‘Fighting the good fight’: Why free speech has no political party | Jonathan Zimmerman

If we’re talking about free speech, the reason
we need to study history, I think, is to understand how fortunate we are to have that right and
in how many different times and places it’s been contested and restricted and denied. One of the things you’ll learn when you read
history is that actually, the Vietnam War was the first war that Americans had the right
to criticize. And it became a Supreme Court case called
Cohen v. California. And in Cohen v. California, a guy walked into
a draft board wearing a jacket that said “F the draft.” And he was arrested. And the only reason you can walk around now
wearing a jacket that says “F the draft” or “F the war in Iraq” or “F the president” is
because of Cohen. If you don’t know that history, you don’t
know how precious this freedom is. No freedom is absolute or should be, right? You can’t call the White House and say you
want to assassinate the president, right? I’m a university professor, and I can’t say
to a student, ‘I really like the sweater you’re wearing. And if you wear it on Thursday, I’ll give
you an A’, all right? That’s, if you want a restriction of my freedom,
by the way, it’s one that I’m happy to abide by. It’s just a gratuitous example of how there’s
all sorts of speech that we do not allow and should not allow. But we also don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There’s 100 years of case law and constitutional
discussion about this very question. Who should be able to talk? And when is their talk, their speech so intolerant
and so awful that we can’t allow it? And so it seems to me the other thing that
we should be teaching in schools is precisely that history — that is, the history of the
debate surrounding who gets to talk. So every American should know about Oliver
Wendell Holmes’ famous dictum, freedom of speech doesn’t include shouting “fire” in
a crowded theater. But they should also know that in that case,
Oliver Wendell Holmes actually upheld the censorship of somebody that wanted to distribute
anti-conscription, anti-draft leaflets. Because he said there was a war going on,
the First World War, and he believed that distributing anti-draft literature during
the war was the equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. Now, the doctrine has evolved since then,
right? And now, during the Iraq and Afghanistan war,
you were perfectly free to distribute pamphlets saying you didn’t think there should be a
draft. So our standards of what’s acceptable and
our standards of what should be tolerated have changed over time. And I think that everybody should know about
those changes. I think that’s part of becoming a citizen. I am a liberal Democrat. In fact, I’m almost a caricature of a liberal
democrat. My father was in the Peace Corps. I was in the Peace Corps. I’m Jewish. I have a PhD. I’m like a cartoon, alright? But part of my liberalism is an absolute commitment
to free speech. And one of the things I find most upsetting,
both at the partisan and at the intellectual level, is the way that free speech has now
been cast as a kind of conservative value. I find this profoundly ahistorical, because
all of the great warriors for social justice in the past, with names like Frederick Douglass
and W.E.B. Du Bois and Martin Luther King, they were
absolutists on free speech. Because they understood that it was the people
at the bottom that needed free speech the most, because it was all they had. So I had a really interesting experience that,
for me, kind of crystallized this change and why it’s so important. I’ve hosted Mary Beth Tinker in my class at
Penn. Mary Beth Tinker was in middle school when
she and other family members wore these black armbands to school in Des Moines to protest
the Vietnam War. They were sent home from school, and this
eventually became a very important test case called Tinker v. Des Moines. Ultimately, the Supreme Court in Tinker v.
Des Moines upheld their right to do that. And it was in that case that Justice Fortas
very famously wrote that students and teachers don’t shed their constitutional rights at
the schoolhouse gate. Well, Mary Beth Tinker is now a 65-year-old
person. And she came to my class to talk about this
case and free speech. And the students said to her, they said, “Listen,
Miss Tinker, you were fighting the good fight. You were fighting the Vietnam War. Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter and Ben
Shapiro, they’re not fighting the good fight. They’re just hurting people. They’re anti-trans. They’re anti-gay. They’re anti-black. They are just haters. They injure people. Why should they have the privilege of speaking?” Mary Beth Tinker wasn’t having it. Here’s what she said. She said, “Listen in the school that I attended
in Des Moine, there were kids who had fathers and brothers that were dying in Southeast
Asia. Do you think they weren’t hurt by this snot-nosed
kid wearing this symbol saying that their dad or brother was dying for a lie? You don’t think that hurt them? Wake up! It hurt them. Speech hurts. But if that’s going to be your rubric, if
that’s going to be your definition, forget my armband, because I was hurting people too.” Then they went on to say, “Well, look, this
free speech thing, this is just an abstraction. It’s not really about rights. It’s just about power, who has power, who
has the power to talk.” She’s not having that either. She says, “Listen, I was a 13-year-old kid. The only power I had was my speech. That was it. And speech, over time, has been a weapon of
the powerless. If you go ahead and censor it, eventually
it’s going to be turned against the people with the least power, and it may be turned
against you.”

