Freedom of speech is not the same as freedom from (disliked) speech. One contradicts the other.
Not that legal strictures against “offensive” speech would be consistently enforced even if the First Amendment were formally rescinded. In practice, whoever had the most political pull would be issuing the shut-up edicts. Although victims might well be offended by the uttering of those edicts, censors would be undeterred by the contradiction.
These thoughts are occasioned by Greg Lukianoff’s new book Freedom from Speech, and the review of same by Allen Mendenhall at Liberty. Lukianoff heads the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which fights the good fight for civil rights on campus. His book, says Mendenhall, is “a vigorous and cogent refutation of the increasingly popular notion that people have a right not to be offended.”
Lukianoff agrees that hypersensitivity to controversial speech in private institutions, too often punished by private sanctions that are arbitrary and unjust, does not per se violate anyone’s First Amendment rights. It nonetheless undermines the cultural tolerance needed for open discussion. “Only through the rigorous filtering mechanisms of longstanding deliberation and civil confrontation can good ideas be sorted from the bad. Only by maintaining disagreement at a rhetorical and discursive level can we facilitate tolerance and understanding and prevent the imposition of ideas by brute force.”
That is to say, cultural values and political values are not two isolated realms. One influences the other.
Who can disagree? I wouldn’t dare.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.