There is No Freedom of Speech

"Please pick from the list of approved sentiments you may express. Thank you!"

This tweet went somewhat viral over the last couple days:

And my god is this a dumb f*cking tweet.

I’ve discussed freedom broadly before, but let’s remember:

Freedom, in the colloquial sense, arises from material power dynamics, not from a Sovereign granting “rights”. If my “freedoms” are at the mercy of someone else, I am not truly Free.

This is important: “Free Speech” simply means “speech that is tolerated by the powerful institutions in society (or more particularly, the territory in which the institutions have significant power)”.

In other words, the fact that people can be locked out of major elements of today’s life (like social media, broadcasting/publishing platforms, payment processing, even banks, etc.) based on their speech means there is no freedom of speech. Two notes on this:

  1. Yes, Freedom of Speech means Freedom from Consequence

    At no point has “Freedom to do X” meant “You have the physical capability to do X…whether or not we beat you up for it is up for debate”. A reduction of “freedom” to “physical capability” would make “Freedom to murder” a meaningful phrase today. Most people are physically capable of committing a murder. They have no right to do that. They are not free to do that.

    Freedom of Speech means the ability to speak your mind and not face consequences from institutions. If I say something and you think I’m an idiot or a terrible person, you have every right to not associate with me in your personal life. But if Freedom of Speech is to mean anything, it must mean that you will not face consequences from institutions. Which leads to our second point…

  2. “It’s a private company” is not an excuse

    Corporations are institutions wielding material and formal power as much as the formal State (or other institutions). They are as much an engine of coercion as the government is (and the fact leftoids have decided that “it’s a private company” is fine so long as they’re censoring the enemy is absolutely absurd). If “Freedom of Speech” is to mean anything, I cannot be removed from PayPal or Twitter because my political opinions are not approved by their managers.

    Obviously, there are limits that we understand as justified (harassment, libel, shouting “fire” in a crowded theater, etc.). But this is clearly one of the situations where Freedom of Speech comes into conflict with “Freedom of Association”. I have stated before that freedom of association should not be limited to business owners and those in control of material and formal power in society. If we want all individuals to have freedom of speech, there must be limits to the freedom of association of institutions (especially major ones).

An agent in a network possesses significant freedom if they possess roughly equal or greater amounts of material power compared to other agents. The best way to improve freedom of association for most businesses is to have there be many many many options. Each individual small business in a non-critical field can have much more significant freedom of association than Google or Facebook or Visa can. While it is true that national laws define frameworks that all “must” follow, businesses outside the notice of national institutions can have considerably more freedom. Mom & Pop shops don’t have HR departments that enforce doctrines.

The precise network dynamics of freedom (and how it interplays with authority, etc.) will probably be an expansion on my last two freedom posts. For now, I conclude with saying:

If we are to take Freedom of Speech seriously at all, we must admit it does not exist in any real sense in the West.