Free Hate Speech


The fake conservative love of free speech is really a defense of hate speech. What other kind of speech is being repressed these days?* They try to frame it as a defense of “all” speech because that’s the only remotely plausible way to defend extreme hate speech, bullying, white supremacy, Nazi rallies, racist propaganda, efforts to recruit and radicalize the disaffected, etc. They will also cynically use “free association” for the same purposes.

The irony is of course that the more power we allow the radical right to gain, the more they will attack the freedoms of others and the more they will escalate their attacks on free, open society, diversity, and modern democratic, cosmopolitan civilization. And the radical right won’t stop at repressing the speech and other rights of those who oppose them. Radical right ideology, unchecked, invariably leads to violence and murder.

This is a classic example of Popper’s paradox of tolerance (which they mock even as they exploit it).

Some fear that regulating extreme speech is a slippery slope. Partisan information control is a slippery slope with a clear historical and contemporary warrant (justification) for that argument. Since that is already a slippery slope in its own right, regulating hate speech doesn’t necessarily make it more so. Nor is control of hate speech necessarily partisan.


My view is that hate speech is a a form of aggression with a slippery slope towards violence and murder. That particular slippery slope concern has a detailed historical warrant vis a vis open democratic societies. Its not theoretical fear mongering. Hate speech >> fighting words >> incitement to violence >> violence.

IMO the legal and institutional brakes on that progression are in about the right place today, but the radical right wants to cut those brake lines, and too many naive conservatives and liberals are giving them support under the false flag of free speech.

Is there any warrant whatsoever that *regulating* hate speech is a slippery slope? I’m not aware of any, and thus that argument is a fallacy (fear mongering, etc.). It is entirely theoretical as far as I know, by which standard everything is a fatal slippery slope.

Jordan Peterson and his ilk may or may not be radical right fanatics themselves, but at the very least they are useful “idiots”; recruiting tools in the early stages of radicalizing “lost boys” whether they know it or not, whether they admit it to themselves or not. Their blend of benign and malignant stereotypes, tropes, myths, and sex/race pseudoscience (biological essentialism) is the perfect fishnet and on-ramp to more extreme radicalization.

Losing its grip on the mainstream and becoming a counterculture is precisely what has the current generation of conservatives so agitated and subversive. They want good social order on their terms only. They utterly reject a modern, cosmopolitan/multicultural framework in which countercultures become peacefully coexisting subcultures.

Defending their own hate speech (and no one else’s free speech) is the only real reason for conservatives making much ado about free speech these days.
* The cynical fraud (hypocrisy is too weak a word) of conservative free speech is also seen in the ways they try to smear and bully those like our freshman female Congress people who call out racism, sexism, and radical right Zionism in Congress and the Executive branch. If progressives criticize far right Israeli lobbies they are falsely smeared as anti-semitic. If they criticise the GOP’s use of racist props and tropes they are smeared as reverse racists. College students and faculty that oppose racists, homophobes, and fascists speaking, recruiting, and organizing on campus are also smeared as being weak, “coddled” (Haidt), or ironically authoritarian. This is not just a matter of conservatives defending a free and open marketplace of ideas. They try to use any lever of power they can get their hands on to silence their opposition. The recent executive order on campus free speech is a case in point. They would gladly block funds for cancer or climate research to protect hate speech and psuedoscience on campus.

Note: I’m not saying there aren’t many low-information conservatives (and some confused liberals) going along with this naïvely. But where such ignorance is at all willful ignorance, it is complicity.

Many hate speakers are victims of childhood abuse, neglect, insecurity and such. Hate speech may be a symptom of clinical or sub clinical PTSD.

Hate speech defenders and enablers are harder to figure. In some cases they just have a naïve idealism about absolute free speech. Some are simply sympathetic with the hate speaker. More often I think they share the sentiments of the hate speaker but lack the courage to be outspoken haters themselves.

That suggests quite a range of compassionate interventions. I don’t want to give up on anybody, but some of these haters should not be walking around without adult supervision. I don’t want to neglect fascism and radicalization and let them grow like mold until we are forced to fight them with lethal disinfectants.

I welcome any conservatives, libertarians, radical centrists, etc. who want to debate this with me. In fact, I fucking dare you. But I’m NOT going to give anyone the right to make gish-galloping rants on my page. If you disagree with more than one point I’ve made, state your questions/objections/claims one at a time, in one comment/reply for each. Or you can make up to 3 points per comment if you number each point. Otherwise I may delete your comment without reply. If you are too boorish I will block your sorry ass.

There will be ongoing edits to this post.

