propaganda go hand in hand, and for everything you're not allowed to hear there's a convenient government narrative that you are expected to copy paste instead. Today's 'misinformation' age is case and point.
  • Isaac
    9.4k
    Has censorship ever demonstrably produced something positive?Tzeentch

    A more pleasant discourse environment for most people, especially those vulnerable to abuse.

    Individuals are perfectly capable of looking at the data and drawing their own conclusions. It's specifically this that the censor desires to circumvent, likely because they know that when the individual looks for themselves they will arrive at conclusions that are undesirable to the censor.Tzeentch

    Agreed, but censorship is not limited to data. It extends to opinions and expression.

    Censorship pollutes the information environment by eroding transparency and neutrality. It also undermines the individual's propensity for critical thought.Tzeentch

    Again I completely agree, but if you want to make an argument that "all Jews are twats" has anything whatsoever to do with transparency or critical thought then I really don't think you understand either.

    censorship and propaganda go hand in hand, and for everything you're not allowed to hear there's a convenient government narrative that you are expected to copy paste instead. Today's 'misinformation' age is case and point.Tzeentch

    Not really. It's like arguing that because the chef added too much salt to the soup we should never add salt to soup. Obviously, like any human activity, censorship can be done really badly. It's ridiculous to suggest that because it can be done badly it ought not be done at all.
  • Tzeentch
    2.2k
    Still, I don't see a single instance in which censorship had a positive impact.

    To emphasize, censorship (just like free speech) to me is about ideas, and not arbitration of interpersonal disputes.

    In my opinion, slandering, calls to violence, intentional deception etc. are not primarily about the sharing of ideas, and having laws against those things is not a form of censorship to me.

    If people want to openly discuss nazism or racist ideas, they should be free to do so, whether they agree or disagree with those ideas. However, especially with these types of ideas the line between discussing ideas and threatening to harm people should be closely guarded.

    Censoring antisemitism is actually an interesting case study. There might be reasons for why it should be censored, but at the same time there are people who will cynically abuse that censorship for their own gain.

    If you want an example of that, take a look at some of the blowback John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt received for producing an extremely balanced and nuanced article and book on the Israel Lobby. Their works were well-researched and full of legitimate worries concerning the role of the Israel Lobby in American politics. The lobby then started a smear campaign against Mearsheimer and Walt to destroy their credibility and label them as antisemitic, which they obviously aren't.

    Because of the two men's impeccable record this smear campaign failed, but there are many who believe the fear of being hounded by such smears is the reason why the lobby isn't investigated more.

    What are we to make of this? Censorship laws which, lets assume, were adopted with the best intentions become another tool of power for the already-powerful.

    In a nutshell, in my opinion people should be free to discuss any idea in the context of a civilized debate. People with extreme ideas should even be encouraged to enter the crucible of public debate. In that sense I believe free speech is absolute, and censorship should never be allowed.
  • Isaac
    9.4k
    To emphasize, censorship (just like free speech) to me is about ideas, and not arbitration of interpersonal disputes.

    In my opinion, slandering, calls to violence, intentional deception etc. are not primarily about the sharing of ideas, and having laws against those things is not a form of censorship to me.
    Tzeentch

    Ah. Then we probably disagree far less than it would at first seem. I include all that under the heading 'censorship'.


    What's dangerous here is that those who want to do exactly what we've seen recently, namely...

    Censorship pollutes the information environment by eroding transparency and neutrality.Tzeentch

    ..., are helped, not hindered, by extremist calls for free-speech absolutism. They can point to the very obvious flaws (of the wider sense) as justification and thereby dodge the discussion that needs to be had.

    My main concern overlaps considerably with yours, but in my view, extreme positions like @NOS4A2 presents here are harming that concern.
  • Tzeentch
    2.2k
    Personally, I feel free speech in the way I described it is under pressure, and the pollution of the information environment is a result of that, and not a direct result of free speech itself.

    What I believe is happening is that governments have stopped being reliable information brokers.

    Not only have they been developing and spreading their own narratives, but they seem to have been doing everything in their power to ensure their narrative is the only one you hear. Propaganda and censorship.

    The most notable examples are the covid-19 response and the Ukraine war.

    This is what I believe is the prime cause for the pollution of the information environment:
    1. Governments develop agendas that are not in the best interest of their population.
    2. To sell these agendas to their population they develop narratives.
    3. These narratives cannot stand up to scrutiny, so governments avoid and discourage public debate on these issues.

