How 'freedom of speech' is weaponized to fight antiracism\r\n

Op-Ed: How 'freedom of speech' is weaponized to fight antiracism (via @latimesopinion)

6/20/2021 1:33:00 PM

Op-Ed: How 'freedom of speech' is weaponized to fight antiracism (via latimesopinion)

In the digital era, racist ideas are often presented as innocent propositions for debate. It's one way free speech is used against anti-racism.

it criminalizes such teaching, arguing that it promotes division. No definition of “critical race theory” is provided, but this is a feature, not a flaw, of the attack on antiracism.If the concept is left fluid, “critical race theory” can be made to stand in for any attempt to account for the legacy and persistence of racist structures. At the same time, if it is presented as something solid, it can be viewed as an indoctrinating ideology and justify the censoring of, for instance, education and educators. This shape-shifting is exactly what former Vice President Mike Pence was playing with when

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he tweeted in responseto the vote: “We will reject Critical Race Theory in our schools and public institutions, and we will CANCEL Cancel Culture wherever it arises!”On the surface, Pence may seem to have little in common with French President Emmanuel Macron, whose liberal government has taken this assault even further. In a manufactured moral panic, the French government is accusing antiracist groups of importing “North American theories” about systemic racism that threaten the universalism of the French republic. Consequently, these ideas are framed not as contributions to open debate, but as a

menace to freedomof speech as an essential value underpinning the republic.Brazen political moves like this must be opposed not just by antiracists, but by anyone concerned with the democratic value of free speech. The first line of defense would be to expose the weaponization of freedom of speech as an opportunistic political tactic. Opportunistic, and dangerous, since it allows politicians to pay lip service to opposing racism while framing antiracist movements and ideas as a democratic threat.

It is also crucial to demonstrate how free speech is being used for authoritarian ends. A vague rhetoric of “free speech” sounds perfectly democratic, but it is drawn on to suppress specific kinds of political expression. In milking a supposed free speech “crisis,” elected politicians in London, Paris and Idaho enacted measures that flagrantly restrict forms of democratic speech, in these cases the right to protest and academic freedom.

However, the media conditions that make these tactics viable in the public sphere are also part of the problem. That such intense disputes on the limits of speech take place in a context of apparently limitless speech should give us pause for thought. How can so many people claim to be silenced and loudly clamor for scarce attention at the same time?

As the writerToni Morrison saidin 1975, the “serious function of racism is distraction.” In the contemporary media environment, this distraction consists of staging heated and divisive debates where those combating racism are held up as irrational and excessive, unwilling to accept a reasonable definition of what racism “really is,” and limiting freedom of speech as a consequence.

AdvertisementPublic debates are meant to be a contest of ideas. In a digital media swirl, debates are shaped by the incessant circulation of media content, and not everything that is set up as an idea should be treated as one. Contemporary “debates” are often spectacles made up from recycled talking points and recurring, polarizing controversies jostling for attention.

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The internet-savvy far right, for example, takes advantage of the limitless opportunities of social media communication to reanimate discredited racist ideas about human difference and to present them as nothing more than innocent propositions for debate. And guess what? If you don’t play along, and treat the same set-piece “debates” about the humanity of their targets as a good faith dialogue, you are the democratic problem.

The efficiency with which far-right movements have exploited social media has driven extensive public discussion of the failure of the platforms’ moderation practices and speculation on future forms of regulation. The bigger problem is this: Social media corporations provide us with important infrastructure for public debate in democracies, but we have no democratic relationship to these private, largely unaccountable entities.

Read more: Los Angeles Times »

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opinion That damn free speech. It fucks up everything! opinion 'Racist ideas' JimmyCarter HumanRights edition opinion Same side censoring 70 year old songs and 50 year old picture books yelling free speech. Funny stuff opinion Your free speech is permitted but others' free speech must be suppressed? Good luck selling that bullshit. FreeSpeech

opinion thanks opinion Or as “patriotic” conservative “news” opinion “I used the power of freedom of speech to destroy the freedom of speech.” opinion 'I'm just asking questions!' is the refuge of cowards.

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Pence Booed and Heckled at Conservative Conference: “Traitor!”Former Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the Faith & Freedom Coalition Conference in Orlando.

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