Jun 142017
 

Here’s the thing about bastards like the Westboro Baptist Church, or Richard Spencer – they LOVE freedom of speech right now. But I’m willing to bet that if they ever came into power (true power – control of govt, much of the populace behind them, etc) they would quickly forget all about their love of free speech and quickly get to the business of silencing their opponents.

I used to think that’s what made my side different. When we came into the majority, we would continue to uphold and protect the principles of civility that we were so enraptured with when we were the oppressed. More and more, it seems that this isn’t the case.

There’s probably people that really do believe in certain principles. Principles like freedom of speech, and that violence should not be used as a tool. They will continue to extend freedom of speech and protection from violence to their opponents, even when they come into power and no longer have to. Even opponents they really hate, even when it would be easy not to. As far as I can tell those people are in the minority. It’s easy to say your are pro-free-speech when free speech shields you. It is hard to be for it when you are in power, and you must expend effort and lose allies (and friends!) in an effort to shield people who are disgusting. All because of something as stupid as a principle.

But the weak! The weak will always hide under those principles, because they don’t have much strength of their own. The allies they can recruit from the Establishment, who believe in the principles, will lend them a fair bit of strength. The strong, on the other hand, don’t need the principles. They are already in control of the establishment. And so the principles are always the refuge of the weak.

Look to who is invoking principles, such as freedom of speech, to defend themselves. These are usually the weaker in a conflict.

I am tired to sheltering reprehensible people. I almost wish for a time when my beliefs were the oppressed minority, because then the people I agree with – the GOOD people – would be the ones I’m supporting when I stand for freedom of expression. I have a number of people who I can’t call friends anymore, because they see me giving aid and shelter to reprehensible people.

But dammit, I’d rather have people who believe in principles as allies than those who simply agree with me on things like who’s the “better” person. Principles are impartial and firm. They protect everyone equally. People can turn on you in an instant if you don’t sufficiently agree with their current political crusade.

II.

Y’all can stop reading now unless you want personal info, this is the diary part of the blog post.

Early today Republican House Whip Steve Scalise was among five people shot at a congressional baseball game, where a bunch of Republican law makers were playing. He was shot by someone described as a passionate Progressive. I was surprised not to see anything about it in my Facebook feed, as generally its full of politics, and even moreso when a shooting is involved. The only thing I saw all day was one person posting that violence is never acceptable without referencing exactly what happened.

Several months ago, when Richard Spencer was assaulted in the street, I got into a bit of a dust-up with a few friends as to what the problem with this was. With the silence in the wake of this shooting, I asked “Can any of my friends who posted approval for violence when it’s punching people explain why they are against violence when it’s shooting people in the hip? I was told more than once that the purpose of political violence was to make reprehensible people scared to say reprehensible things in public. Since hip-shots are probably more effective at that, is violence only acceptable as a tactic when it’s not very effective?”

All the answers I got essentially boiled down to “Its OK to silence people with the threat of a small amount of violence. It’s not OK to silence them with the threat of a large amount of violence.” Someone drew the comparison between a mugging and a serial killer, saying they weren’t remotely on the same scale.

I found this incredibly depressing. No, they’re not on the same scale. The serial killing is far worse. But I’m still of the opinion that mugging is ALSO bad. How is this an argument for the people who are for small-amounts-of-violence? Comparing your position to that of a mugger doesn’t seem like it should be a winning move.

Another person claimed that frightening people into not doing bad stuff is one of the most beloved, rousing forms of extralegal law. Again, I was dejected to discover that there are people on the “good” side – liberal, progressive, pro-equality, etc – who are in favor of and speak highly about “extralegal law”! What in god’s name is my side coming to?

I was told (again) that violence against Nazis doesn’t count as bad, because Nazis are people who’s sole motivation and explicit purpose is violence. I responded that the same was said of Communists once, and this was used to destroy the lives of many people who weren’t actually Communists because their opponents found it useful to label them as such. I was told that this was a false equivalency because Not All Communists are violent, and Yes All Nazis are. I declined to say Not All Nazis, because I know a stupid rhetorical trap when I see one (though why it doesn’t count when someone says Not All Communists I don’t know) and merely pointed out that this didn’t address my concern about creating a sub-human category of person that it’s OK to subject to violence, which I believe is wrong on principle, and the fact that some people will be labeled as that category by their enemies simply as a convenient tool. The conversation ended abruptly. (Tho to be fair, the person I was speaking to said I was misrepresenting their opinion, and didn’t believe it was worth taking the time/effort to correct me)

So yeah. I feel like I was very naive in thinking that certain useful principles matter for most people past the point where they are useful to them. This is distressing to me. :(

  9 Responses to “Principles Are The Refuge Of The Weak :(”

  1. As someone who doesn’t see liberals as the good guys and isn’t in favour of free speech this was an interesting read. Regarding who you offer shelter and assistance to I thought I would point something out.