Maurice Vega

73 Responses

  1. Free speech is just a smoke screen to make people feel valuable so that they can go one and generate more of that tax gold for the oligarchs to become wealthier.

  2. The problem with free speech is that pseudoscientific claims are really hard to debunk…
    But although I don't agree with fake claims, ignorance and racism, I still think it's their right to speak freely.

  3. If they can't ban it outright they harrass and intimidate and deplatform and shoutdown and get you fired.

  4. Freedom of speech is not freedom from personal consequences and the many constitutional cases relating to this concept is an extremely important part of our history that must be studied. Our public education system must be far more explicit in it's instructions on this subject. I highly recommend In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action by Caroline Kennedy

  5. It's not illegal to shout fire in a crowded theater anymore, that is a misunderstood argument. However, the rest is true enough (except the example of speakers and that they hurt or hate anyone.)

  6. The problem with today’s world is that everyone believes they have the right to express their opinion AND have others listen to it. 

    The correct statement of individual rights is that everyone has the right to an opinion, but crucially, that opinion can be roundly ignored and even made fun of, particularly if it is demonstrably nonsense!

  7. Very very interesting video with different scenarios!
    I've made some videos about communication too

  8. Surprised mary beth tinker wasn't denounced as a bigot for speaking against censorship in [current year 2019] . There really is increasingly widening perception gap between society and this ideologically driven group. They literally cannot understand others' point of view if it diverges from their own. Can censorship only lead to civil unrest and revolution?

  9. I mean…….it did rise out of the enlightenment so it kinda does have an ideology behind it……

  10. Free speech has no political party because just about everyone thinks that particular amendment ONLY applies to them and no one else. They get to say whatever they want but the moment someone says something they don't like that person must be stopped with force. One of the many reasons we are conpletely fucked.

  11. Socialist want to destroy free speech by Banning guns. Globalist hate trump and trying to push their round earth theory on us

  12. Being hurt/offended is these days often seen as an unacceptable violation from one human to another. But if I'm going to be held legally responsible for your ability to be offended, it'll be quite a hell to live in that world. It's where we're headed though. Not that we need a disregard for offended people, it should be a talking point. But the fact that we're even considering bringing law into it tells me we have very little faith in our collective ability to be empathetic to one another anymore. Still, even if that lack of faith is to be well founded, then legal responsibility for another's ability to be offended is still the worse hell to be in.

  13. Good for you, sir! As someone who had escaped from Communism, I treasure the ability to say whatever I damn well please without ending up in a gulag or having my life destroyed. Thank you! 👍❤️🇨🇦🇺🇸

  14. Problem is drawing a line between advocating violence and speech. The far right wants to advocate for the violent removal of racial minorities, the left doesn't see that as speech.

  15. True but anti free speech does have political party's, their idea's are so bad they want to silence the opposition with slander name calling and hate speech laws.

  16. Free Speech is Free Speech and should not be censored. The best defense against those that lies ore are wrong is to ask them what are their sources of information and to provide evidence to back their claims. If they won't or can't then they can be dismissed.

    If the make excuses or tell you to go research it yourself then they are making baseless claims. It is not your job to do their homework.

    If they provide sources and evidence to back their claim then you should evaluate if their sources are credible and whether or not the evidence is verifiable. If not then push back with your reasons for rejecting their claims. If the sources are credible and the evidence is verifiable then you have the start of a conversation which means you both should be prepared to change your minds if the facts support one side over the other.

    NOTE: Context is important and often ignored by many people. If you don't understand how context can be important then you have a problem. Fro example, a man may call his wife/girl friend "sugar" as a term of endearment but if a stranger calls your wife/girl friend "sugar" then that is considered rude. Context matters.

  17. Hateful speech and protests are not the same. "Offence" isn't what matters. More like, trying to stop alt-right from spreading their ideas (e.g. ethnostate, "peaceful" ethnical cleansing etc.) I fail to see how that would impact those that demand equal rights.

  18. The end was akin to a slippery slope (Which is usually a bad practice). However, I agree with the overall thesis.

  19. been agenst somting dosent mean you are a hater nor a reason to silence them
    go in discussion teach try and change ther minds
    censership wiil only creat extreamist

  20. Very interesting. "When is speech so intolerant that we can't allow it." I think the answer here lies in how we choose to not allow it. Do we disallow it due to social pressure within the construct of the social contract condemning the offensive speech or do we make laws limiting speech?

  21. "I may not agree with what you say, but I'll fight to the death for your right to say it." That is THE central value of western culture.

