On Hypocrisy: One Rule for Me, Another for Thee
They're not even trying anymore.
Last week saw two free speech controversies. On the one hand, we have a Tennessee school board banning the graphic novel Maus on account of profane language and nudity (the horror!). Presumably, these are conservatives of the cultural variety. These sound like the spiritual descendants of the guys who wanted to ban Harry Potter Novels for promoting witchcraft.
On the other hand, we have a group of so-called “liberals” cheering on geriatric rockers Neil Young and Joni Mitchell trying to get Spotify to cancel The Joe Rogan Experience. (Seriously, read the entire linked Glenn Greenwald essay. It’s much better than mine.) On the bright side, Neil and Joni got a swift lesson in their current cultural relevance when Spotify reacted to their ultimatum by removing their music and keeping Joe Rogan.
I am going to make a modest proposal to both groups: just get together and kiss already! I think you have a lot in common and can share each other’s jackboots. It’s like doubling your shoe rack! You can even coordinate your censorship campaigns. I’m sure you’ll even agree on censoring Harry Potter: the conservatives because it promotes witchcraft, and the “liberals” because the author disagrees with their ideological stand on transpeople.
A side note before we go further: I am using “liberals” in quotes because these “liberals” aren’t liberals. A tenet of classical liberalism is free speech, and the understanding here is that the two kinds of speech most in need of protection are (1) unpopular speech, and (2) speech that challenges the preferred narrative of those in power. No, these “liberals” are really just the Professional Managerial Class (PMC), and PMC aspirants, who fancy themselves liberals because they are aligned with the Democratic Party. Greenwald is right when he writes:
In modern-day American liberalism, however, censorship is a virtual religion. They simply cannot abide the idea that anyone who thinks differently or sees the world differently than they should be heard.
And if you are thinking of responding that Greenwald is engaging in so much hyperbole, don’t bother. I’ve experienced what he is talking about first-hand; please don’t try to gaslight me.
Here is where I stand: quit trying to remove Maus from the schools and quit trying to remove Rogan from Spotify. I don’t care if you are offended by profane language and nudity. Don’t like it? Don’t read it. The same goes with Joe Rogan - nobody is forcing you to listen to him.
Of course, the cultural conservatives will respond that profane language and nudity are corrupting the youth. Recall though that the ancient Athenians said the same thing about Socrates. I invite cultural conservatives to think about that and perhaps to gain some much-needed perspective.
It is the “liberals",” however, that I think pose the greater danger in the current moment if only because they are the group who can exercise actual institutional power beyond a school district. I did not receive the memo from “Liberalism” Central as to why I am supposed to focus my two-minutes hate on Joe Rogan. As near as I can tell, the proffered excuse for canceling Joe Rogan is that he is spreading “misinformation” about COVID. (See also here.)
Rogan’s two great sins for the “liberals” are that he (1) used ivermectin off label to treat his COVID and (2) interviewed Dr. Robert Malone, one of the scientists who contributed to the development the mRNA technology underlying the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Yes, how dare Rogan use a medication off label! That’s almost as bad as the time I volunteered to use an experimental COVID vaccine under an emergency use authorization before full FDA approval. And it’s not as though there was no evidence that ivermectin might help treat COVID when Rogan opted to use ivermectin as one of a number treatments in an effort to prevent himself from dying. How dare he try to save his own life!
As for interviewing Dr. Malone, what can one say? Joe Rogan interviews people. That’s his job, and he is good at it. Moreover, he interviews people with a truly diverse set of opinions. You never get the feeling that The Joe Rogan Experience is an ideological echo chamber. But then again, I suspect that’s the problem: Joe Rogan refuses to be part of the “liberal” echo chamber.
The “liberals” will tell us that free speech does not apply here because Joe Rogan is spreading “misinformation” about COVID.1 You know, like that time Dr. Fauci told us not to wear masks because the masks would not help, but then later admitted that he lied. Greenwald does a good job showing that “liberals” are not really worried about “misinformation” but rather about confronting people that disagree with their current narrative. But I will add this point.
We discussed above how cultural conservatives forever repeat ad infinitum, ad nauseum the same corruption of the youth trope that has been bullshit since the time of Socrates (“think of the children!”). I offer the “liberals” the following comparison for their own self-reflection. Under the standard y’all are suggesting, you place yourselves in the same shoes as the Catholic Church when dealing with Galileo.
You may recall that Galileo ended up in trouble for spreading the misinformation that the Earth rotates around the Sun and not the other way around. Galileo persisted in pushing his heliocentric theory despite it contradicting the expert consensus at the time. How dare Galileo defy the experts!
Of course, history proved Galileo right and the “experts” wrong.2 The lesson? It is best to have a good combination of free speech and some fucking humility. Free speech is necessary for free inquiry. Humility reminds us that time may prove any of us wrong.
Oh, and don’t forget to have some trust in regular people. The “liberal” PMCs exude a devotion to obscurantism that would make the medieval Catholic Church blush.
So, pour yourself a glass of wine or maybe brew some herbal tea, sit down in your favorite chair, and crack open a copy of Maus. When you finish reading, fill another glass and enjoy an episode of The Joe Rogan Experience. Agree or disagree with the material, you will find yourself happier and your life richer than the narrowminded moral scolds who would censor either.
As Greenwald shows, however, these are the same people who spent four years promoting the misinformation that Donald Trump was some sort of Russian agent. (See also Matt Taibi on the same topic.) We can safely conclude that “liberal” complaints about “misinformation” are given in bad faith. See also Dr. Fauci lying about face masks at the start of the pandemic.
Someone is probably thinking right now that Ptolmey and Gallileo really only offered us two competing coordinate systems. Gallileo was not correct, rather he offered a model with an easier set of calculations. If you are that person: good on you for thinking it through!