The Atlas Society Asks Jacob Mchangama

May 04, 2022 01:00:30
The Atlas Society Asks Jacob Mchangama
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The Atlas Society Asks Jacob Mchangama
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Join CEO Jennifer Grossman and Danish lawyer Jacob Mchangama for the 102nd episode of The Atlas Society Asks! As a human-rights advocate and social commentator, Jacob Mchangama has recently published his book "Free Speech: A History from Socrates to Social Media" where he describes how free speech appears to be in recession and calls on some of history's greatest philosophers to act as chief witnesses in the defense of free speech today.

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 Hi everyone. And welcome to the 102nd episode of the ATLA society asks. My name is Jennifer Anju, Grossman. My friends know me as JAG. I am the CEO of the Atlas society. We are the leading nonprofit organization, introducing young people to the idea of, I ran in fun, creative ways like graphic novels and animated videos. Today we are joined by Yakup mission Gama before I even get into introducing him. I wanted to remind all of you who are joining us, watching us on zoom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube on use the comment section to type in your questions. Go ahead and jump in right now. And, um, get first in the queue. We'll get to as many of them as we can. So Yakup mission Gama is a Danish lawyer and human rights advocate. Who's commentary has appeared frequently in outlets, such as the wall street journal, national lives, you and foreign affairs. He is the founder and director. OFIA a Copenhagen based tank focused on human rights. He is most importantly, the author of free speech, a history, uh, from Socrates to social media. Yeah. Welcome. Welcome again. Thanks for joining us. Speaker 1 00:01:25 Thanks Jack. Uh, pleasure to, uh, to be invited, uh, on, I, I look forward to, uh, to our chat. Speaker 0 00:01:32 So, um, first our audience would love to hear a little bit about you, um, where you grew up, what influenced you and what inspired you to write this book? Speaker 1 00:01:44 Yeah, so I, I was born here in, uh, in, in, in Copenhagen, uh, Denmark, um, had spent most of my life here with, with stints around other countries, including in the us, um, and you know, growing up in, in a very secular liberal, uh, country like Denmark, I didn't think too much about free speech, like many other people. I, I, I just took it for granted as a value that was sort of settled and, um, but then Denmark became, uh, sort of the epicenter of a global battle of values over the relationship between free speech and religion. When in 2005, a Danish newspaper published, uh, cartoons depicting the must Muslim prophet Muhammad. And, uh, that led to sort of, um, a huge outcry boycot at attempt against Denmark, um, terrorist attacks on journalists and editors. And that has sort of, um, a conflict, which is still, is still ongoing, which is intimately linked to the later attack on free magazine, um, a dozen or so journalists and, and employees were, were murdered by religious fanatics. Speaker 1 00:02:53 Um, and so that really got me interested in the whole, uh, topic of free speech. You know, what, what does it mean? Where does this right come from? Why is it so difficult to be principled about it? Why do people change their mind about the value of free speech according to their underlying values? What does it mean when a, when a society has free speech, when it loses free speech when it's never had free speech? Um, so, so, and, and, you know, I, I think that trying to understand the, the present, the present through the, the prism of the past is, is, uh, sometimes very useful. So that's what I try to do first with the podcast here in present danger, history of free speech, which I finished back in 2020. And then the book is sort of an attempt to, uh, to pull all of that together and, and, and, uh, and, and write it in a hopefully compelling way, Speaker 0 00:03:43 Which I think you have succeeded in doing. Um, and as I was mentioning before we got on, I particularly enjoyed, uh, the audible version with an excellent, uh, narrator. Um, I, I remember the, uh, the Charlie Hedo, um, attack very clearly. I was in Paris at, at the time. So, um, so it, it, uh, felt very real to me. Um, so with this book and studying free speech throughout history, you delineate elite speech and egalitarian speech. And, and I understand that something that, uh, you hadn't necessarily really categorized, um, in, in the past. So what, what is that distinction historically, I guess, going back, uh, to, to ancient Greece really, and how, uh, is that distinction playing out today? Speaker 1 00:04:37 Yes, uh, I think that's a very important and recurrent theme through, uh, the history of, of free speech. So I, you know, I think free speech originates, um, in the Athenian democracy, um, you know, and, and so around 2,500 years of, of going back in time, uh, where the, the Athenians had two overlapping concepts of free speech, one of them was ISA go meaning equality of speech. So that was political speech that all Freeborn male citizens could exercise in the assembly where they voted under their direct democracy voted and discussed laws, but then they also had a, a, a broader concept called Patea, which means something like uninhibited speech <affirmative>, which permeated their culture. So it was tolerant of social dissent. Uh, you know, we all know the history of Socrates who was executed for his opinions, but he had for decades been allowed, uh, to roast people in humiliating, intellectual Q, and as, uh, in the go of the marketplace in, in Athens. Speaker 1 00:05:43 And, and, you know, you could poke fun of the high and mighty. You could even poke fun of the, of the guts. So, you know, while there was not absolute free speech, it was, uh, significantly freer than, than, than contemporary societies and especially sort of more Oli Garic, uh, societies. And then you also had free speech in the Roman Republic, which, which, you know, uh, originated later on, but there you have a more elitist top down, um, free speech tradition. So one in which the well-educated, um, welfare elite are the ones that exercise primarily free speech and where, uh, the, the, the PLE the, the governors are seen as not being worthy of participating in public discussions and too dangerous to allow to have any real, uh, political power. So, so even though, you know, Roman citizens could, uh, could, could cath votes in, in various assemblies, they were not, they didn't have a right to address them and speak