    If you think it is appropriate to silence those who offend you, or whom you disagree with, you do not hold western values; you are an authoritarian.

  22. You should be able to say whatever you want.

    Though, that doesn’t mean your words won’t have repercussions or will always be right.
    There will always be punishments handed out by society, there will always be regrets in society, there will always be the rebellious ones, and every so often, the rebels shall succeed partially or wholly.

    This is the natural order of things.
    Old ideas out and new ideas in.
    Eventually they shall cycle or clash furiously as to separate the species.

    This is supported by my one postulates.
    1. If it can happen, it will.

    This implies change is necessary and natural.
    It will always happen regardless of which is better or worse.

    This is my philosophy.

    We must be willing to experiment with peoples ideas to truly test their worthiness.
    Whether you look back on history or you look at someplace else or you experiment with it yourself, you have to give every idea a chance to prove itself.

    There will always be new ideas, as there is always new inventions, new discoveries, and news among people.

  23. I'm gathering new thoughts all the time at Big Think, this channel should be called Increasing Think or something similar for the YouTubers.

  24. I thought the Constitution was set up similarly to this thought here. Being you give up some of your rights to the Government in order to keep other freedoms free as we as a collective group. This seems like nesting of all that is within the Constitution to sectioning of all articles in a similar manner in order to optimize everyone's freedoms?

  25. I followed YouTube before Google bought it. Why silence normal people Google? We are supporting you. Please stop this.

  26. Talking about Free Speech when you have shadowbanned people like me? When YouTube Shadow bans people like me?

    Fucking asinine.

  27. Just because of one man? Oversimplification logical fallacy. that's one man was the straw that broke the camel's back. Be real.

  28. The fact that you "invented" let us said "free speech" doesn't make all the ideas of your Ideology good and any that now accepts it, doesn't make it bad automatically. Free speech hurts, but it is principal to be free.

  29. If any speech is arbitrarily deemed as illegal then we still have fascist censorship. I don't give a fuck what your examples are. If someone thinks it, they should be able to say it. If someone gets violent that's where we draw the line. Not words, violence.

  30. If you repress some form of hate speech that you deem dangerous, you make it more dangerous because you're repressing the person who is attempting to express their pain. They hate speech is how the pain is being expressed. You repress it and vilify them, you turn them into a fucking monster.

    Stupid piece of shit. Having fun in your Ivory Tower pretending you know what you're talking about?

    This is why you don't go to college to get your education.

  31. There's the problem. Arguing over stupid fucking opinions and then agreeing with status quo driven bandwagon bullshit and using everyone's dumb fuck opinions as justification to burn some hypothetical witch that never existed in the first place. Fucking assholes.h that never existed in the first place. Fucking assholes.

  32. Yeah, now shouting fire in a theater is completely unacceptable… Which makes sense.

    It does not make sense for vernacular to be grounds to censor someone.

    Additionally, we are allowed to protest Wars because now it doesn't fucking matter what we say, the Sheep will continue to be sheep. The wars will continue. The media will brainwash the masses so that it doesn't matter what the minority think or say, facts don't matter, intelligence doesn't matter.

  33. At 3:24. Identity politics of the old and delusional. you don't know what you are, nobody knows what they are. Fucking labels are the epitome of brainwashing divide-and-conquer bullshit. You are playing right into it. This is why we are free to say almost anything these days because whatever the majority speak of is part of the siop brain washing machine, the fortification of The matrix, you speak of your mental prisons and they are by validate other people's mental prisons…

    Yeah you're free to speak of that alright.

    big stink here will give you a stage to do it. Meanwhile, people like me who actually speak of Truth and or reality are vilified for our vernacular or because we're not all sunshine and roses, we aren't fake as fuck conformists, we aren't diplomats so therefore we are the villain.

    Then censorship and book burning comes in the form of societal Shadow Banning and subtle economic terrorism through lack of promotion or endorsement.

    a scant minority read the comment section and an even smaller percentage of those people read long comments. So this isn't freedom of speech, this is pretending we have freedom of speech in just another of many Echo Chambers.

    You know I'm right, you so-called people, so-called intellectuals, so-called arbiters of knowledge that work at big stink.

  34. At 3:33. you've got an absolute commitment to freedom of speech? Then why don't you tell big stink that they are being fascist pieces of shit by refusing to promote me because I won't be just what they want me to be or say exactly what they want me to say, how they want me to say it.

    Practice What You Preach asshole. Stand up for what's right. Stand up for the brazen honest intellectuals like myself. A whole world of knowledge is being overlooked and is threatened to be lost in the annals of time.