Poor Richard

Pondering Pax Americana and the government ‘shut-down’ | CONTRARY BRIN

lincoln gettysburg address

Going beyond the knee-jerk platitudes from the right and the left:

Pondering Pax Americana and the government ‘shut-down’ | CONTRARY BRIN.

“Pax Americana will be finished. Which has been the aim of Rupert [Murdoch] & Co., all along.” –David Brin

Presumably Pax Americana is to be replaced by some privatized, neo-feudal world order. What might be a good “Pax” name for it; and might it be a necessary evil given the limits to growth, human nature, etc.? Does liberal democracy require material abundance? Are humans ultimately too mad (irrational) to govern ourselves under precarious conditions?

Ben Franklin said:

“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”


The Dangers of Scientism?

tiny scientist, big mushroom

tiny scientist, big mushroom (Photo credit: hmmlargeart)

This is a response to the blog post The Dangers of Scientism and the Fear of the Unknowable by Dave Pollard and to conversations I’ve recently had about various flaws, fallacies, or evils supposedly inherent in “science.”

There’s a lot of complex feedback between fashions in science and society but I find little in the philosophy of science (in its better versions) to alarm me. What alarms me is the predictable irrationality of the human brain, concentration of power, and corruption. Whatever is wrong with any part of science or society can probably be traced back to these. If we want to address any of these root problems, some version of science is probably our best tool, but it goes without saying that science must continuously improve and engage in continuous quality control –physician, heal thyself.

Pollard’s article reviews The Science Delusion: Asking the Big Questions in a Culture of Easy Answers by Curtis White and also briefly mentions Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience by Sally Satel and Scott O. Lilienfeld.

Of the Science Delusion says:

One of our most brilliant social critics—and the author of the bestselling The Middle Mind—presents a scathing critique of the “delusions” of science alongside a rousing defense of the role of art and philosophy in our culture The so-called new atheists, most famously Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, made a splash in the new millen­nium. They told the evangelical and the liberal believer that they must give up religion and submit to science. More recently, neuroscientists and their fans in the media have delivered a variation on this message: the mapping of the human brain will soon be completed, and we will know what we are and how we should act. Their faith is that the scientific method provides the best understanding not only of the physical world but also of art, culture, economics, and anything left over. The message is nearly the same as that of the new atheists: submit to science.

IMO both books are exercises in demagoguery or pop-propaganda, feeding on the public’s misconceptions and love-hate relationship with perceived aristocracies.

These books liberally combine truths and tautologies with exaggeration and bias in support of a preconceived conclusion with a predictable market among those who feel most threatened by science in general. I think they also appeal to those creatives uncertain of where to place the blame for our modern perils and woes.

Scientism, where it is actually found (there is plenty of it but not usually in the places the public imagines), is typically the product of some common weaknesses in human nature–things like corruption, authoritarianism, risk-aversion, etc.

However most emotionally mature scholars and scientists are well aware that, as Pollard says, “Science is, after all, nothing more than the creation of approximate, limited and ever-changing models and metaphors of some aspects of reality, that are often interesting and sometimes (enormously) useful.” In fact, on the whole, scientists are better enlightened in this respect than most of those who use them for target practice.

Endless anecdotes of life-saving or environment-friendly innovations suppressed by vested academic, professional, or political interests notwithstanding, if you follow the money the original source of science against the public interest is higher up the food chain than the working scientist. The degree of scientism and corruption in science varies widely by industry with more conflict of interest in things like military R&D, big pharma, biotech, and energy than in things like climate science or the social sciences.

Unparsimonious positivism or absolutism is something that most humans, including scientists, fall into with varying degree and frequency (especially when it comes with a paycheck); but which is considerably less prevalent (to say the least) among reputable scientists than most other demographics.

The groups who are most deserving of our outrage, our torches, and our pitchforks are the sociopathic authoritarians who capture the institutions of science, learning, polity, and culture for their own ends and those who are their stooges, collaborators, and sycophants. That some percentage of scientists fall in and out of those ranks is no indictment of science nor the philosophy of science but only of human frailty–that same frailty that also turns religion into chauvinism and murder.

Poor Richard

Mono a Mono?

Was monotheism an advance in human understanding?

What if the historical trend towards monotheism were principally reinforced by its utility as a pretext for authoritarianism?

The animism and polytheism (or pantheism) of early humanity did not preclude the appropriation of religious motifs and beliefs by sociopolitical institutions or hierarchies, but they may have made it more difficult for such hierarchies to grow into permanent monopolies of orthodox dogma.

The word orthodox is from the Greek orthos (“right”, “true”, “straight”) + doxa (“opinion” or “belief”, related to dokein, “to think”) (Wikipedia)

Perhaps ideology is a stage in the development of authoritarian culture analogous to monotheistic theologies. Each “brand” of theology and ideology rolls up and obscures a pantheon of diverse ideas. Converts don’t need to drill down very deeply.

