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+3 votes
I've been reading on the interwebs that there are some anarchists that are supportive of censoring or policing the speech of people in a hypothetical anarchist society. It doesn't really make sense to me how that would be possible without becoming authoritarian. Anyhoot, I was wondering how y'all feel on the matter of speech?
by (4.7k points)
i think in their eyes it would only be the tyranny of sleep-deprivation, since in their democratic, consensus-based, federated workerist daydream it would only be a case of yet more meetings, meetings after work related meetings, within the greater community in order to figure out which words hurt who, and through consensus erasing or creating words...and just when you thought you could go to sleep before your next shift at the factory, phrases and sentences come to the fore.
Thanks and that made me lol. That hypothetical anarchist society sounds like a total nightmare and undesirable to me. Strangly enough, I've seen people on the interwebs suggest stuff like that. :P

1 Answer

+4 votes

This whole "free speech" issue is so clouded by liberal assumptions...

Without political power, curtailing public expression is ineffective. Here in the freest country in the world, the Constitution proclaims that Congress will not interfere with the exercise of free speech (among other things), and because of our public indoctrination (oops -- of course I mean education), Americans have some strange ideas about what that means. For example, many believe that if some publisher ignores a story/contribution, then that's censorship. This is absurd; there is no implied duty or responsibility of a publisher to print/broadcast any particular opinion. Ignoring or refusing to publish/broadcast somebody's opinion is not the same thing as suppressing or censoring it. Those actions are almost always the purview of government agencies (especially those relating to security and law enforcement). People without access to political power (the power to repress) cannot really be censors. 

The American idea of Free Speech is really a legislative issue. The justification for curtailing it (the "clear and present danger" test) arose first against a Socialist (Schenck) and then anarchists (Abrams, et al), all of whom were engaged in anti-war agitation. When the Wobblies started their free speech fights, it was to showcase the hypocrisy of US law enforcement and the judiciary rather than some principled stance in favor of any opinion being expressed publicly. 

Mostly when people complain about censorship and Free Speech, they are adhering to some liberal ideal about the free circulation of opinions in the Marketplace of Ideas. This is absurd, and results in the extension of freedom to the enemies of freedom -- like when the ACLU defends nazis on the grounds of some alleged right to freedom of speech, invoking Voltaire's "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." The very fact that the entire discourse occurs within the realm of rights should make anarchists skeptical.

Free Speech is an American shibboleth, and has almost nothing to do with anarchism.

by (570 points)
Thanks. I was wary of using the term free speech do to the connotations in the term and wasn't meaning rights. I believe the first or one of the first instances of speech being curtailed in the US, was with the passing of the alien and sedition act in 1797-8. It was used against folk for saying mean things about the government in the press. I believe, that act is was they used to justify what you mentioned.

Anyhoot, they seem to be okay with having some sort of list of words/sentences that are deemed mean and/or offensive and one couldn't say it or off to hypothetical anarchist society version of gulag to reeducate. I should probably stop reading reddit. :P

"The very fact that the entire discourse occurs within the realm of rights should make anarchists skeptical."


lawrence has good points, per usual.

i do wish that there were a word/phrase for talking about not active censorship, which requires an authoritarian body, but the intentional ignoring of an unpopular idea (or unmarketable idea? is there such a thing?). ie i think that sometimes the people who are saying "censorship" are technically incorrect but substantively correct and we don't have good terminology for it. or maybe there is a good term and i'm just not thinking of it this morning.
'Taboo'?  (in a traditional context.)

Not so much self-censorship, as critical-self-analysis ...

(i think there is a difference there, but i lost my train of thought.)

not from an anarchistic perspective, but...

i find it somewhat interesting when the so-called radical left chooses to prevent a right-winger from talking at the (lefty) university that virtually iconizes "free speech". the unconstrained exchange of ideas is great, until some unsavory ideas come into play. then come the authoritarians of all stripes.

with a bit of @ thrown in:

if you really have a problem with him (milo), take it to him, fuck the mediated, coercive appeal to the power of a state institution.

i have no interest in thought policing.

Funky this is what got me going on the last question. One of the things I am wondering is about how you agreed above that the whole discussion revolves around a "right" to speak and righrs are problematic. Elsewhere more recently you called it hypocritical to stop someone from speaking. But I am just wondering how? If the whole defense of the speaker is that they have a right to speak, but to me this sounds like it could be talked about in the same way a lot of conflict issues are discussed in discussions about anarchy: "if one person wants this, and it conflicts with another interests, they will have conflict that could play out in a number of ways including avoidance, physical, conversational, something more creative"

I just don't understand how the ideas that free speech is just an American spook and that keeping someone from speaking is authoritarian don't contradict each other, or at least what the basis is for preventing an audience from reaching a speaker or vice versa