Following the Charlottesville, VA insanity, we did some thinking on the whole concept of Free Speech.
Free Speech isn’t free. The ability to have your say comes with a responsibility, that you have to accept that other people might not agree with you, to the point of trolling you, calling you out or offering to bash you one over the head. RoadDave is a blog and we exercise the right to Free Speech as enshrined in the Canadian Bill of Rights to express an opinion. At the same time, we also accept that not everyone will agree with the opinion. That is the concomitant responsibility of Free Speech.
The only caveat we place on Free Speech is that if you do disagree, then back up your opinion with facts, reproducible observations or other learned discourses that support your thesis. This is called Intellectual Discourse. Not agreeing means you’re thinking, considering and valuating evidence or observations made and communicated by someone else.
Some Intellectual Discourse can be binary: If we were to say that the atomic number of molybdenum was not 42, one could easily disprove that assertion with a simple tag from Wikipedia that states that, yep, it is 42. Our reaction would be a simple “Ooops, made a mistake, corrected it”. We would own our mistake, then make, in this instance, modest amends for using the incorrect atomic number of molybdenum.
Other discourse can be more fraught with shades of vagueness on inconclusive evidence or analogies that stretch reality into directions that don’t necessarily exist. Flat-Earthers, Moon-landing deniers, Elvis is alive in Kalamazoo, and other fringe groups seem to not care for evidence-based discourse. We’ll add Chemtrails are making us all gay, JFK was an alien from another planet and you can cure all diseases with (state name of botanical or superfood) but it can’t happen because Big Pharma won’t let you. Having the opinion that the Earth is flat is fine, but be prepared to back it up with facts and be prepared to have your facts questioned in a proper intellectual discourse.
So to Charlottesville. If the neo-Nazi groups in Charlottesville have an opinion that white pride is good and can back it up with evidence that it is good for all of America, we’re willing to listen. Not with an open mind, but with a scientifically suspicious mind as befits proper intellectual discourse. We won’t accept intellectual sloppiness or woolly unsubstantiated assertions and won’t let them get away with changing the subject to something parenthetical, or single-event ‘proof’ of whatever their particular opinion might be.
Does this make us racist? We don’t believe so, as even complete assholes do have the right to free speech no matter how ugly, unacceptable, or vile it may be. The responsibility of that right is to back up your idea with facts and let others judge your thesis on the facts. If your facts don’t hold up, be prepared to have your thesis coated with molasses and ketchup, slow roasted at 225 degrees for 8 hours, and handed back to you on a plate.
There hangs the reason why we have no problem with free speech: Hate mongering doesn’t stand up to even the rudimentary basics of intellectual discourse. They have no thesis, no form, no evidence and no coherent platform except hate. It takes about nine seconds for someone listening to them to recognize that a neo-Nazi is a complete moron and what they are trying to sell is complete nonsense without form or substance, but with a semen-glazed veneer of their own masturbatory fantasies of power and potency under the flickering glare of a Wal-Mart tiki torch.
Stupid people can see through that. Even the truly stupid can sense when the goods on offer are false. Even with strongly held, objectionable opinions, you can disarm them with one simple, one-word question. That magic question is the heart of all intellectual discourse and we’ll let you in on the secret, single, solitary, potent, powerful, penetrative question.
That one question forces, in fact, demands the explanation and rationale for the strongly held opinion. It is the starting gun for intellectual discourse. Ask Why enough times and you either get an answer, or they walk away, knowing they have failed miserably, not just in convincing you, but in convincing themselves, showing their flawed logic and misguided opinions based on rumours, fears and stupidity. They’ll know they are assholes, deep down inside, by their own words and deeds. That is the nastiest cut of all as it is self-inflicted.
If they don’t change their minds, then you can readily consign them to the dustheap as not worthy of your further engagement.
They will be blocked, not just on social media, but by society at large as the muttering nutter fringe who can’t express themselves in a coherent manner, offering noise and fury signifying nothing.
Perhaps that is the cruelest cut: We. Don’t. Care.