Why Censorship Fails Everyone

Publish Date
Principles Series
Last Edit
Apr 3, 2022 01:47 PM
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Prior to today, I’ve tried to remain relatively impartial in explaining the concept of narratives and the narratives around free speech. But as I also noted a few days prior there are good ideas and bad ideas. And the newest iteration of McCarthyism from the Left is just as bad of an idea as the first one was.
Yet this censorious culture is fairly chic these days. Outside the U.S. it is in full effect in the U.K. and gaining momentum in other countries. Unfortunately for them, they don’t have a first amendment protecting speech.
Yet this zeitgeist is also strong within the halls of many of our tech giants. These places that are, by and large, full of very smart people. But it’s very easy for smart people to become infected by bad ideas, especially when they appeal to our tribe or fit a narrative that we’re bought into.
Silencing speech can be seductive, but it’s not a good idea.
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I could write a week’s worth of ODTs on why this 21st century censorship is just as bad idea an idea as the McCarthyism of the 1950’s. But to keep it simple for now, I’ll outline the three main points and reserve the chance to dive into any of these in more detail:
  • It prevents the discourse needed to make bad ideas become better ones. When bad ideas are banned, it doesn’t enable the back and forth needed to disprove a bad idea. Often, it only hardens the beliefs of the person holding heterodox ideas. Proponents of bad ideas move into their own bubbles or hide their beliefs below the surface making them harder to address.
  • We give one group of people control of what can be said by another group. This is against our nation’s core ethos and it’s also not hard to see the danger. This can easily be used nefariously by bad actors, and is easy to manipulate and expand given how nebulous language tends to be.
  • It breeds a culture of fear around stepping outside the lines. Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, it creates a culture of fear that prevents contrarian voices from speaking. This only serves to sharpen echo chambers and stagnate the innovation of new ideas.
Why are these clear harms missed by proponents for censorship? That will also have to be a story for another time.