the way that ordinary Athenians had. Speaker 1 00:06:49 Um, and I think that, um, those two clashing concepts or competing concepts of free speech, we see them play out again and again, throughout the history of free speech, especially when you have new technological developments or political developments that expand the public's sphere by providing a voice to previously marginalized or ostracized groups. Um, so it could be with the printing press suddenly, you know, um, you're, you're, you're able to disseminate, um, information publications to a, to a much wider audience than before, and has wide ranging consequences for politics and religion in, uh, in, in Europe. Um, and of course today we see it very much with the internet and social media. So even though in principle, before the internet, um, everyone enjoyed, um, an individual, uh, right to free speech on an equal basis de facto, there was a PED elite that acted as institutional gatekeeper. Speaker 1 00:07:54 So if you were an ordinary citizen, if you would have a very slim hands of really addressing the public sphere, unless an editor, uh, gave you a, a platform by, by admitting you onto a newspaper or TV program, or, or, or if you were a journalist, or if you were sort of a, a prominent politician or, or intellectual that changed with the internet and, and social media. And then now we also, again see that institutional gatekeepers who were used to shape and filter the public debate are extremely worried about the consequences, uh, of disinformation and hate speech and other types of, of speech that they fear will sort of lead astray, the masses, and, and, you know, it's true that there are harms and costs, uh, involved in, in, in free speech, as we may get back to, I, I tend to look at the history of free speech as supporting the, the idea that until now <laugh> the, the benefits of free speech, uh, outweigh the, uh, the harms and costs. Speaker 0 00:08:55 Um, you coined a phrase Milton's curse in, in your book, uh, to describe, I believe the selective and unprincipled defense of free speech. What inspired the attribution to the poet Milton and what are some examples, both historically temporarily of, uh, this kind of selective bias and how we apply, uh, the principle of free speech? Speaker 1 00:09:23 Yeah, so John Milton is not only famous for a sort of paradise loss in his poetry, but he also wrote in 1644, the area of PO JICA. Um, so which was a, um, very eloquently and defense of press freedom and a, uh, and an attack on the institution of pre publication censorship. And, uh, so that means a lot of people law, John Milton as being sort of an early defender of, of press freedom and, and free speech. But when you read more carefully, you see that, that, that Milton is actually not advocating press freedom for Catholics. Uh, he's also, uh, you know, in, in, uh, fined with book burnings, if, if they're sort of, uh, uh, too critical of, of religion or, or SDIs, um, uh, he later supports a, a, a very draconian bla band and the ultimate, uh, the ultimate irony is that he ends up serving as a sensor under Cromwell, uh, who sort of led a, um, semi military dictatorship, uh, in the, in the 1640s. Speaker 1 00:10:25 Um, so, so that, that's why I, I coined the term Milton's curse, and we see that again. And again, someone like Volter is often credited with being a free speech absolutes, but he very much was in favor of elite free speech each. And, and also try to sort of sometimes point the French, uh, rigorous censorships system under the old regime in, in, in, uh, in the direction of, of authors that he didn't like or compete with. Um, and you, uh, you see it with the founding generation in America. Um, so someone like John Adams in, in, in 70, in 65 rails against, um, uh, uh, the, um, the, um, British attempts to, to sort of put duties on, on printing material and says that this is, uh, attempt by the British to impose slavery on, on the col on the, on the colonists. And then when he becomes president, uh, um, uh, Congress adopts the ion act, which basically is an attempt to protect, uh, himself and, and his Federalist party from criticism from the democratic Republican, um, competitors or, or, or Polands. Speaker 1 00:11:31 And you have, uh, Hamilton and George Washington on board with, uh, with this. So, so it's basically something that you see again, you, and, and you see it now to, to even today where, you know, I, um, I saw a, a tweet by Hillary Clinton and, um, recently saying that, uh, she was in favor of a recently adopted European law regulating social media, that, that obliged to social media platforms to remove illegal contents. He was very much in favor of that though, that, you know, if that was to be adopted in the us, that would mean an obligation to remove a lot of material that be protected by the first amendment, but you could also have the whole, um, sort of culture wars in, in America. So, you know, you can have conservatives who are, who rail about cancel culture, and then they'll support politicians who adopt laws against critical race theory that would sort of put limits on what colleges and universities can can say, uh, and teach. So, so it's just, uh, unfortunately I think hardwired into human beings that principles are extremely difficult and that we are very good at, at coming up with reasons why the, the, the free speech is important, but we need limits. And those limits, um, magically tend to, uh, be in line with our own ideological preferences. And, and that, hence we, we can convince ourselves that they're not really limitations of free speech. Speaker 0 00:12:58 I see. Uh, alright. I have a few more questions, but I just wanted to, uh, remind everybody in the audience. This is a wonderful opportunity to ask questions of, uh, really one of the world's leading foremost experts on, uh, free speech it's history, and it's important. So go in there, typing your questions, we're going to them. Um, Yakup, you have said that we are in a global free speech recession. How do you measure that? Uh, and what are the trends that are driving it? Speaker 1 00:13:37 Yeah. So, you know, on, you know, if you wanna take a more positive look, um, you could say that we're in a certain sense living in a golden age because, you know, free speech has never been strong, enjoyed, stronger legal protection under the first amendment, for instance, in the us. Um, and free speech is a global international human rights norm. And just technology allows, you know, you're sitting in, in California, I'm sitting in Copenhagen where we're having a Frank discussion. I can criticize American politicians. There's no censorship, uh, at