By John Ruberry
Free speech is under harsh attack in America courtesy of wokeism. Such warnings about free speech are nothing new–but in the past much of the danger has been imagined. For instance I was in college when The Clash released Combat Rock. On the opening track, “Know Your Rights,” Joe Strummer sings of those rights, “all three of them.” The third right is “free speech,” with a caveat. That right could be used if “you’re not dumb enough to actually try it.” Assuming that Strummer was addressing his core audience, American and British youths of the early 1980s, what he said was at best a gross exaggeration.
Not so in 2021.
I received the inspiration for this post by listenening to Ben Shapiro’s December 24 podcast, Goodbye, 2020.
Shapiro is among the many commentators who predict a purge–my word, not his–of dissident voices, meaning conservative ones, on social media such as Twitter, beginning with Donald Trump as soon as he’s not president.
Absurdly, people like Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, still claim that social media is a neutral conduit of information. Twitter for a while prevented the posting and distribution of the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story on the microblogging platform claiming that the laptop details were hacked and illegally obtained. Wrong on both counts. Twitter had no problem with Tweets linking to the New York Times story about Trump’s income tax returns–those returns may have been obtained by hacking. Regardless how those returns were accessed the person who did so broke the law.
What to do?
“Well first of all we’re going to have to rely on people, believe or not, who are moderate liberals,” Shapiro said in that podcast, “who are sick of watching the Overton window shut.”
And that means conservative have to defend those liberals who cross the cancel culture.
An incident on Twitter comes to mind. Three years ago in this space I reviewed the documentary XTC-This Is Pop, which was about the spectacular rock back that emerged in England in the late 1970s. That post got a lot of retweets, including one from the XTC Fans Twitter page, run by the now-dissolved group’s former leader, Andy Partridge. A committed liberal, Partridge’s Tweets, although often sarcastic, were entertaining and usually well-thought out, whether it was about music, religion, or politics.
In 2019 some people with too much time on their hands accused Partridge of anti-Semitism after a series of Tweets–not well-thought out this time–about American Middle East policy that devolved into an online shouting match about Israel and religion. Partridge, a strident atheist, went a little too far, I admit, but taken into context with his overall sardonic attitude, those Tweets weren’t a big deal to me. I planned to write a blog post on Marathon Pundit defending him, but then Partridge cancelled himself on Twitter by deleting the XTC Fans account and I moved on to other things.
One of those Twitter accounts Partridge engaged with was “Jon Devin Nunes’ Prostate.”
You know, some people take Twitter too seriously.
Back to Partridge. No one knows why he deleted his account–perhaps he decided that he was spending too much time on social media. He certainly broke a Twitter rule of mine: Never feed online trolls.
I believe if Partridge wasn’t an older white male a Twitter mob would not have bothered to object to those controversial Tweets. For instance the media, with a few exceptions, have not called to task Georgia US Senate candidate Raphael Warnock for his anti-Israel comments.
There will be other efforts to silence dissidents on social media. Mostly against conservatives. But against liberals too.
Conservatism must embrace free speech. And that means relying on for allies, not just the moderate liberals that Shapiro spoke of, but also center-line liberals too in order to fight this crucial battle. And keep in mind no political ideology is always correct.
As for the fundamentalist far-left, the tiny tail wagging the cultural dog these days, I believe they’ve already isolated themselves, as Isaac Asimov said of the 1960s radicals, into a “no-man’s land of the spirit.” Think of the bleating sheep in George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
But right now in the culture wars the far-left is winning.
John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.