    You need to be careful about whose free speech you spend your time defending. If you primarily defend the humanity and free speech of hate groups then people who don’t like hate groups may take exception. If you really feel the need to protect the free speech of others then maybe don’t start with the free speech of white males who have questionable views. I’ve seen you come out two times in defense of the right of pretty terrible people to say what they want publicly without risk of reprisal. From memory anyway. The amount of times I can remember where you came out with a blog post defending someone who needs defending? none off the top of my head. My brain might be faulty but you get the idea. You have to at least appear to be equal in who you are defending. When it is always misogynists or racists then of course people start to think you are on the wrong side. Because you are literally playing for the wrong side.

    It is ok to punch Richard Spencer because he is a racist asshat and Nazi sympathizer who wants a white ethno state and is fine for that to come about via violence. I care about the rights of non white people to live in a world where it isn’t ok to be a public figure and to also advocate for ethnic cleansing. I care a lot less about the rights of a total asshole to speak in public and not get punched. It is ok to punch people in defense of a larger and more innocent and less empowered group of people. Utilitarian ethics I think they call it.I wont argue that it is a good idea to punch Richard Spencer. I will argue that it is morally fine to punch him even while it is clearly not legal to do so.

    Idk who you are hanging out with that thinks violence at politics is ok. Or who would recognise RS as a political opponent instead of just an oppressive piece of detritus whom no one should have to suffer through.

    In another post you argued that you weren’t ok with potentially misleading titles and slants in media articles. (for a very mild example of these things I might add). At the same time you are ok with people who want to kill all of the jews and the blacks and have an all white America getting publicity and a public platform. Because there is no way that could go wrong. There is no way that has gone wrong in the past.

    • >You need to be careful about whose free speech you spend your time defending.

      Yes, I’m aware of the social costs. I realize that every time I stand up for my principles, I damage my friendship with those of my peers who don’t care about those principles. I generally restrict myself to very notable things that a significant fraction of people I care about are getting very wrong (from my POV), such as encouraging violence. If I speak up too often I lose the ability to speak up at all, within that group, unfortunately.

      > maybe don’t start with the free speech of white males who have questionable views.

      Surely you mean anyone who has questionable views? Or are questionable views more tolerable when they come from non-white-men?

      > I’ve seen you come out two times in defense of the right of pretty terrible people to say what they want publicly without risk of reprisal. From memory anyway. The amount of times I can remember where you came out with a blog post defending someone who needs defending? none off the top of my head.

      Sadly, I do not get to choose who is having their freedom of speech violently repressed. The last time I spoke up pre-Spencer was after the Charlie Hebdo attack. I assume you have more sympathy for french cartoonists subject to terrorist attacks, but I dunno.

      Although perhaps I should be slightly more active in expressing public sympathy when bad things happen to my in-group, simply for signalling reasons. I will make an effort.

      > I will argue that it is morally fine to punch him

      Right. That’s exactly the attitude I’m against. The “principle” I’m defending.

      > Idk who you are hanging out with that thinks violence at politics is ok

      I refer you to your statement that I quoted previous to this one, regarding it being fine to punch someone.

      > Because there is no way that could go wrong. There is no way that has gone wrong in the past.

      Of the things I worry about happening in America in the present day (or even within the next four years) “killing all the jews and blacks and having an all-white America” is very VERY low on my list. It is laughably unlikely. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t continue to be on guard against it, but we’re more likely to see the South Rise Again under the leadership of a descendant of Robert E Lee than we are to see that. OTOH, we are in the midst of a public campaign to implement wide-scale censorship by the social group that used to be the defenders of free speech. And of course, control of what can be said in public has ALSO never gone wrong in any way in the past…

      • Punching Richard Spencer is not punching a political opponent. It is standing up for the rights of minorities to not have to be subject to call for the forcible removal from your county. Maybe you think they should have to put up with it. I clearly do not. Ethnic cleansing isnt a political position.