Ironically, the growing influence  of science on society may contribute to a popular misconception of scientific or academic certainty that can be exploited to forge even tighter monopolies on culture and thought. The evil twin of science, pseudo science or “scientism,” is seductive to many.

Theology, ideology, and scientism lend themselves equally to the agenda of authoritarianism. The real war for the hearts and minds of humanity is not between the Right and the Left, or any of their many academic, theological or ideological proxies. The real war that underlies everything else is between orthodoxy and pluralism. Conformity and conflict are two sides of one coin. We need forms of civic equality and conviviality that are not based on uniformity.

Nature abhors a monoculture.

“The etiology is psychiatric” — Helen Caldicott


Related: Town Hall Meeting: Class war, Culture war, or Holy war?

Wikileaks’ collateral damage

“US diplomat in Mexico is 1st casualty of WikiLeaks

Carlos Pascual, U.S. ambassador to Mexico, resigns his post

MEXICO CITY (AP) – The U.S. ambassador to Mexico faced a harsh choice as the release of secret cables made his job nearly impossible: Quit to rescue one of Washington’s most strategic relationships or weather the storm to show that diplomats should not suffer for doing their jobs…

This kind of “casualty” does not involve death or physical injury but it is still an unfortunate kind of collateral damage. I hope the US government will minimize the harm for those who don’t deserve it by reassigning them to good positions.  Nonetheless, this kind of collateral impact may be a small price to pay for a greater good, which is exposing those in government (ours and others) who are not serving the best interests of their citizens.

If  we were more supportive and protective of  whistle-blowers they might have the resources to go through tens of thousands of documents and remove those that serve no compelling public interest. It seems clear to me that whistle-blowers usually operate under such conditions that they do not have that luxury. Leakers may or may not succeed in removing  materials that could endanger innocent lives (Julian Assange and WikiLeaks certainly tried to do so in leaks of military documents), but they usually cannot go through huge volumes of leaked material with a fine-toothed comb to remove information that may hurt the careers or reputations of some who have done no wrong other than doing their jobs side by side with others who HAVE  behaved very badly. That’s too bad, but it is far outweighed by our need to be informed about the misdeeds of those who work in government in our name but who do great harm to us and to others around the world.

We the people need to honor and protect whistle-blowers who act in our interest at their own peril, and we need to provide them with resources that can help them to minimize the collateral damage that is too often the price of our freedoms.

Poor Richard

This is a must-see video: Daniel Ellsberg and Julian Assange Talk WikiLeaks

“Following the leak by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks of almost 400,000 secret US army field reports from the Iraq war between 2004 and 2009, tune in to hear Julian Assange at the Frontline Club in conversation with one of the most famous whistle blowers in history, Daniel Ellsberg, who was responsible for the leak of the Pentagon Papers in 1971.”

No Fly: A Tactic in Search of a Strategy?

Florida congressman Alan Grayson.

Image via Wikipedia

Received from “Committee to Elect Alan Grayson” today:

One of the unfortunate imperatives of public life is that when something is the lead story, you think you’ve got to be doing something about it. Not just have an opinion on it. Be doing something about it.

Volcano erupts? Prepare a news release on the new anti-volcano policy.

Zombies are multiplying? Introduce anti-zombie legislation.

Well, Libya’s been on the front page for a month now. Demonstrations. Civil unrest. Army attacks, etc. So our world leaders think that they’ve got to be doing something about it.

Hence the Libya no-fly zone.

Here is a link to UN Security Resolution 1973, authorizing the Libya no-fly zone. It shows a laudable, albeit rather repetitive, concern for civilian wellbeing. It also completely fails to explain how a no-fly zone will ensure the safety of civilians.

The Libyan Air Force hasn’t received a major delivery of new aircraft in 22 years. Roughly three-quarters of its “air”craft can’t fly.

It is true that the Libyan Air Force, such as it is, has been deployed. But the serious threat to civilians in Libya is not from the Libyan Air Force. It’s from the government security forces on the ground. A no-fly zone does not take away their guns, or their artillery.

For outsiders like us, there are two questions to answer:

(1) Do you want Gaddafi in or out?(2) Either way, what are you willing to do about it?

Here are my answers:

(1) Out, because Gaddafi is a dictator who has stunted the development of his country and its people (although in a list of the 5,000 things that are most important to America, I’d have to rank this close to the bottom, even if it is on the evening news every night).(2) Economic sanctions, including extending the de facto oil embargo and asset freeze that already are in effect.

