Cancel cancel culture
Fellow Americans, it is long past time to cancel "cancel culture."
Great thinkers about free speech, including the likes of John Milton, Thomas Jefferson, John Stuart Mill, Alexander Meiklejohn, and Yale law professor Thomas Emerson recognized it as the surest means by which the collision or combat with error could lead to correction. It was the key component in the process by which we can hope to zero out error while we zero in on truth.
Nowhere is the ability to speak freely more important than in the right to criticize our government, its leaders, and its policies. That is why the most vehement attacks from the establishment are directed at those critical of government policies such as voter fraud, open borders, vaccine mandates, education of children, and even "curation" of free speech itself. Though the establishment is loath to admit it, governments too can make mistakes, and the last best hope for correction is allowing the people to speak truth to power.
Recently at Yale law school, the student cancel culture warriors directly attacked free speech. It is impossible to imagine more ironic behavior than what they attempted to do: shouting down a forum on free speech. I contacted the dean, urging her to please do something to stop this dysfunctional embarrassment.
What are the current generation of Yale Law students being taught? When (or if) they graduate and become lawyers, how will they behave when they get to court? Will they, thinking back to the lessons they learned in law school, present the evidence and arguments on their side of the case, and then, when the other side begins its presentation, feel entitled to stand up, screaming and shouting, hooting, hollering, and howling to prevent the court from hearing what the other side has to say?
Imagine: the judge brings down the gavel. "Order in the court! Order in the court!" But the Yale Law grads keep on disrupting, exclaiming that they are simply exercising their First Amendment rights by denying them to others! In the phrase of Emile Zola (1840–1902) in another context, what we see here is "absurdity doubled with hypocrisy."
Elon Musk recently announced he wanted to buy Twitter, and the establishment became similarly Orwellian. Musk said he wanted to transform Twitter from a social media platform of censorship to one of free speech. He said that that portion of the modern American town square should be an arena of open discussion rather than a playground for censorship. The fascists on the left immediately became unhinged at the very prospect, exposing themselves as the deranged apostles of curtailment.
The excuse they gave was beyond belief, except that it has so often been offered: Musk, they said, was a "threat to our democracy" because he wanted free speech! What was rightly seen by America's founders as the "bulwark of democracy," as the "palladium of the republic" was now to be considered as a profound threat to it!
What? Is it now presumptuous on American soil to ask that we discuss free speech and remind ourselves of its value? To those who say so, let us ask, with Wendell Phillips (1811–1884): who invented this libel on our democracy?
Under the Constitution, We the People are the sovereigns. The government is our servant. To cancel, curtail, censor, and in some cases criminalize the voice of the people is to reverse the master-servant relationship. It tells the master to shut up. When the Vox Populi is silenced, the servant issues a bitter, undemocratic insult to the people, a slander that must be resented.
Besides claiming that free speech is a threat to our democracy (whose, exactly?), the fascist curtail culturites' most common excuse for censorship is that they supposedly want America to be more harmonious, peaceful, and less polarized. These words do more than substitute Orwellian adjectives for those actually intended: servile, submissive, quiet, obedient. They also create the opposite effect. Each of the above thinkers emphasized some version of what is now known, after Professor Emerson, as the "steam valve" theory of free speech. When the people are allowed to vent, they become less, not more, hostile. They are more likely to say something like: "Well, at least I was able to say my piece." It is when the citizenry are bottled up that the greatest pressure builds. Eventually, the anger is more likely to explode.
Are the establishment curtailists unaware of what has long been known? Or are they perhaps deliberately shutting down the venting process in order to create more dramatic outbursts, to the end that they may declaim "domestic terrorists" and "insurrectionists," thereby justifying still further suppression?
Yes, America, it is high time to curtail curtailment. The way to do so is to continue exercising free speech with determination in every available avenue and venue. No matter how much the fascists attempt to intimidate, We the People must keep on talking!
George W. Shuster is a graduate of Yale Law School in the same class as Bill and Hillary Clinton, with whom he reserves the right to disagree, respectfully, of course (or not).
Image: Pixabay, Pixabay License.