    And here's the kicker:
    4. Because governments refuse to let their narratives be challenged in public debate, conflicting narratives receive in large parts the same preferential treatment of not being discussed publicly, creating a perfect environment for misinformation to thrive.

    So in that sense I agree with the "free speech absolutists" that the remedy is more free and open discourse, and less censorship. But governments are deathly afraid what the consequences will be for the narratives they have so diligently cultivated.
  • Fooloso4
    3.7k
    Do you accept everything you read?NOS4A2

    It is not a question of what I do or do not accept, but of what is widely accepted. By putting it in these terms you have demonstrated why thinking in terms only of individuals leaves a political or social blind spot

    So if me arguing that everyone should have the same right as Article 19 of the UNDHR is a blind, question begging ideology ...NOS4A2

    Article 19 says nothing about deliberate misinformation. Article 29 does say:

    2. In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

    If misinformation leads to people acting in a way that interferes with the rights and freedoms of others then there are limits on such speech. What is blind and a question begging ideology is not the protection of free speech but the inability to see that it must have limits. The failure to set such limits can lead directly to actions that destroy the rights and freedoms of others.
  • Isaac
    9.4k
    in that sense I agree with the "free speech absolutists" that the remedy is more free and open discourse, and less censorship.Tzeentch

    I don't want to overstate the disagreements, I basically agree with what you've written bar a couple of points. The first is the reason I'm opposed to free speech absolutism. I agree with the quoted proposition we need "more free and open discourse, and less censorship". Less censorship is not the same as no censorship.

    Pushing for less censorship (as opposed to none) is not only more likely to receive support, but has a better, more persuasive argument in its favour.

    It's pretty easy for anyone sane to see that Facebook censoring the British Medical Journal on Covid was nothing short of propaganda. It's much harder to see how censoring a Nazi spreading Holocaust denial is quite so unsavory in motive.

    Secondly, a bit off topic, but I'd add a point zero to your description of the process. The government's censorship has tracked precisely the enrichment of those industries with the deepest lobbying pockets (pharmaceuticals and arms). It's their drive for profit which initiates the whole thing. Governments don't just decide to have an agenda out of the blue that just so happens to support their biggest donors. They're paid to do it.
  • Isaac
    9.4k
    Article 19 says nothing about deliberate misinformation.Fooloso4

    Neither does censorship.

    Censors don't have mind-reading devices. They can't divine intent.

    What censors censor is stuff they believe is wrong. Other people posting it might differ in their belief.

    Citing Article 29 is exactly the reason given for literally every act of fascism ever. No fascist has ever come to power on the back of "this is going to be shit for you lot, but I'll get rich". Without fail every fascist program has been "the freedoms we restrict now are for the best".

    We need more (much more) than one government's say so that it's for the best.
  • Tzeentch
    2.2k
    It's much harder to see how censoring a Nazi spreading Holocaust denial is quite so unsavory in motive.Isaac

    On certain topics like holocaust denial it's not the motives I question, but censorship as a means.

    If topics are banned from public discourse, the sentiments that underlie them won't disappear. They will move underground to echo chambers where, without the presence of a healthy debate, they might actually gain traction (I'm pretty sure that's how radicalization tends to work). Further, the use of force to silence these groups may affirm them in their ideas and create more resentment.

    Of course, when societies are presented with repulsive ideas, the first reaction tends to be to ostracize the people who express these ideas. That's where the impulse of censorship comes from. I think that is a fundamental mistake, because we do not live in the Middle Ages anymore, and we cannot chase people out of the village. They stay in the "village", likely a little more extremist and resentful as a result of our own actions.

    I stand by the idea that the best way to deradicalize extremists is through engagement and making them part of the discussion.

    Secondly, a bit off topic, but I'd add a point zero to your description of the process. The government's censorship has tracked precisely the enrichment of those industries with the deepest lobbying pockets (pharmaceuticals and arms). It's their drive for profit which initiates the whole thing. Governments don't just decide to have an agenda out of the blue that just so happens to support their biggest donors. They're paid to do it.Isaac

    Great point.
  • NOS4A2
    6.5k


    It doesn’t follow that because someone reads something he invariably accepts it. It doesn’t follow that because a kind of information is unacceptable that we must give someone the power to determine what is and isn’t acceptable, and to punish any deviation from it. And those you task to protect you from disinformation and punish deviation from State Truth are often the greatest progenitors of it.

