“If you’re in favor of freedom of speech that means you’re in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise. Otherwise you’re not in favor of freedom of speech.”
So said Noam Chomsky in the 1980s, a succinct explanation of one of the most basic components of liberalism defined by one of the greatest heroes of 20th century liberalism.
Good luck finding liberals like him anymore.
A new study from Stanford University tested the differences between conservatives and progressives in their views toward free speech and censorship.
“Social media companies have come under increasing pressure to remove misinformation from their platforms, but disagreements between Republicans and Democrats over what should be removed have stymied efforts to deal with misinformation in the United States,” reads the study’s summary.
It continued, “In this paper, we identify three potential sources of partisan disagreement: 1) a ‘fact gap’ — differences in perceptions about what is misinformation; 2) a ‘value gap’ — differences in overall preferences about the amount of content that should be removed; and 3) ‘party promotion’ — a desire to leave misinformation online that promotes one’s own party.”
“We conduct a survey experiment in a national survey of U.S. respondents that controls for the first factor and disaggregates the effects of the remaining two,” the text read. “We explicitly tell respondents that the content presented to them is misinformation and vary whether that content aligns with the respondent’s party or the opposing party.”
“We find strong evidence for a value gap,” the study indicated.
BREAKING: liberals hate libertyhttps://t.co/P2i5kaWPaT
— Scott Horton (@scotthortonshow) February 14, 2023
“Even when Republicans agree that content is false, they are half as likely as Democrats to say that the content should be removed and more than twice as likely to consider removal as censorship,” the study concluded. “While we find some evidence of Democrats’ willingness to use content moderation for party promotion, overwhelmingly our results show that disagreement between Republicans and Democrats about content moderation comes from differences in values rather than strategic considerations of party promotion.”
Obviously old-fashioned partisanship plays a role here, something the study freely admits and even includes in its methodology.
But to return to the Chomsky quote, “If you’re in favor of freedom of speech that means you’re in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise. Otherwise you’re not in favor of freedom of speech.”
You could switch “despise” with any of the current popular names for news or opinion that dissent from establishment narratives – “misinformation,” “disinformation,” “hate speech” – and today you will find a Left that increasingly finds censoring thought they don’t like as the socially responsible thing to do.
In Chomsky’s own view, today’s “liberals” are “not in favor of freedom of speech.” Which in the current political environment, puts you on the Right.
Which is weird!
Noam Chomsky, with the once-standard American leftist view on free speech: short, sweet, clear and principled.
Also now branded as "far-right" or "fascist" in contemporary left-liberal discourse: pic.twitter.com/VFw7uAOKRE
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) November 8, 2022
It’s been nearly three years since Chomsky, J.K. Rowling and other notables signed the famous Harper’s letter urging government and major institutions to allow and encourage open debate. For some time now, I have covered at BASEDPolitics this noticeable shift on the Left where the old school ACLU/Noam Chomsky understanding of free speech has increasingly gone out the window – including at the actual ACLU!
Chomsky remains an OG liberal to this day and thank God for that.
Last week, 153 writers, artists and academics — including J.K. Rowling, Noam Chomsky and Nell Irvin Painter — signed an open letter in Harper’s Magazine warning of a threat to intellectual life in the United States https://t.co/iNAHktkVum
— New York Times Opinion (@nytopinion) July 17, 2020
We learned last year of a planned “Disinformation Governance Board” the Biden administration was concocting – the federal government actually policing online speech in direct violation of the First Amendment – that they backed off on. Now we learn the State Department funded a “disinformation index” that warns advertisers to avoid some media outlets. Then we learned through the Twitter Files and Facebook Files that Twitter and Facebook had been coordinating with the government to censor and regulate private speech.
Again, in America. Where we supposedly have a Constitution that allegedly protects free expression.
To be clear, there are conservatives who seek to censor and regulate speech in a variety of immoral and unconstitutional ways, particularly at the state and local levels.
As Chomsky notes, while the Harper's Letter was in part addressed to the growing pro-censorship faction on the left, "cancel culture" is mostly used by the mainstreams. We did a show last week on how – on some issues – it can come from parts of the Right:https://t.co/Ep2Bmh4XbF
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) February 6, 2023
But as the study shows, conservatives at large are still significantly more likely to believe news and views they don’t like should be allowed, and “liberals” at large have quickly become more comfortable with censorship as a valuable and necessary social tool.
Strange as it sounds, free speech has become, or is becoming, a de facto rightwing value.
Free speech as a “right wing value.” This gets scarier by the day. https://t.co/2WIxb9g3UZ
— Jack Hunter (@jackhunter74) April 30, 2022
I think it's fair to say that 'the right' has 100% embraced this relatively recently. And now oddly enough, it's 'the left' who are losing hold of this value.
Similar to 'free speech'. Which was a valuable tool during the entire civil rights era, but now seen as 'right-wing'. 🤷🏿♂️ https://t.co/IKlxN37RNZ
— ZUBY: (@ZubyMusic) March 10, 2020
Trying to turn free speech into a *right-wing* value is one of the dumbest fucking things liberals have done. Now when they're censored by corporate giants or the state, they have no principles on which to object, no values to which they can appeal: just have to beg for reversal.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) October 26, 2021
The biggest change happens when people don’t notice. It’s harder to see when masses change together. This has happened throughout history.
Today, you would be hard-pressed to find an American progressive who, when asked if they believe in free speech, would say ‘no, I don’t.’ We’re not that far yet.
But you would be even more hard-pressed to find one who actually meant it.