A couple of articles ago, I wrote about the question of just how we should define censorship. In that article, I talked about a recent case where a major storefront for tabletop Roleplaying Games surrendered to the demands of fake activists. They agreed to give this group the power to have books blacklisted. As it turns out, just a couple of days later Breitbart published an article on the very same subject. Did they hear about it from me? Who knows? But it helped get the message out.
It shouldn’t surprise that Breitbart was standing hard against censorship tactics. But more than a few gamers weren’t totally happy about the Breitbart article. I’m not talking about the pseudo-activists, I mean regular gamers who were also against the new banning policy. People who were firmly dedicated to free speech.
Now some of these people identify with the left, and just don’t like Breitbart in general. But a lot of other people were pissed off because they felt like Breitbart was somehow “bringing politics” into the issue. Their view was that it was somehow a politically neutral controversy before, and by writing about it Breitbart turned it into a “left vs. right” situation. Some of them were concerned that since Breitbart came out against the banning policy, other people wouldn’t speak up out of fear of being labeled right-wingers.
Some of these people also questioned Breitbart’s motives. They probably didn’t question my own in the same way because I’m a pretty well-known figure in the hobby (and everyone knows what my causes are). But some of them suspected that Breitbart somehow didn’t care about the hobby and were just “using” the debate somehow as a new battlefront in the ‘culture war.’ That because of their article, all kinds of unrelated issues and agendas were now going to be bundled into an argument about Free Speech.
Now, I could argue against all these claims. I could point out that this controversy was NOT politically neutral before. It was being pushed by a group with an openly political agenda, and there was no part of it that wasn’t political. Collectivist totalitarianism vs. free speech individualism is the major political fight of our culture (https://everyjoe.com/2015/01/06/politics/free-speech-is-the-answer-every-time/). It is the debate going on behind every other political issue we have today.
I could point out that the censorship-loving side of the argument was already trying to portray anyone who stood up for free speech as being ‘right wingers’ long before Breitbart’s article, so anyone who was afraid of being labeled as right wing would already have been too scared to speak up against the bullying censors. Making people scared of being labeled is one of their favorite tactics.
I could also definitely argue that whatever other agendas anyone has doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t affect the main issue of defending free speech. Maybe Breitbart does have other agendas. They probably do. But so do a lot of people. Just because people do have other agendas doesn’t mean that you automatically agree with everything they believe in if you agree with them about free speech. The only thing that should matter is if they’re willing to speak out against censorship.
But I don’t think any of that matters as much as the bigger picture here. We’re worried about why right-wing journalism stands up for free speech, and missing the real question: why doesn’t left-wing journalism?
In the last few weeks since that previous article, a way bigger free speech issue has come up. The United Nations has basically declared war on free speech on the internet. In their recently released report, they advocated that to prevent “harassment” online, internet social media should be forced by governments to enact draconian levels of moderation and censorship.
In a ridiculously hypocritical act of absurdity, the U.N. decided that online harassment should be defined as anyone expressing disagreement with leftists. They took testimony from Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn, whose feminist credentials don’t seem to extend far enough to take that opportunity to question why the United Nations just made one of the biggest abusers of women, Saudia Arabia, the head of their Human Rights Council even as the Saudis are literally CRUCIFYING real political activists. Sarkeesian and Quinn didn’t seem to care about the fate of actual activists; and of course why would they? Those real activists just make them look ridiculous, and prove just how stupid and nonsensical their argument that someone telling them “you suck” should be considered a human rights crime.
That’s literally what Sarkeesian argued, and that’s what the U.N. wants to impose rules that could only be called fascist on the entire internet to stop (but apparently murdering political dissidents and denying women some of the most basic human rights just doesn’t matter). And guess what? Breitbart wrote about that too. They were one of the few major media outlets to speak out against this. They were one of the only ones to point out the ridiculous testimony these pseudo-activists presented, and just what the U.N. wants to define as ‘harassment’ and criminalize.
UPDATE: There was a school shooting in an Oregon college. You wouldn’t think that’s a free speech issue, right? But media outlets quickly tried to point out a connection between the shooter and 4chan (which the media outlets hate because it often shames them), and the pseudo-activists have now predictably called for the massive censoring of the internet. And none other than Zoe Quinn chimed in, warning us all that if we don’t censor ourselves, she’ll make the government censor us until we all only post the things she likes.
Moderate your fuckin platforms before the government steps in and ruins everything. Platform holders and moderators HAVE to step up.
— Zombië Queen (@TheQuinnspiracy) October 1, 2015
I bet there’s a few idiots out there who will wring their hands about Breitbart ‘politicizing’ that, too.
Now here’s the thing: I would be happy if things weren’t this way too. I would LOVE it if a major left-wing website were to publish an article standing up for freedom of speech. I’d be over the moon if the Daily Kos had written an article against the banning of games on OneBookShelf. I’d be giggling with glee if Huffpo or Salon had articles defending the right of speech and expression, and opposing groups advocating censorship, thought control or the silencing of dissenting views. I’d dance a jig if major left-wing news sites were to stand up loudly against the United Nation’s internet censorship proposals.
If my cultural-libertarian articles were as welcome on any of these sites as they are on EveryJoe, it would make me tremendously happy. It would even if there were also still people there writing articles in favor of the hardcore Nanny State Big Government. I could live with that, exactly the way I live with sites like EveryJoe having social or religious conservatives writing things I don’t always agree with.
But we never see that; I guess it just doesn’t fit their narrative. It’s inconvenient for them to speak out against censorship because the would-be censors are people on the left, and are pushing censorship as a way to impose a leftist agenda. This is why we see articles in defense of free speech on EveryJoe, Breitbart, Reason or the Atlantic, but never on any left-wing political websites anymore.
This is the problem. The defenders of Free Speech are driven more and more toward the Right because the Left has officially decided that it does not believe Free Speech is worth defending, or even good to defend. They have completely bought into the ideas of Offense equaling Victimhood, and Victimhood demanding Censorship. They believe this to the point that none of them could possibly argue in defense of free speech as a vital principle. To them, censorship is only something that certain protected groups can get to complain about while others have no legitimate right to.
So if the right is the side that will fight alongside me, I will fight alongside them. I spent most of my life identifying with and voting for the moderate left. But the left has now decided that my freedom of speech doesn’t matter anymore.
The right may have its share of religious and social conservatives that might want to censor too. I will argue against them. But that’s the big difference: on the right, you’re allowed to argue about this. As a social libertarian, I can debate these people and try to point out why they’re wrong. On the left, I can’t do that anymore. As soon as I disagree with the groupthink party line, as soon as I don’t agree with every single sacred cow of the Tumblr Progressives, I am now the enemy. And since one of the new sacred cows is that censorship is justifiable for the sake of ‘social justice,’ it means that no social libertarian has a real place in the left anymore. If you believe in free speech, you are automatically the enemy.
I’d like to say: “I didn’t leave the Left, it left me.” But it’s more accurate to say that the new Progressive Totalitarian Left declared me ‘problematic’ for not showing enough Unquestioning Agreement to the Revolutionary Cultural Slogans.
Photo by Nomadsoul1 / Getty Images
Kasimir Urbanski doesn’t write on a specific subject; he’s EveryJoe’s resident maniac-at-large. A recovering Humanities academic and world-traveler, he now lives in South America and is a researcher of fringe religion, eastern philosophy, and esoteric consciousness-expansion. In his spare time he writes tabletop RPGs, and blogs about them at therpgpundit.blogspot.com.
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