all. So that, you know, is an exercise of free speech. Although I, I, I, you know, I, I think both you and I just take it for granted. This is part of, of what we do. We don't think of it as exercise increase fees. We, we don't feel like, like, like dissidents when, when we're having this, uh, discussion. Speaker 1 00:14:26 Um, but then on the other hand, I would say that the, the, the golden age may be in decline. And why do I say that? Well, because, uh, the, in general there tendency of, of more and more restrictive laws being adopted, and that's not surprising in authoritarian states like Russia, um, um, like, uh, yeah, Iran, Saudi Arabian and so on, but increasing, we also see it in, in liberal democracies, uh, in, in Europe, um, where, um, you know, hate speech, uh, disinformation, uh, illegal content on, on social media, European union now, um, banning Russian disinformation, um, uh, in, in, from, from broadcasting in Europe and, and, you know, even demanding that, that, uh, certain Russian information be removed by social media platforms. So even if you want to counter it, um, you, you can't necessarily share it on your, your own social media profile if you're in Europe. Speaker 1 00:15:24 Um, and then, uh, there's a culture of free speech, which in many ways may be more important than legal protections, or at least, uh, um, a necessary precondition for having robust legal protections. And I think that's, that's the main worry in the us. It might not so much be the law because, um, in, in the short and medium term, the first amendment seems to be in very safe hands with the current Supreme court, which, which, which puts a lot of emphasis on, on, on free speech, but long, you know, you have, um, a tendency where especially younger and more, um, progressive Americans, uh, view free speech as a threat to minorities and tolerance. And so they tend to put less, less emphasis on free speech, might even see it as being weaponized against tolerance and, uh, and democracy. And then you have a backlash or a counter reaction from conservatives that I described in, in these, uh, attempt to, to then sort ban various, uh, types of speech that they, that they don't like, and that they see as undermining, um, you know, that the, the values that they, uh, that they hold in in high regard, I think that's a dangerous development because if the culture of free speech in the United States deteriorates, then ultimately the first amendment is also likely to be, um, more, less robust in its protection. Speaker 1 00:16:47 You know, the first amendment was ratified in 1791, the wording hasn't changed, but, um, you know, throughout its history, there's been a lot of speech that, uh, Supreme court justices were completely indifferent to, or were perfectly fine with being punished and punished severely, um, that that would be, uh, protected, uh, today. So it's not, you know, it's not an iron law that the first men will continue to enjoy the same robust protection and that it does today. And I think especially in a very polarized America, I think if the robust protection at the legal level was to break down, I think you would see, uh, I think, you know, a bit like maybe, uh, there, I mentioned the, the topic of abortion <laugh> these days, but the way that, you know, certain parts of the country would have laws that prohibited certain types of speech, uh, reflecting their underlying values, uh, and, and other parts in the country where, so in certain countries it might be, you know, you you'd have, uh, uh, laws that would make it more difficult, uh, for black lives matter to have, uh, militant protest in the streets and others where, you know, the NRA could not really protest because you, you have certain types of, of laws targeting, uh, targeting that that would be, might be laws where it would be a crime to burn the stars and stripes and, uh, and, and, uh, and, and so on. Speaker 1 00:18:11 And I think that would be a nightmare scenario, you know, imagine you being in California and you write something and then you, uh, travel to Alabama, and then you're, you're arrested because you wrote something that was legal in California, but it was prohibited, uh, in, in Alabama or, or, or vice versa. Um, so that, Speaker 0 00:18:29 In my case, Speaker 1 00:18:31 Yeah. Um, so, so, so, um, so, so, so yeah, so, so that, that, that's why I see sort of a, a free speech recession, which, uh, unfortunately, you know, it's a bit paradoxical again, because we have social media in the internet. We have better ways than ever before to actually express ourselves. Then the, the limits on what we can actually say are also, uh, sort of becoming more, uh, uh, less permissive if you like, Speaker 0 00:18:59 Right. I mean, between the folk that the tweet that you'd mentioned from Hillary Clinton and then, um, former president Brock Obama coming out and, uh, making, um, really an army and, uh, strident case for more Moreen shit, more moderation, more control online. And all of this is happening, as you mentioned, when we have, um, protestors in front of the, uh, Supreme court calling, um, for packing the court, adding more, uh, politically appointed, uh, Supreme court justices to, uh, to kind of move towards, uh, the kind of, um, decisions that, that they'd like. So, uh, it is alarming. And on that note, I am gonna dive into some of our questions here. Uh, my good friends, Scott Schiff asks if Yakup has heard about the Biden administration's plan to create a disinformation governance board under the EIS of the, uh, department of Homeland security. So this would be a board with, with, uh, Speaker 1 00:20:09 Yeah, but from what I understood, uh, you know, it's been almost impossible to get any coherent, uh, response as to what its powers actually were. And, and, and, you know, I think that under the first amendment its powers to limit, uh, to do, to take any sort of action concrete action against concrete speech would be very, very limited. Um, um, you know, um, not least due to New York times versus Sullivan, the 1964 decision, which, you know, a lot of people forget was actually a, a civil rights, uh, decision. So, so, um, and, and, and as an aside, you know, many of the very robust protections and expansions of, of, of the first amendment were landmarks civil rights, uh, decisions. So, so I it's, it's unclear to me what this board will, will actually try to do, but it seems to me that it, it could not really do anything restrictive, but, but restrictive, but it sounds sort of dystopian, you know, the name itself in and of itself is a, I think should be a Nono in a <laugh> in a, uh, in, in an open democracy. Speaker 