In a new piece, Vice reports that Elon Musk is about to bring hatred back to Twitter – something that will make it a genuinely unsafe place for trans people. Given Musk’s rather libertarian outlook, this seems unlikely – rather more true would be that a certain progressive viewpoint is upset at losing the ability to censor the public conversation.
The claim is strong though:
“Queer and trans people are rightly worried that their efforts fighting online harassment on the platform will be erased — including policies which prevent misgendering and transphobic hate speech, which often fuel offline harassment and violence.
”If that happens, Musk’s Twitter will be a genuinely unsafe place for trans people.”
We could point to that old folk wisdom that sticks and stones will break bones but names will never hurt. But if this is so, then we need an explanation for the claims now being made about the return of free speech.
The answer is that a certain progressive mindset has been very successful at curbing that freedom of speech in the public sphere. Some things have been declared “misinformation” – Hunter Biden’s laptop, the election steal, ivermectin, say – others have been declared hatred – the immutability of sex even if gender is flexible, to be on the subject here. The point is not that any of those things are true or untrue. It’s that the power to make them unsayable had been gained – that power now looks like being lost.
So the people who did have that power to make unsayable things they didn’t want to be said are now upset about that return of freedom of speech. This is understandable, for no one likes to lose hard-won power. However understandable there’s no reason we need to give the argument the time of day though.
It’s entirely true that the First Amendment talks of Congress making no law, not of the self-regulation of private or even public spaces. But the root of the idea is that only when all things are sayable is it possible to sort through to the actual truth.
Vice is a substantial part of the new media world. The magazine has a distribution of 900,000 copies, the cable channel reaches 60 million American homes. The website itself gets 27 million visits a month. It’s a large operation.
One of the surprises of these past few years has been the enthusiasm by certain sectors of the media for this new editing of what may be said along woke lines. OK, so the media does lean woke, we know that, but journalists in favour of censorship has been a true weirdness to behold.