    There are countless other solutions to misinformation that don’t involve the willy-nilly violation of rights as your solutions have, but censorship is still the go-to method. It makes no sense, in my opinion.
  • Baden
    14.1k


    "Free Speech Absolutist" is a binary category, which I don't see you fitting into according to your clarification. I think @NOS4A2 probably does. The implication is he would literally give his life and those of others not to compromise in any way whatsoever on free speech (0% security, publicise the nuclear secrets etc. Let it be so!). He seems to consider it a sacred or holy principle rather than anything ultimately relatable to practical or pragmatic goals. That's bizarre to me. However, there's a sense in which he fits Zizek's ethical subject for whom true ethics consists in reconstituting norms in a way that should seem bizarre. That angle might be pushing it, but his position is crazy enough for me to have kind of a grudging respect for.
  • NOS4A2
    6.5k


    You’re right on that. Fīat jūstitia ruat cælum is a precious principle to me.
  • Baden
    14.1k


    Well, you've certainly bitten the bullet on it re your position here. So, that's fair.
  • NOS4A2
    6.5k


    When the NYT released the Pentagon papers the government argued that to release them was a threat to national security. It turns out this was hot air, as are most claims that violence and death will befall us should someone release top secret information. In most cases it leads to the embarrassment of those who sought to keep it hidden. So I’m not too worried.
  • Fooloso4
    3.7k
    It doesn’t follow that because someone reads something he invariably accepts it.NOS4A2

    What do you hope to gain by refuting a claim I did not make? Not everyone who has watched Tucker Carlson invariably accepts whatever he says, but the fact of the matter is this that many do.

    There are countless other solutions to misinformation ...NOS4A2

    Such as? Suppose the tobacco industry launched a new campaign falsely telling people that the latest and most accurate scientific research has determined that cigarettes not only do not cause any harm but that they promote good health in children and adults. Is this a matter of "State Truth"? What are just a few of the many solutions? Or do you think no solutions are necessary because free speech should be absolute?

    If someone finds your personal financial and health information, should they be allowed to make it public? What about other personal information such as your viewing and purchasing habits? What if they perpetuate lies instead if that information is not interesting enough?
  • NOS4A2
    6.5k


    My point is that it is unjust and illogical to deny the right to to receive and impart information to all people at all times when only some people at some times are prone to accept it. If some people at some times are prone to to accept it it is unjust and illogical to give some people at some times the power to deny such rights for everyone.

    Nor does it follow that because a kind of information is unacceptable we must give someone the power to determine what is and isn’t acceptable, and to punish any deviation from it. Those who we task to protect us from disinformation and punish deviation from State Truth, Church Truth, Corporate Truth, are often the greatest progenitors of it.

    Truth is really the only counter to falsity in every case. For this we need more information, more data, more debate, more education, more transparency, not less of it. The more and more people rely on a group of people to tell them what is true or false, like a government or corporation or church, the less and less they become able to figure it out for themselves, only compounding the problem to begin with.
  • Fooloso4
    3.7k
    My point is that it is unjust and illogical to deny the right to to receive and impart information to all people at all times when only some people at some times are prone to accept it.NOS4A2

    Do you accept that not all "information" is fact based? What if such "information" is used to falsely and unjustly accuse a group of people, thus leading to exclusion or persecution of those people?

    For this we need more information, more data, more debate, more education, more transparency, not less of it.NOS4A2

    You offer up education as part of the solution, but it is often part of the problem. Formal education is :

    a group of people to tell them what is true or falseNOS4A2

    More often than not, led by a government or church. Education is often used to perpetuate prejudices. It is a form of censorship. It is a point of contention as to who decides what is and is not to be taught.

    More data is not helpful when we are already confronted with more data that we can process and evaluate. When the data provided includes a preponderance of lies and falsehoods we don't need more data but more data that is correct and much less that is not.

    Corporations are a main source of information, but as a corporate entity some news sources are far more concerned with profit and power than with truth. But we must rely on these sources. To say that people need to figure it out for themselves is to kick the can down the road. Most people rely on a limited number of sources for information. While they bear some responsibility for how well they are informed, the sources of provide the news also bear some responsibility for correctly informing their viewers.
  • god must be atheist
    5.1k
    What I get out of your post, Fooloso4, is that we get news and although there is some process of verification, the verification is not verified, and can't be. I know that is true, much like you do.