1 00:21:22 Um, this is not to say that, you know, this information cannot lead to harms or, you know, that free speech does not come with harms and costs. It, it, it does. Um, but, uh, but I think, you know, sometimes we make sort of the logical fallacy of saying, oh, some certain types of speech may, uh, cause harms, but, and, and then say, well, then we have to prohibit it, but it does not follow from the fact that certain speech includes, may entail harms that, uh, prohibiting that type of, of speech is a, an efficient solution, uh, uh, and or B, uh, would not resolved in unintended negative consequences that were worse, uh, than, uh, than, than, uh, than, than allowing, uh, that type of speech to, to be published. Uh, and, and of course there are all kinds of alternative non-restrictive measures. You can, you can use to combat, uh, this information. I mean, that's the whole point of, of having an open democracy is that we can discuss in debate, uh, certain issues is not that, that we are trying to provide, uh, one side of the debate with a club with which to beat its opponents, uh, into silence. Speaker 0 00:22:40 Um, yeah, I think part of, uh, the problem that I have, uh, is it's not just the establishment of this board, which I find, um, very concerning, but the use now, the ubiquity of the term disinformation misinformation, mal information. Like, I, I didn't even know that word and they're not, they're just kind of anti concepts. I mean, things, are I there true or their false and labeling something as disinformation is, is a judgment call and is that, uh, judgment going to be made by the government and how is it going to be, um, implemented? Speaker 1 00:23:27 Yeah, I think you're absolutely right. And that's why, you know, you know, from, from, from the Catholic church to Henry VII, to, uh, the Soviet union, to Nazi Germany, um, all, all, all of these institutions and, and states had laws against false information, and that were, that were used, you know, of course, to protect the rulers, uh, and leaders who, who got to define and enforce tho those definitions, you know, from, from battling heresy, uh, in, in, in, in ages to pull to enemies of the people under Lenon <laugh>, um, and, uh, and, and, and Hitler. Um, so, so I, I agree, you know, it's a, it's, it's a, it's a nevol category, uh, and almost inevitably will be, will be weaponized in a, in a certain way. Uh, and also very often, you know, who, who, who, you know, you might not be able to, so COVID is a good example. Speaker 1 00:24:33 So, you know, we, we, we're trying to understand a brand new virus and, and encountering it while we, we still don't have a, a full picture of what it means. And then trying to then sort of say, uh, what's the, what's the truth about it? Uh, it becomes very difficult and ultimately I think contributes to your road trust in health authorities, if they go out and make very robust statements. And then it turns out that they might have believed at a certain point, this is the best available signs, but then, you know, um, researchers, uh, in, in another place of the world finds, you know, comes to a different conclusion than, than you have to revise as you do all the time when it comes to signs. Um, uh, and, and, and, and so in, so in many ways, um, trying to sort of, um, combat scientific, um, miss information, for instance, I think, uh, is, is, is extremely counterproductive, uh, in, in, in many ways also, just because you can point to a lot of, uh, here in Denmark, our health authorities to their credit admitted that they had made several calls that were wrong in, in, in, in hindsight, I think that actually increases in institutions that they admit to their mistakes, because otherwise that's so that you, you basically feed the, the conspiracy theories about, you know, bill gates and 5g towers and all, all the rest of that. Speaker 1 00:26:00 Um, Speaker 0 00:26:01 Well, I gonna have, I was gonna save that question to the last, but, uh, I, we, we were just talking before we began the webinar, um, about the guest that I had two weeks ago, uh, Johan Berg, um, and his book heard on Sweden's experience. So, um, uh, what, what were the mistakes that they admitted to, because he own the United States, uh, the CDC has yet to admit to any mistakes. Speaker 1 00:26:28 Yeah. So for instance, in February, when, uh, yeah, I guess it was in February or, uh, January, February, first of all, they said, you know, there's no signs that this going, this is going to turn into a pandemic. Uh <laugh> and then they said, you know, yeah, sure. Uh, danger, why don't you go on, um, skiing in Austria, where there had been outbreak where it's not really a danger, and then they, you know, Dames went, they got infected and it became sort of a super spread event that really, uh, set off the, the epidemic unit then, you know, change in guidelines about, uh, you know, changing, I think also something about, uh, whether asymptomatic spread. I think they got stuff wrong on that, uh, on face masks, uh, they got, they got stuff, uh, wrong on that. And again, you know, it's, uh, it, uh, it's, it's not because they were engaged in a conspiracy theory to, uh, deceive the, the Danish population. Speaker 1 00:27:25 It's just that, you know, uh, you know, they, they, they probably didn't know better and, or, or they had to, you know, come down on one side of, of conflict the information. And that's why you can't make an authoritative case because you might not know. And I'm sure, you know, when future generations, uh, look back on COVID and how we handled it and how, how we understood COVID, that might be a lot of things where they thought, oh my God, how they were so naive, the same way that, you know, we might look back at how they handled the Spanish flu at the time. And there were certain things that they cut. Right. And there were other things that they completely misunderstood. Um, and, and, and that's likely to be the, the, the same story. Speaker 0 00:28:07 All right. Well, I'm not going to, uh, drag you off onto one of my hobby horses. Um, and I wanna get back to the book and, uh, we have a question here from Instagram, uh, Marcus Abbott asking who just, yeah. Who in general do you think are the free speech each's biggest heroes and its greatest villain. So who are some of the, the characters who, who have primary roles Speaker 1 00:28:34 In your book? Yeah. And, and so if we look at history, I, you know, I think one of my favorites is Frederick Douglass and the, the great abolitionist and order, uh, you know, I think his 1860, uh, uh, free a plea for free speech in Boston is, is one of the, uh, the strongest