        Nope I meant white males. It looks not good when you repeatedly stand up for white guys and no one else. You cannot seriously think that the only people having their freedom to speak attacked are the very few cases you bring up. There is surely no way you actually think that. So therefore you are choosing who to stick up for and you are choosing the worst possible candidates.

        I personally don’t even like the idea of free speech. It has always been an illusion. So I wouldn’t actually recommend you bother defending anyones free speech personally. Having political free speech is all well and good (as long as we don’t hold ethnic cleansing as a legit political stance). Having actual literal say what you like free speech is just madness.

        Is a second Nazi party likely in America ? No, probably not. Is the normalisation of racist attitudes a significant risk? Some people might argue that you have that right now.

        I get it though. You are ok with people being racist/bigoted because you fear the censorship of certain speech more than you fear the negative side effects of bigotry. I care a lot more about the rights of people to not be discriminated against than I care about the rights of people to say anything they like without fear of reprisal.

        I might buy that you actually care about and believe in this free speech thing as crazy as it seems to me. I’ve never for a single moment been convinced that anyone else does though. People have been trying to control what others say and do since there have been people.

        • Been listening to your podcast your stance is becoming clearer (episode 5). I’ve never actually done the whole read the sequences thing (although I have started now that they are a book with a beginning and an end). I think it is all well and good to discuss anything you like over at LW if you choose to do so. Not everyone is an aspiring rationalist though and not everyone is up for a carefree discussion about how they are genetically inferior.

          • Ok so I have been listening to your podcast a bit more. Episodes 7 and 12 (kill all humans? and the feedback one) it has become clear that you are literally willing to end a life in order to stop someone with different values (or might we say political stance) from acting upon their beliefs.

            So I am now back in the situation of being confused by what appears to be contradictory stances. Is it ok to use force in order to stop perceived harm to your utility function or isn’t it ? I personally don’t pretend that I am against force to defend what I think needs defending if I cannot think of a better way.

            Maybe I am just reading it wrong but right now it seems like you think it is ok to use force if required to defend your values but if other people resort to a similar tactic you think they are in the wrong.

            • > You are ok with people being racist/bigoted because you fear the censorship of certain speech more than you fear the negative side effects of bigotry. I care a lot more about the rights of people to not be discriminated against than I care about the rights of people to say anything they like without fear of reprisal.

              I do think censorship is worse than bigotry, yes. But that’s only a part of it. I also think that the best way to fight bigotry is with speech. Shutting up any opinion that is not deemed “correct” by the majority is very likely to lead to bigotry, and only free speech can counter that. I care about free speech because I DO care about stopping bigotry as well.

              Talking about things is one of the way we can correct the errors of the past. I am a proponent of Alexander’s Law, saying one should never destroy the tools we use to correct mistakes.

              >you are literally willing to end a life in order to stop someone with different values (or might we say political stance) from acting upon their beliefs.

              That is a somewhat extreme way of putting it. If “acting upon their beliefs” results in something damaging enough, then violence can be justified to prevent it. In some case this may go up to the level of killing, yes, but that’s never the preferred solution.

              I think your confusion is that you got the impression I am against all violence under any condition. This is not true. I am, as a hard and fast rule, against violence in general. However there are some things that are worth resisting, even resisting violently. There are some things that are worth imposing, even imposing violently – IF that violent imposition is actually effective. Female Genital Mutilation is one such thing in my opinion, but I am doubtful that violent opposition would actually stop it. :/

              Anyway, while violence is sometimes justified, it is NOT justified as a response to speech (with certain very limited exceptions, like incitement to violence).

        • I think it makes sense for Eneasz to stand up for white males in his community. Because it sounds like most others in that community don’t. When a member of a minority group gets their rights ignored there is automatic consensus that this is bad (for example Chelsea Manning, the black kid that got shot by some wannabe neighbourhood cop when he was just buying some sweets for his little brother, etc). Sure, you could chime in and agree with everyone in your bubble, but what’s the point? Nobody needs to be convinced that shooting unarmed children of a minority group is wrong.

          But apparently there is no consensus that shooting unarmed republican baseball players or something like that is wrong. Or punching interviewees that advocate ideas that are simply wrong. So that needs to be argued. I think Eneasz is correct in doing so, especially if nobody else does.

  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUqytjlHNIM

    I think this short video is a neat way to formulate this argument. I totally agree with you here.

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