Thank you for the evenhanded and thoughtful analysis of the hypocrisy and confusion surrounding both social media and the deep socio-political divisions in America.
Three points of disagreement:
The First Amendment is not placed at issue by Twitter or any social medium censoring speech. The Constitution only prohibits the Government (at all levels) from impairing free speech. Private universities, corporations, and individuals can censor and impair free speech all they want to, they just cannot commit unlawful acts to prevent its exercise such as intimidation or physical violence. Thus, the three questions re social media, universities and private institutions generally are “To what extent should a private entity limit or censor speech?” and “To what extent is it constitutional that the Government intervene to force private entities to censor speech that incites violence, rebellion, invidious discrimination, or even misinformation?” and “To what extent is it in the interest of our culture to promote even constitutional laws on this subject?” These questions are not easy to answer. They are perhaps subjects for additional YDN op-eds.
Ostracism was not used in Athens as an impartial means of banishing people who “threatened the stability of the democracy.” Rather, if you examine the specific incidents where Athenians were banished, it becomes clear that ostracism was a form of political infighting — one aristocratic group in conflict with another over control of the city state. The clue to the system is that a person was banished or not based on a secret ballot cast by the small minority of propertied citizens, not by the population as a whole. Thus, think of it as a popularity contest among the rich folks. In contrast, informal social ostracism over the ages and globally is driven by the actions of everybody, with greater impact being inflicted by famous or even notorious public figures and clowns. The question here is: “Is this a useful, productive process whereby individual ostracism of others is turned into a social media/propaganda game?”
The following excerpt from this article is disturbing for many reasons: racism, antisemitism and prejudice of any kind do not deserve debate or tolerance — we know they are simply wrong, and those who hold those views or engage in those behaviors must be brought to justice.
I hope that the day never comes in America when merely holding a view is considered unlawful, dangerous, or deserving of punishment.
I hope that the phrase “we hold these truths to be self-evident” never breaks out of the Declaration of Independence and into the academic mainstream. There is no such thing as a self-evident truth. A good example is that one of the self-evident truths proclaimed in the Declaration is that there’s a Creator, presumably in reference to the Protestant Christian God in particular. I note further that all the Founding Fathers held profoundly racist, antisemitic and misogynistic views. Are all these men to be resurrected and punished? Unfortunately, Yale seems to think such punishment is appropriate for colleges with names of former slaveowners. Except, of course, for Eli Yale, whose money spent founding Yale was earned in the slave trade.
Beliefs that are racist, antisemitic, misogynistic, etc. are objectively false and abhorrent. Why? Because they demonstrably cause unnecessary pain, are destructive, and grossly disturb social harmony. There is no need to tag on any idea of “self-evident”. Anything that is claimed to be self-evident is usually dangerous because such a claim terminates all debate, all thought and even all understanding of what that thing is. The major problem with self-evident truths is who decides which truths fit that category. Much better, I think, to allow debate on everything … while simultaneously not allowing behaviors that are objectively cruel or destructive.
OBT, James Luce, ’66
Alt Empordà, Catalonia