shortest cases ever made for free speech. And I think it talks very much to, to some contemporary issues. And it also, uh, shows, I think why, uh, the idea that free speech, uh, entrenches unequal power relations is a threat to minorities is, is wrong. Uh, and, and Fred Douglas saw that very clear. He said that the right of speech, um, is, uh, is a very precious one, especially to be oppressed. And, and I think, I think, um, that, that has a lot of truth in it. I also like George O I thought George O was, was good because he actually, you know, he, he was antiar, he was, but he saw the dangers, both the left and the right, but he spent a lot of time sort of going up against his own. Speaker 1 00:29:40 So he goes on the left, he was a democratic socialist, but he was extremely hostile to communist and saw clearly the totalitarianism of, of communism and the, uh, attempt to sort of police speech by doctrinaire, um, uh, communist. Uh, and I think that that was extremely important that someone take up, uh, that, um, um, I think James Madison, um, wrote a very convincing arguments, uh, against the S edition act in his report of, of 1800, which, which made a very strong case for, for a robust, uh, commitment to, uh, to, to free speech under the first amendment. Um, and the levelers, uh, sort of a almost forgotten group of, uh, of English, uh, radicals radicals from the 1640s, who in many ways, I think they're sort of a proto advancing, uh, ideas that would, uh, more than a hundred years later become part of, of the American constitutional, uh, experiment sort of, um, their idea of, uh, of, of, of, of democracy, of universal tolerance of, uh, of robust free speech. Speaker 1 00:30:51 Um, so I think they, they are some of the heroes, IB Wells is another, probably never been a braver journalist in I worlds who founded a, a news paper of the Memphis, uh, free speech who went around the south documenting lynchings and, and showing that the standard defense of lynchings often was that, you know, white women had been raped by black men. And so, so she showed that that many times this was, you know, white women having consensual sex with blacks. And that was not a message that was appreciate, uh, my wife sus. And so a, a campaign of, of incitement, uh, was, was, was aimed against her. Her newspaper was destroyed and, and she, she had to flee, but, but I think she really, um, she, she fought heart, uh, and, and, and used free speech in practice to, to advance some important courses. <affirmative> so, uh, lots of other, uh, important figures, but those are, those are some of my, my favorite ones Speaker 0 00:31:49 Heroes. What about villains? Speaker 1 00:31:52 Oh, how long do you got <laugh> give me your top three, that, that, that that's, that's, that's, uh, you know, the, the, the entire history of, of, uh, of, of human history. I think that the position is by this book. Yeah. <laugh> is to be, uh, is to be critical. I think, you know, until I, I, I think until C J ping sort of used, um, uh, artificial intelligence and sort of modern communications technology to try and sort of impose censorship all over Chinese society, I think Stalin might have been the worst center, uh, in, in, in human history, in the most repressive. So it's not only that, you know, he happily signed the death sentence of political opponents, but it was just like, he acted as AEN himself. You know, he would read books, he would read plays, he would, uh, manuscripts, uh, and, uh, he would screen films and be extremely engaged in it while at the same time sort of building an extremely repressive, uh, state. So, so Stalin would, would, um, would, would certainly be, uh, among the top of, of, of the worst of the worst. Speaker 0 00:33:12 All right. No, we'll get no disagreement here. Um, question coming in from face that Jeremy see is asking, do you think there are parallels, um, between those two speech freedoms, maybe he's, he's talking about the, uh, elitist and egalitarian kind that you were describing in Athens, uh, and Rome, and how big tech tries to suppress, uh, certain views on, on social media. Speaker 1 00:33:42 Yeah, I think, you know, the internet and, and sort of the early Silicon valley, um, culture was very much based on egalitarian free speech. So, you know, I don't know if you look up, um, maybe you're familiar with the John Perry, baos a declaration of the independence cyberspace from 1996. So it's this sort of extremely civil, libertarian vision of the internet that completely boundless basically states have no power in, in building a completely new technique, utopian society with no limits of whatsoever or whatever limits would at least be decided by, by ordinary people themselves and not, uh, in any way shape governments. And so that was a very decentralized, radical model of, of free speech that dominated the internet early on. And then, you know, that sort of continued the, the internet, I think, was still quite horizontal. Uh, when you had the blogosphere, uh, you know, you had a lot of different blogs, no one would really care how they were content moderated because no single blog would, would in, in itself, uh, affect the entire ecosystem of information and opinion online. Speaker 1 00:34:54 Uh, and so whether there were neo-Nazi blogs or whatever, you know, you, you, you could just avoid them, but then, you know, move into our current era, which is much more centralized, which is, has become platformized if you like. And so suddenly decisions made by Facebook that has around 3 billion uses tend to have an actual real effect on, uh, on, on, on free speech. Uh, even though, you know, maybe iron Rand would say, well, uh, doesn't matter. Uh, because it's, it's a private company. So, you know, private property Trump's, uh, any free speech, uh, consideration. They can do whatever they want. Um, but I think, uh, that in, in my opinion, the culture of free speech is about more than the relationship between individual and government. That is also something stressed by John Stewart, mill and tug and, and all will, uh, and, and, and Frederick Douglass. Speaker 1 00:35:51 Um, so even though I would not argue that you should sort of adopt a law or, um, that that would oblige Facebook or Twitter or others to uphold first amendment standards. For instance, I still think there's, there are good grounds to criticize the way that they do content moderation. Although I also acknowledge that it's impossible to do well and that, you know, you're never going to be able to satisfy everyone. Um, and, and that you will make a lot of mistakes, but, but I think it does have an impact on the ecosystem of, of freedom of, uh, speech