    Societal Shadow Banning through the arbitrary excuse or justification of NSFW laws IS fascism. It's also shoving Jesus Freak morality down the throats of the majority and by doing so, giving the Next Generation a license to justify abuse, tyranny and fascism just the same as their predecessors have.

    That's what arguing over dumb fuck opinions gets you.

  35. A conservative value? yeah, because they want the right to spread propaganda about white nationalism because they're fake as fuck delusional identity and cuntservative way of life is under threat because reality won't allow anything to stay the same and these pathetic crybabies are now using anything they can as a weapon to protect their right to brainwash the shit out of their children and everybody else's children…

    and of course, people like me who point all of this out are censored through popular opinion and all these justifications in regards to what can or can't be sad or where it can be said or how it can be said. Fucking hypocritical bullshit.

  36. At around 4:50. That should set precedence for the terms of service of YouTube or any YouTube channel for that matter. My constitutional rights of freedom of expression and the right to protest your abuse has do not stop through signing your terms of service.

    You'll never have a right to tell me what I can and can't say and if you try I will only speak it louder.

  37. Here I am the next generation of historical reference in regards to freedom of speech and social justice, just like Rosa Parks, just like Martin Luther King and big stink here wants to suppress, repress and sensor me. The fucking hypocrisies is disgusting.

    if you could go back in time and interview Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks, would you do it? Well, you're just throwing away that opportunity in the present by not giving me a stage or an interview. You fucking biased one-sided pieces of shit.

  38. now we have free speech, sort of, because anybody was says something accurate and intelligent is drowned out by the majority who are part of the Retard orchestra playing diarrhea of the mouth on repeat, drowning us all in a river of shit.

    Now the truth and or speech is powerless.

    look what good it does for me to speak about any of this. Almost nobody reads the comments here so it doesn't fucking matter and of course big stink moderators and the likes of YouTube choose who gets to be discovered by the world. You and your fucking morally Pious Ivory Towers that you sit in. Well, when you shit out the window as you don't have to smell it, it lands on me….

    you expect me to let your Ivory Tower stand? You think I'm not going to sling shit right back in your fucking window? Fucking hypocritical assholes.

  39. He's a smart guy, mostly. Of course, big stink here isn't going to take his advice and live by it. They're going to be fascist judgmental pieces of shit regardless.

  40. The "free speech" crisis was basically concocted out of nothing, then blown to an astronomical proportion based lies and distortion. A propaganda campaign to divide the public through fear and hatred, turning lower-class rage into intellectual outrage.
    Also, for free market libertarians, billionaires like the Koch Brothers (BigThink funder), money is speech and speech is power, regulation threatens their fossil fuel monopoly.

  41. The whole issue of freedom speech revolves around ideology and politics and science. "I like the sweater you are wearing…" is not "speech". It is a sentence that you speak, but it is neither allow nor disallowed under the first amendment. STOP TALKING ABOUT THIS.

  42. Compliance Culture is the product of several factors, one of which being the use of philosophies which are "beyond reproach" as camouflage for ulterior philosophies. Historically, Christianity was beyond reproach, and so it was used as camouflage by mafias and predators who were themselves not Christians (some may have been honest with themselves, others not.)

    The current use of "feminism" or "antifa" should not be taken at face-value. There are certainly genuine feminists and antifascists etc, but they will generally be practical or reasonable to discuss things with, and they are not the problem. Others are exploiting their achievements, virtues or ambitions to conceal variously totalitarianism, female-supremacism or authoritarianism. And these are the very dogmatic and adversarial people who oppose free speech.

    I'm not saying that they're bad people per se. Among them the majority may be there accidentally, and be following along thinking that it's the cutting edge of liberty somehow. Certainly some element of them is acting in bad faith, and manipulating others.

    Attempts to make discussion are met with the presumption of being opposed to liberty or equality, and projections of fascism etc.

  43. Obviously you don't have a right to a direct and imminent incitement to violence. Actually you have the right, but you don't have a right to the consequences that follow.

    If someone pulls out a gun and points it at your head, you don't have to wait to see if they're going to pull the trigger to take whatever defensive means you believe necessary.

    Otherwise you have a right to all speech.

    Rights derive from self ownership not from laws or the constitution. The constitution was intended to protect your rights, not define them, this is evident in the wording of the constitution that stipulates if it's not in the constitution the rights and powers go to the people or the state, meaning everything not mention in the constitution is still a right.

    This is different from governments before where all people were owned by their governments. Governments dictated the rights of the people. The major advancement of enlightenment philosophy easy that individuals owned and have authority over themselves by way of being sentient beings not governments. Another way to think of it, if you don't have a "natural right" to self ownership, how do the people in government come to have authority over you, if you can't own yourself, how does a king own you?

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