And it’s likely that an oil embargo/asset freeze will work. Oil is 95% of Libya’s exports, and 25% of GNP. Libya has about four years of oil revenue in the bank, but with an asset freeze and economic sanctions, that becomes meaningless. Whatever the result in the streets, as soon as Gaddafi runs out of money, he’s gone.

But a no-fly zone? In the case of Libya, that’s a tactic in search of a strategy. The Yiddish word for it is “shmei,” roughly translated as aimless strolling around. A no-fly zone is basically just looking like you’re doing something to remove Gaddafi, at the cost of $60 million in a day (which was the cost of the first day’s worth of cruise missiles launched).

The last time we tried this, in Iraq, we had to sustain it for 12 years. At enormous effort and expense. And it didn’t bring down Saddam at all.

More fundamentally, a no-fly zone in Libya feeds the dangerous fantasy that every problem has a military solution. That the answer to the use of force is the use of more force. That if a hammer doesn’t drive that nail in, try a howitzer.

It was Mao Tse-Tung who said that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. Do we really want Mao’s principles running our foreign policy?


Alan Grayson

“I said you wanna be startin’ somethin’
You got to be startin’ somethin’
I said you wanna be startin’ somethin’
You got to be startin’ somethin’”

–Michael Jackson


I agree with Grayson on some but not all points, and he leaves some important issues unmentioned.

Here’s Poor Richard’s take on Libya and similar scenarios:

  • People who just talk about the costs are shitbirds.
  • Let’s not be hypocrites. Prior to (or at least in parallel with) military intervention use all other means, which includes reversing all the ways we have been helping/enabling the regime for decades.
  • Declare US corporations and persons which do business with or aid the regime to be terrorists, war criminals, or whatever shoe that fits. Revoke their corporate charters, passports, freeze their assets, etc. Softer sanctions worked with South Africa.
  • That’s probably enough, but if not, military intervention should be conducted through the UN, or at least through allies from the same region as the regime.
  • Weapons systems we supply to such allies should be loaned and recovered after the conflict.
  • Any direct US military intervention (alone or with allies but not UN approved) must be in defense of non-combatants only.
  • I see the US as a first-responder resource the UN could contract for rapid deployment and if it did so we should be entitled to deduct costs from our dues.
  • I have no doubt that UN process still has serious bugs but we should work sincerely and rapidly to resolve them and make the UN the prime contractor for all humanitarian military intervention.
  • UN blessing must be a very high priority for US (so we must keep dues paid up) and we should expect to pay a penalty or fine of some kind if we jump the gun without UN approval— as sometimes we may still choose to do, and which is consistent with a US that is a good-faith UN partner but still a sovereign and independent nation.
  • Finally, there’s a bit more that must be said about the US exercising military force either as 1) an agent of the UN or 2) working through regional allies. In these cases, which are to be the preferred (in that order) modes of operation, the US Armed Forces must learn to take orders from a UN or foreign chain of command. This is something that many old-school US military personnel and civilians alike cannot swallow. But that’s tough titty. It is not a surrender of sovereignty. It is really just playing well with others. Those who are too immature and insecure to play well with others must STFU, take a time-out, and stand in the corner while those who CAN play by the rules take the field. I believe the terms I’ve outlined here are the only ways we can project our power without rightly being accused of Imperialism, colonialism, hubris, bad-faith, hypocrisy, etc. and without creating a blow-back that is worse than the problems we set out to fix–in other words, that is, without shooting ourselves in the foot.


Front cover of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of...

Image via Wikipedia

PNAMBC = Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain

I don’t hear “Starve the beast” much from the right these days, but the corporate strategy is alive and well in Wisconsin (and all over the USA).

Wikipedia notes, “It appears the earliest use of the term “starving the beast” to refer to the political-fiscal strategy was in a Wall Street Journal article in 1985 where the reporter quoted an unnamed Reagan staffer. [8]”

The gist of it is: 1. Tax cuts –> 2. Budget crises –> 3. Emergency bills and powers –> 4. Mass privatization of schools, courts, jails, utilities, armies, etc.

Of course there are other ways than tax cuts to get to #3. Emergency bills and powers.

There is also the Shock Doctrine described by Naomi Klein. Catastrophic deregulation is one way to create a shock by unleashing the corporate sociopaths as in the Wall Street disaster.

There is George Orwell’s and  Noam Chomsky’s state of perpetual war, by which dominant political and economic classes consolidate their power over their own countrymen and transfer wealth from taxpayers to corporations.

And there is the good old culture war designed to get the poor and the middle class herded up into mobs that will vote against their own economic interests.

All told these are powerful and perhaps irresistible forces, even if they are all only built of smoke and mirrors…



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