and information and, and, and has moved much a more elitist, um, vision. It's still, you know, it's still, I think to a very large extent egalitarian in the sense that everyone can, can set up their account. And, and, and, um, but, but it's, it's clear that there's been a lot of pushback by, by governments, by traditional media and others to try and have more control on what is being said and, and shared, uh, on, on, on these big platforms. Speaker 0 00:36:55 Got it. Uh, right gingers now, fifth, I think he just answered pretty much, um, your question. So, uh, going back to Facebook called Phillips asks, what do you think about concerns about fake news and how journalists might be self undermining trust and support for a free press? I, no, that's an, that's an interesting question, cuz I know you've, um, had criticism that, uh, former president Trump, who that was one of his, his favorite, uh, themes, you know, to kind of make fun of and, and criticize, uh, the, the press for their, their bias, but you voiced some concerns that, um, those, those attacks could undermine, um, uh, support for free speech, but, Speaker 1 00:37:47 You know, yeah, no, I Speaker 0 00:37:48 Gotta ask in the opposite, you know, the side point, Speaker 1 00:37:51 I think, uh, I think, uh, and, and here I'm, I'm thinking about America that to a large extent, traditional media has become much more polarized and, and sort of, uh, partisan, which I think undermines, uh, the position of, of the, of the press. Um, uh, however, I don't think that justifies the rhetoric, uh, and behavior of, of, uh, and it's not just that, you know, Donald Trump would, would call the enemy, uh, called journalists enemies of the pupils that have mimicking Lennon, uh, rhetoric. It's also that he actually wanted to introduce laws that, uh, would, would, would punish people, uh, journalists that he thought were saying, uh, um, were lying or, or, or writing wrong things. Uh, but he was prevented to do so by, by, by the first amendment. So, so even though he, he, he wanted to, he couldn't do it. Um, um, but, but obviously, you know, I think it's important to be extremely critical of, of the media and not, uh, you know, unquestionably believe everything that is written in the New York times and be aware of the biases of, um, of, of traditional media. Speaker 1 00:39:03 And that's what you can actually do with social media and the internet, you know, you can, and that's, I think also what some traditional media resent, the fact that they can be openly questioned before they could get away with a lot of things, because where you going to voice your critique, are you going to say you write a, a, a letter to the editor of New York times telling, you know, how they got things wrong? Well, that might not be, be published. And, and even if it did, it might just be, you know, 100 words and not be displayed very prominently. Now the criticism, um, is there, it can go viral. And, uh, and, and that's, you know, I think most people, most of us are not very happy about criticism, um, and, and are uncomfortable with, with criticism and, and will even if we, uh, say that we're in favor of free speech and so on, uh, might be tempted to try and, and use the various methods, uh, to sort press criticism of ourselves so that it doesn't get out in the public. Speaker 0 00:40:01 All right, we've got about 20 more minutes. Uh, we're going to have many more questions, um, than we have time for, but, uh, but I'm gonna prioritize the question, our audience questions rather than my own. I am gonna ask that, um, our team post, uh, um, because Yakup had mentioned Frederick Douglas, I'd love to post, uh, a link in the comments too. Uh, my name is Frederick Douglas, our animated drama, my life video of him, as well as, uh, my name is free speech. Okay. Going, um, back to Instagram, James Cummings asks, how does, uh, a free speech culture work in Europe Compared to something enshrined in the us constitution and, and maybe, um, in answering that you could also cover, uh, the concerns that you addressed in your wall street journal oped on, uh, why you felt that, uh, moves to further ban, um, hate speech by the European union could actually, uh, backside. Speaker 1 00:41:07 Yeah, so of course, it's, it's important to be clear that there's not a sort of unified culture of free speech in Europe. Europe is, uh, a lot of things, you know, the, you know, even among the 27 member states of European union, there are various free speech cultures and free speech tradition. Denmark tends traditionally to be, have be one of the more permissive, um, liberal in this classical word understanding of, of, of free speech and one that tended more, you know, not completely towards, um, viewpoint neutrality, but, but pretty much so, you know, you know, unlike Germany, for instance, in Denmark, you can engage in Holocaust and is swastikas are not, uh, are art band, you know, who've had see radio stations and not see political parties, uh, uh, and, and so on. And I think also, you know, for instance, we don't have, uh, in Denmark, anything near the same debates, uh, and toxic atmosphere at, at universities that you deal with in, uh, in, in, in the us. Speaker 1 00:42:12 And, and, and not also, there are things, you know, that could be written or set that are not banned in the us, but that might not, you know, that, uh, a, um, a traditional media would not publish, uh, I don't think any of the major newspapers publish the cartoons for instance, um, a lot of Danish newspapers won't do it either, but that's speak cause they that's, that's out basically out of security concerns. Um, and having said that, as I mentioned, laws are, are being adopted. So Germany is, uh, a classic example because of their past, they interpret their pasts, uh, because of, of the rise of Nazi, the lab of the Republic, uh, to, to include an, an, an obligation to be intolerant of intolerance, if you like. Um, uh, and, and, and that's a model called Middleton democracy. So basically democracy should be aggressive when it comes to the enemies of democracy, uh, and, and ban them proactively. Speaker 1 00:43:18 Um, as I IQ in the book that is based on, on, on what might be called the Imar fallacy, because it actually, when you look at the history of the Imar Republic, uh, lasting from 1918 to 1933, is that they had a lot of speech restricted laws. It's true that they also had constitutional section of free speech, but for instance, the radio was censored Nazis, and, and companies could not, uh, be on air, you know, Adel Hitler was banned from speaking in various, uh, states. And because of all the political violence, because