As discussed in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) blog post, the EFF and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently won a decisive victory for the 1st amendment in a case that best demonstrates the need to defend Freedom of Speech, regardless of political beliefs.
The case was the Radiance Foundation vs the National Association for Advancement of Color People (NAACP), and it pitted an anti-abortion, ultra conservative organization against the universally known NAACP. The conflict behind the case was the NAACP’s lawsuit against Radiance for the satirical use of the NAACP’s logo for their pro-abortion stance. Despite the clear satirical/political nature of the logo use, the NAACP attempted to use copy-right law to censor Radiance’s criticism. As EFF noted, they defended Radiance not because of their view, but because of the negative precedence that could have resulted from such a lawsuit.
The societal indifference towards censorship is a dangerous trend that is rising in the developed world. People do not feel the need to defend opinions they do not like, and effectively make free speech an expendable good. The US can place itself amongst the few lucky countries with guaranteed free speech, and yet citizens are quick to justify the censorship of those they disagree with. While both sides are guilty of this tactic, it seems more and more often the left has found itself as the perpetrator of this tactic. A recent article on Vox by an anonymous college professor expands on this phenomenon of illiberal liberals. While the Left by many historical accounts has been the most accepting of controversial speech practices, its current adherents now practice a dangerous intolerance towards anyone they disagree with. The Vox article specifically cites the current conception of Social Justice as the source of this intolerance.
While Social Justice remains an admirable goal in most instances, it has fueled a method of political (or non-political, as the Vox article suggests) discussion that puts all emphasis on sentiment rather than any constructive dialect. The locus of conflict comes from a very localized narrative and world view, becoming unreceptive of any alternative thought and discussion. Professors Marcoux and Critchlow, two of the speakers at the KFP conference, both discussed this current trend from within politics and philosophy. This form of political interaction makes pragmatic and beneficial progress extremely difficult, endangers critical thinking, and puts dangerous emphasis around identity politics, which generalizes entire populations by creating an “Us versus them” mentality. A big part of this mentality emerges as censorship, whether it happens in universities or in civil society at large. If the Vox article and arguments by Marcoux and Critchlow do not convince you of this, all you need to look at is the countless speech laws being created at colleges and cities across the United States.
Radiance vs. NAACP serves as an example of both the current trends in politics and the integrity needed to defend freedom of speech. On one hand, the NAACP attempted to outright censor their opposition’s offensive opinions through a copyright suit, while, on the other, liberally minded organizations stood up to defend freedom, regardless of its substance. What the world needs more of is the integrity shown by the latter in Radiance vs. NAACP.