***This is a political piece and an attempt to articulate my frustration with defense of the indefensible. It stems, in part, from the decision Patreon made recently to ban one of their members, and the backlash that ensued as people flock to defend bigotry and hate speech.***
I want to take a moment and talk about “free speech” and the idea of “politics.” First, let me be clear, “free speech” doesn’t exist and never has. The old saying “there’s no free lunch,” applies here as much as it does anywhere else. Second, the idea of “politics” and “political correct…” is a deception, it’s a disguise used to mask abuse and oppression, and to protect the systems of injustice that maintain the social hierarchy.
Now, if what I’ve said so far doesn’t give you an idea of where I’m going with this, sit tight, because here we go.
“Free speech” was never free, at least not for all. Instead, “free speech” carried certain fines, and depending on where you fell in the social hierarchy, those fines were either nothing at all, or a death sentence. Further, those fines were not always paid by the person speaking. A white woman in the early and mid 1900’s (yes, long after slavery and the civil war) claiming a Black man so much as looked at her the wrong way meant that the Black man paid the fine with his life in one of the most violent ways possible. Still, the white woman’s “free speech” was protected at all cost, but the Black man’s “free speech,” let alone his right to due process and “innocent until proven guilty” (as if looking at someone could be a crime to begin with) never existed at all.
We used to have a saying when I was young, “you might have ‘free speech,’ but you’re not free from the consequences.” Yet, so many people get away with spouting their hate and inspiring violence under the guise of “free speech,” while it is the targets of their bigotry that pay their fines and suffer the consequences. This is where “politics” comes in.
Nowadays, what we see is a backlash against a group that otherwise was free from paying their own fines. We are witnessing, maybe for the first time, significant (yet still much more tame) repercussions for those who previously were able to visit the consequences of their speech upon others. Of course all their privileged brethren, from either side of the political aisle, are happy to come to their defense, under the banner “I don’t agree with their ‘politics,’ but…..”
Let’s be clear, condemning someone’s right to exist, inspiring hate and violence towards people, attacking someone’s struggle for equality and justice, that is not “politics.” That’s bigotry. That’s violence. That’s silencing. These people use the term “politics” because it is benign. It sounds like a simple disagreement that doesn’t affect anyone at all, when in fact we are talking about people’s lives and their ability to survive in this world without being openly attacked. We are not talking about some abstract philosophical topic. We are not talking about some innocuous debate. We are talking about people’s right to exist, their right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
To clarify the point further, what you have to understand is that the bigots of this world have made it very clear exactly whose rights they are concerned with, and who can do without. They have made it very clear that the existence of Black, Brown, Indigenous people, of LGBT people, of Woman… that the existence of all these people, on an equal footing to them, is intolerable. Their “free speech” is not “politics” it is open violence against other human beings. It is the use of social clout to demonize and silence others. It is vocalized justification for the inevitable violence their words inspire.
It is also a desperate cry to maintain a system of injustice that keeps the privileged separate from those oppressed. It is a violent outcry against normalizing equality and creating a world in which everyone actually has the freedom to exist as equals. The speech we hear spewing from the mouths of bigots and those who defend them, is not “politics,” but rather a genuine attack on the very existence of those people struggling to be heard. Yet, those who defend the bigots, those so concerned about “free speech” are silent when it comes to the victims of such hateful rhetoric.
Although, that’s not quite true either, is it?
No, because those oppressed who speak out against their oppression, those fighting for equality, their speech is met with indignation and scorn. There are no free speech advocates for them on the privileged side of the aisle, all there is, is the double standard and the familiar hierarchy that screams, “free speech for some.”
This brings us to a tangential point; speech against an oppressor is not the same as speech to maintain oppression.
We existed in a world where people come running to protect the “free speech” of those doing the oppressing, but condemn the speech of those fighting back. We seem to have this backwards, but in truth, it’s just privilege protecting privilege. Protecting the speech of bigots serves all those who benefit from the systems of bigotry they defend, while protecting the speech of those oppressed only serves to create an equal and equitable society. Which, doesn’t mean too much for those already at the top.
Further still, while it is violent for the oppressor to oppress, it cannot be said to be violent for the oppressed to fight back. Self defense is not violence, and if it must be called such, then it is the only righteous violence possible. Still, the privileged justify the violence of bigots under the guise of “free speech” while protecting their own interests by condemning self defense of those struggling to be free.
The reality is these bigots feel threatened, because they themselves have never had to share their “free speech.” They have never had to pay the fines for the suffering their words create. These bigots have never been oppressed, and they are not oppressed now. What these bigots are experiencing now is the same thing those oppress have experienced for hundreds, even thousands of years. They are experiencing the consequences of their actions, and they are confusing a march towards equality, which must necessarily lead to an end to privilege, with oppression. They believe that being stripped of their ability to silence, oppress and violently harm others is them being “oppressed.” They believe that because they have to share their platform with those they wish to “put in their place” that they themselves are under attack.
No one is attacking white people, No one is attacking Men, No one is attacking heterosexuals. Privileged groups just don’t want to share the world, equally, after being so accustomed to sitting atop the hierarchy while others paid their fines for them. The truth is, the people who speak hate in response to the movements favoring equality are inspiring harm against peoples who have suffered under a society that has justified such harm since its very inception.
This isn’t “politics” and it isn’t “free speech” any more than walking into a crowded theater and screaming “gun” at the top of your lungs is. This is a desperate attempt to cause a stampede of intolerance that they, the bigots, hope will trample those edging close to equal standing in society. It is a means to maintain the existing social hierarchy, maybe even an attempt to turn it back a century or so. It is a means to defend privilege and silence those oppressed, in other words, it is the very antithesis of “free speech,” and they know it.