of the polarization, there were more the, the, the constitution allowed the president to adopt these emergency measures and, and, and have emergency powers. So, so for instance, um, the government could administratively ban newspapers for up to eight weeks, um, if they spread false information or extremism, uh, and, um, leading Nazis were, were imprison for sort of anti-Semitic, um, excesses, uh, and all of this did not seem to, uh, to prevent the Nazis from, uh, from gaining popularity in many ways, they used it, uh, very clever to, to gain more attention to post themselves as smarters. Speaker 1 00:44:31 And, and I think most worryingly is that they, the Nazis actually used the emergency laws of the violent Republic, the very laws that were supposed to protect democracy. They used those laws to suspend free speech, um, and, and which paved the way for them to basically, uh, uh, eliminate all their political opponents, uh, adopt a one party state within six months of coming to power, uh, and ultimately of course, committing themselves to, uh, genocide and the extermination of, uh, of, of Jews and, and total war. So, um, I'm not arguing that if, if Moreen, if less censorship had been in place, not could have been avoided, you know, there are lots of other fair actors that are, uh, in play. And some of them probably more important than the relationship between free speech Anden, but I just don't see any good evidence for, you know, I think if you want to restrict free speech in open democracies, then the burden of proof should at least be on those who want to limit free speech, that those restrictions are necessary, uh, and proportion that and efficient in encountering the dangers that you fear. Speaker 1 00:45:35 And, and I just don't see the history of the VI republics collapse as one that supports that thesis. We also have, um, uh, social, uh, science research that suggest, uh, that, that there might actually, um, countries that restrict free speech might, might be experiencing more, more violence. So if you try to, to limit what extremists can say, they be may, it might be easier for them to legitimize using violence, uh, because they're not allowed to say what they speak their minds then, um, you know, uh, psychologically it's, it's easier for you to justify, uh, resorting to, uh, to violence. So those are some of the unintended consequences of, of free speech restrictions that, um, I might be a bit too complicated for politicians that just want to signal that they're, they don't want to tolerate, you know, hate speech or disinformation or extremism and want to do something about it. And what's the best thing you can do about it as a politician. Well, that is to ban it. And also no one is really going to stand up for the rights of, uh, Nazis or, you know, uh, extremists, uh, only very, very few people, especially in Europe care that much about free speech to, to really stand up for, for principle. And, and that's how you can sort of nor away at free speech at the its. And then if you continue doing that continuously for decades, then suddenly free speech has been severely compromised. Speaker 0 00:46:55 Um, well, so at steel wheels on Twitter, I think he pretty much covered your question. He was asking about, uh, free speech in, in different European, uh, union countries. I guess I would just ask which country, um, has the, the most, uh, robust protections for free speech and, uh, the most kind of robust culture of free speech in, in Europe. Would that be Denmark? Speaker 1 00:47:22 I think Norway, my Norway Denmark might be the countries that I, you know, though, I think our current, the last two governments we've had in Denmark have really made inroads, uh, have, have undermined our tradition of, um, sort of civil, libertarian commitment to free speech. And Norway has, has had courts that have been much more reluctant than most others to prohibit categories of H HP region diversification of terrorism and, and, and, and such such categories. Um, Denmark is a special case. Uh, you know, as I, as I mentioned, you know, we had a, the communist were members of parliament for a while. They had a, a headquarter in the center city. They had a newspaper funded by, by the Soviets, uh, and, um, they could, you could run around on with hammer and sickle if you wanted to. And you could also, bely a Neo Nazi and, and, uh, in 1969, then Mike became the first country in the world to decriminalize, uh, porn when it came to, even in images. Speaker 1 00:48:21 They decriminalized porn in, in, in writing literature in, in, in 67. So that says something about sort of the, uh, the liberality of, of the culture. And 69 is actually a very interesting year. It's also the year that the us Supreme court, um, made its decision in Brandenburg versus Ohio, which sets a very, very high bar for when you can, when you can prohibit speech. That basically has to be sort of, uh, uh, insight into imminent law as action that is also likely to occur. Um, and it was also the year, uh, where a very brave soul, the BBC decided that Monte Python could be shown on <laugh> British public tax, funder paid television. And I still think that's a very, very brave decision given the, the man Python. So, so that might have been one of the, sort of the high might high watermarks of, of, of free speech history. Speaker 0 00:49:20 All right. Uh, let me see, I'll take maybe one more, um, from Facebook Paha Miller asks, what do you make of the social justice warriors who make the claim that, uh, is violence? And she's asking, where does this notion come from? Speaker 1 00:49:40 Well, it's actually a very old, uh, uh, notion. Um, um, you, you will see that E you know, among those who are at least that, you know, speech translates into very direct, uh, tangible harms. Um, so, you know, um, someone like Thomas Aquinas, an imminent, uh, philosopher writes that, you know, um, it's worse to be to, uh, to permit Hery than to, than a robber, because Harey destroys the soul and, and pollutes the community. And therefore it's right to execute a, a heritage who's, who's, who's an obstinate heritage. He should be given the, the chance to repent if he refuses to do so. Uh, it's not only just, but it's right to, uh, to, to, to execute that person. And, and that's a bit of the same in, in, in this idea that words of violence, um, and, and in many ways, I actually think that speech is the antithesis of violence. Speaker 1 00:50:45 I think speech she's absolutely been necessary for us to live together despite our differences. So there was a time in, in European history, for instance, where, you know, if you denied the holy Trinity, uh, that