Now that Elon Musk is moving swiftly to convert Twitter into a free-speech platform, the anti-freedom long knives are out in full force. The idea of a wisecracking centibillionaire allowing people to openly state their opinions without fear of censorship is anathema to totalitarian minds. The way they are freaking out over the release of the Hunter Biden censorship files might lead a visitor from another galaxy to assume that free speech is some kind of killer virus that escaped from a lab in Silicon Valley.
The truth about the left’s hatred of free speech is that it opens the door to all kinds of questions about the broader subject of absolute freedom, because freedom of speech, much like free enterprise, is really just a subcategory of freedom, and freedom, in its purest form, means no constraints. That’s a big problem for those on the left, because the idea of not being able to constrain their enemies is totally unacceptable to them.
Technically speaking, if a person is said to be free, he is totally free. He is free to come and go as he pleases. He is free trade his labor, and the products of his labor, in any way he so chooses and with anyone whom he chooses. He is also free to say anything he wants to say, including being critical of his own government.
The idea of serfs being able to criticize their rulers has always been unthinkable to the ruling class. That was made clear early on when a little more than two decades after the American Revolution, the federal government passed the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which made it a crime for anyone to criticize the government “through writing or any other shape, form, or fashion.” Specifically, criticizing the president, Congress, the military, or the flag was made illegal.
More than a hundred years later, this crackdown on free speech was underscored by renowned fascist Woodrow Wilson when he got Congress to pass the U.S. Sedition Act of 1918, which made it a crime to “willfully utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States, or the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States.”
Are you starting to see a pattern here? Simply put, politicians and government bureaucrats do not like the people they represent, and they certainly do not like them to feel free to speak their minds. This is why Elon Musk poses such a threat to them by giving a voice to the unwashed masses.
Those who call for paternalistic or moralistic state intervention into the speech of private citizens insist there has to be a check on misinformation “in order to avoid violence.” And they’re right. But the best check on misinformation is unrestricted debate. In other words, more speech. The marketplace of ideas will always declare a winner, which seems inarguably fair to a rational person.
The problem, however, is that not everyone is willing to accept the verdict of the marketplace, especially those who are not rational and who hate the marketplace. The immediate instinct of leftist lunatics when the marketplace of ideas rejects their position is to demand force be employed to make people bend the knee, because they genuinely believe that their freedom trumps the freedom of their opponents.
Freedom comes prepackaged in humans, but it’s free only until someone tries to take it away, at which time it has to be fought for. This is what Ronald Reagan was referring to when he said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”
Now, with Elon Musk dumping Twitter’s dirty laundry into the public sphere, the battle lines are being drawn. A person either believes freedom, including freedom of speech, is a fundamental human right or he does not. It appears that Musk believes it is. I’ve been fooled too often to make any predictions, but if Musk doesn’t flinch, he could become one of the most influential figures in American history.
Ultimately, of course, the future of free speech will be determined by how much censorship a majority of Americans are willing to tolerate, which is a bit unsettling considering they have a puzzling track record of voting for politicians who promise to take away evermore of their freedoms. Whether they will finally awaken and break this masochistic habit, only time will tell.