You can’t say anything anymore!

Oh, sure you can.

Here are the gripes, and here are my responses.

You can’t say anything anymore! It may feel that way because you’re not the only one talking. You can say whatever you want, whenever you want, but a thousand people may respond to you and tell you what a jerk you are. So, the gripe is really, “You can’t say anything anymore without people yelling at you.” That, I’m afraid, may be true. So the complaint about “not being able to say anything” is more a complaint about power structures. Other people are yelling at you, which means you have less power than you might like. No wonder it’s upsetting!

Note of course, that people who say “you can’t say anything anymore” have just said the thing they claim they are forbidden to say. So it’s incoherent. But if they were to tell the whole truth, they’d say, “I can’t say anything anymore and have people like me,” which would sound like the childish whining it is.

They won’t let me talk on that stage, so they don’t believe in free speech! Sure they do. It’s been said ad nauseum, but people still don’t get it. You can’t say whatever you want wherever you want, whenever you want, but you can say it somewhere, and that’s all either the 1st Amendment and our custom of free speech guarantee. You can’t come to my house and tell my family about your anti-vax convictions, or about how the election was rigged. I and my family have something to say about what goes on in our property. If you believe in the sanctity of private property, you would respect that. Even the 1st Amendment has time, place, and manner restrictions. In a mayor’s town hall meeting, you can say whatever you want, but if you yell, take too much time, or use rude language, you will be ejected. As with many things, this seems perfectly reasonable when it applies to other people, but a horrific limitation of Freedom when it applies to you.

Again, this is about power. The griper is objecting to their perceived loss of power when, in fact, it is an increase in the power of others.

The issue of privately owned channels, like Twitter, which can ban people for a variety of reasons, is bothersome, because it seems like a public “town square”, when in fact it is a private enterprise. The illusion of public ownership comes from its being free and ubiquitous; it looks like a commons.

Citizens who advocate for the shrinkage of government now have to contend with the loss of rights that are only guaranteed under the government’s aegis. Hoisted by their own petard.

They refuse to debate me, they must be afraid of my ideas! Well, that’s a very flattering explanation, but there are other possibilities. People might not want to debate you because they don’t like you; maybe you’re unpleasant. Or, you don’t mean “debate” in the sense of a structured, timed event with referees and controls, but an argument, which people may, understandably, prefer to avoid. Or, even if you do mean a formal debate, there might be a sense that you want to use the debate forum as a means to deliver self-serving speeches and gotchas, regardless of what your debate opponent says. Debates that reveal actual ideas and arguments are wonderful things, but ever since the Evolution vs Creation debates, they have evolved (irony!) into simply a platform to confer respectability on ideas that do not otherwise merit it, by putting them on a level field with ideas that have scientific or institutional credibility. And why should anyone grant you that platform? Host your own debate, you want a debate so badly.

So, the uncomfortable conclusion is that you have plenty of freedom, as much as ever, but others do too. Could you move over? You’re taking up the whole bench.

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