It is just a fact of life that people are going to say mean things about you, bring up things that you disagree with, push politics that you can’t abide and make offensive jokes.
It’s also becoming working policy to, – rather than ignore these things or engage in constructive debate – try to de-platform and censor the opposition. This is done through many methods, through organized Twitter campaigns, violence/harassment or by attacking the way a particular person makes money.
Recently a Vox.com writer named Carlos Maza brought together all the influence he could and pulled a scorched-earth campaign on a conservative political Youtuber/comedian named Steven Crowder, because of comments and jokes Crowder made about Maza’s ethnicity and sexuality over the course of a year or more. The end result was Crowder losing ability to make ad revenue off his videos – as well as many, many other unrelated people on the Youtube platform being impacted financially as collateral damage.
It’s merely the most recent in a long-standing line of examples that fly in the face of free speech.
This is called the heckler’s veto, and the tactic has become so effective in the modern day that it is borderline guaranteed to work; provided you can raise enough of a fuss on Twitter, you can basically get anyone you don’t like shut down. Some just also resort to “milkshaking” people (throwing a milkshake at someone speaking that they don’t like) or just plain old-fashioned violence to shut down speech they don’t want to hear, as in what happens anytime Ben Shapiro or another conservative figure goes to speak on a campus in California.
The point isn’t that you have to agree with a person or even like them as a human being. The point is that you don’t ever enforce a standard that you wouldn’t want applied back upon you.
Unless someone is doxxing or giving explicit directions to an audience to commit violence, you have to allow them to speak. It doesn’t matter how much you hate what they are saying, or how ugly the things they say are: either ignore it or respond to it, but you cannot try to silence it.
Glenn Greenwald said it best: “Censorship advocates want our brains to only go to that most primitive first level of, ‘do we hate this person, and are we therefore glad that they are being censored without thinking of the framework being endorsed or the consequences that ensue from it?’”
The fact that so many will immediately start reaching for the “censorship” button is telling of a number of things.
First, anytime someone pushes for censorship it shows the influence that they hold, that their first option is to reach out to the powers that be in order to get their will enforced. Second, it displays the comfort they have with authoritarian systems. Provided the system operates in their favor, some are clearly comfortable using their leverage like a hammer to smash anyone they dislike to pieces. These pro-censorship individuals aren’t fascists – while fascism does involve forcible suppression of opposition, it’s also a form of ultranationalism – so that label is not accurate. For the most part, censorship in America doesn’t happen through the government. It’s mostly through peer-pressure of Silicon Valley companies. But in our country today, anyone right or left calling for the destruction of universal free speech through the means of violence, censorship or corporate crackdowns is closer to being a fascist than anyone in America should ever be.