When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, liberals were often lambasted by conservatives as being defenders of the right to burn the flag, say bad words in rock/pop/rap songs, publish pornographic magazines, or even hold Nazi/Communist public rallies. Nowadays, it seems liberals have gained enough cultural and institutional power they feel they don’t need free speech anymore (the same as the traditional Communist/fascist position of support for free speech only when out of power, which is also Christian Reconstructionist Gary North’s position as well as the Islamist position), plus the influence of critical theory with its notion of “repressive tolerance” has worked its way from the fringes of the left into mainstream liberalism.
By Matt Taibbi
In an irony only public radio could miss, “On the Media” hosts an hour on the perils of “free speech absolutism” without interviewing a defender of free speech.
The guests for NPR’s just-released On The Media episode about the dangers of free speech included Andrew Marantz, author of an article called, “Free Speech is Killing Us”; P.E. Moskowitz, author of “The Case Against Free Speech”; Susan Benesch, director of the “Dangerous Speech Project”; and Berkeley professor John Powell, whose contribution was to rip John Stuart Mill’s defense of free speech in On Liberty as “wrong.”
That’s about right for NPR, which for years now has regularly congratulated itself for being a beacon of diversity while expunging every conceivable alternative point of view.
I always liked Brooke Gladstone, but this episode of On The Media was shockingly dishonest. The show was a compendium of every neo-authoritarian argument for speech control one finds on Twitter, beginning with the blanket labeling of censorship critics as “speech absolutists” (most are not) and continuing with shameless revisions of the history of episodes like the ACLU’s mid-seventies defense of Nazi marchers at Skokie, Illinois.