    We also know that some verification is proper, since we read the local news, and we know that Maple steet is really really closed when Maple steet is reported to be closed. Or we know there is a war in the Ukraine, because we talk to non-news agents (immigrants) from Ukraine, who tell us there is a war.

    But that's scanty information.

    A person therefore has two paths of belief (Actually, three):
    1. Accept the news media's reports as true.
    2. Reject the news media's reports as true.

    Either way, it's the sole decision of the individual. There is no arguing with him, because either way the paths are undecidable for dependable truth value. From the individual's point of view.

    Therefore what I get out of your post, Fooloso4, and I think yours is an unassailable opinion, is that we live possibly in a world we don't know anything about. Never mind the sub-atomic particles, or the far-flung reaches of space. We have no verified clue what happens around us.

    Maybe we have a world view, that supports the opposite theory, namely, that information is solid. After all, we wear plastic for clothing, have iPhones that are more intelligent than us, and we watch movies that are not easy to make. We all KNOW that a hundred, a thousand, and a million years ago things were different.

    But we know that because of information. Which is given to us. Only historians are in the know and anthropologists, who are sure (sort of) what had gone one then. We, the people, just believe what they tell us: what the biologists, historians, anthropologists tell us.

    ---------------------

    In conclusion: we have the same chance from our point of view to be completely uninformed, somewhat informed, and completely informed. We have no way of deciding which; it is our temperament that will tell us which version to subscribe to in the degree of our belief of non-.

    In conclusion: It is freaking me out that I live in a world where all the truths I learned in my life have been generated by conspiracy theorists

    (Corollary: Probably that's why to communists only communism is the true social form, to USA people it's only the capitalism, and in forced labour camps it is only the dream of a good meal and a proper night's of sleep that is the best government type.)

    -----------------------

    I completely agree with it, Fooloso4, and I am scaring myself to death here in small doses.
  • NOS4A2
    6.5k


    Presupposing that man is fallible leads me to conclude that he should not have the power to determine and enforce what only the infallible ever could.

    Both free speech and suppression will be abused, but it’s a question about what abuse is preferable. The distortion of truth is not the same as its suppression, and though free speech leaves room for the former it expressly denies the latter, whereas censorship has and will be put to the service of both.
  • Paine
    1.1k
    The distortion of truth is not the same as its suppressionNOS4A2

    I have no idea what this means. Truth is only useful as a concept if all misrepresentations count as the opposite of it. We do not possess a version of events beyond attempts to recount them. Reporting a false narrative is often done for the purpose of suppressing another.
  • ssu
    6.6k
    Truth is really the only counter to falsity in every case. For this we need more information, more data, more debate, more education, more transparency, not less of it. The more and more people rely on a group of people to tell them what is true or false, like a government or corporation or church, the less and less they become able to figure it out for themselves, only compounding the problem to begin with.NOS4A2
    Problem is that many people don't want the truth and are interested in only power. Or see truth only as a powerplay, something that is used to get power. In fact, both woke activists and conspiracy theorists don't care so much about the truth as they see it as a tool of power. They have an agenda. Populism and conspiracy theorists are fighting against the evil elites, who dominate media and try to control the truth. Someone could assume that they would aspire then for an objective truth. Not so, especially if the truth is that actually those cabals don't have as much power as thought. That would be heresy and working for the enemy! It's not a debate, it's a competition who rules. And the post-modernists? I think you already know.

    Never underestimate the lure of tribalism and all it's adverse effects.
  • Fooloso4
    3.7k
    I think yours is an unassailable opiniongod must be atheist

    It pleases me that you think my opinion is unassailable, so I am somewhat reluctant to say that what you attribute to me is not my opinion. My point is that the truth is a standard that must be protected. Absolute freedom of speech does not protect truth and may threaten it.
  • Fooloso4
    3.7k
    Presupposing that man is fallible leads me to conclude that he should not have the power to determine and enforce what only the infallible ever could.NOS4A2

    Fox News is being sued for false allegations against Dominion Voting Systems. The power to determine that they repeatedly and knowingly lied does not require infallibility. Freedom of speech in an inadequate defense. The damage has been done but something can be done to curtail future abuses. But perhaps you regard this as an abuse of power, that Fox should be free to deceive the public with impunity.
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