if you denied that Jesus Christ was divine, that was seen as an existential threat to society, and people would literally try to, to, to, to kill you, or, uh, you know, confront you physically today. In most Western countries, a lot of people might not even know what the holy Trinity is <laugh>, but they certainly would not think it, uh, a threat and, you know, Catholics and Protestants can, can live side by side, uh, and no one wants to kill the other or view it as a threat that they believe in a flesh way. And, and, and, and, and that is due to tolerance and, and, and free speech. Speaker 1 00:51:36 And I think, you know, in everyday society, we have to compromise and be pragmatic in order to live together, um, unless you're very, very rich and own your own island, you know, most of us will have to, to, to accommodate other people's various needs and, and, and so on out of politeness and just for society to gel, but in order to reach compromise in order to be pragmatic, I think we need radical free speech in order to, you know, to discuss our differences and come some sort of solution. We, we need to be able to, to say everything, uh, and I that's what free speech really allows. So I think it's completely a misguided idea to treat free speech, uh, as violence. And, you know, it also BES the question if there's no real difference between, between free speech and violence. Um, you know, does that then mean that, uh, if you say something that I find is, uh, offensive and I, you know, I view it as a punch in the face, do I then have the right to punch you physically in the face? Speaker 1 00:52:42 Is that the same thing? If you were to say something to me now that that, that I thought was, was violent, uh, uh, you know, if we were sitting across from each other and, and I punch you in the face with a fist, would that then be, you know, oh, there's no real difference. Uh, you said something that offended me, I punched you in the face. Uh, is that the same? I think most people in the reality who say, no, that's actually not the same thing. And again, that does not mean that that speech cannot lead to, you know, you couldn't organize it gen an aside, for instance, uh, without using speech, we saw that in Wanda with, with the radio, but again, that's also where you tend to have limits on free speech. So even the first amendment would not protect the kind of speech that was disseminated on, on Colleen, in, in Wanda, where they basically said, I'll go out and, and, and hack your neighbors to death with, with machetes. Um, so, so, um, yeah, I dunno if that was a Speaker 0 00:53:36 Yeah, well, that's almost almost a good place to, to end it, but, um, I'm actually surprised that nobody, uh, ask this from our, um, social media audience. So I'll, I will ask it, um, to close us out. Of course, it's the big news, uh, aside from the, um, the, uh, Homeland security governance, disinformation governance board, um, the much big news, I think actually the, the biggest news, uh, of the past couple of years is Elon Musk's purchase of Twitter with the explicit intentions to increase transparency and reduce censorship on the platform. Um, obviously we're all talking about it here in the United States, maybe, uh, it not as big a deal over in Europe, but Speaker 1 00:54:27 Well, it is, everyone is talking about it in Europe as well. <laugh> okay. Um, yeah, so, so I, you know, I think there are various ways to look at it. One of the things, you know, you know, given the, the fact of Milton's curse, um, the fact that, that, um, El Musk says that he will improve, uh, he is committed to free speech does not necessarily mean that he'll be so in practice. And so there is, uh, I think good reasons to be skeptical of the world's richest man buying a platform like, like Twitter, you know, will he, will he be open to, you know, I think there have been stories before about him trying to suppress in convenient news about Tesla and other things. So will he be open to being challenged? Will he be open to his businesses being dragged through the mud? Speaker 1 00:55:14 Will he, you know, if, if he invests in certain countries that don't like, dissidents, will he, will he, will he continue to provide a platform for those? We don't know that because, uh, people tend to, to be flexible about their free speech principle when they're put on the spot. So is, is, is Elon Musk completely different from, from everyone else? We'll, we'll see, but I think it's also, uh, incredible to witness the reaction of so many politicians and journalists who make a living out of exercising free speech, but again, who take a complete different granted sort of in complete meltdown about this news and about, you know, you know, no one knows what, how this will play out in reality, but they've already concluded that basically Twitter will be turned into, uh, a platform for neoNazis and Russian this information. Uh, and then there's sort of the, the, um, the, the, the take that I think it will be very difficult for ol Musk to, to, um, to go back to the early days of, of techn utopian free speech, um, maximalism of, of the 1990s, uh, um, just because a lot of uses will not be, want to do that. Speaker 1 00:56:21 And, and so if you lose a lot of users, if you lose advertisers and you've just spent 45 billion, you might be the richest man in the world, but I'm assuming that you actually also want to make a dime of, of, of that investment and also laws in, in Europe. You know, if you want to operate in Europe, you are obliged to soon by this digital services act to remove, uh, certain types of illegal content. So, you know, if, if Twitter wants to operate within Europe, they will have to adopt, um, restrictive content moderation practices. And that's the so-called Brussels effect, which means that laws adopted in, in Europe tend to be sort of the default position of, of some of these platforms. So, which means it might have a spill of effect in, in, in the us. So Americans might be subject to sort of moderation without representation if you like due to laws past in, in Brussels and, and Berlin. Speaker 0 00:57:14 All right. Well, I appreciate that, uh, nuanced kind of perspective on, on Elon Musk, because I agree, I, I think there have been so many of us, myself included. Who've been so frustrated, um, by what we've experienced as, uh, the really unfair, uh, and one sided, um, suppression of a particular points of view. So, uh, it, this is not the savior let's, uh, let's reserve judgment, let's be skeptical, but at least let's find some, some reasons to be optimistic and, and hopeful because, uh, we could all use a little hope these days. So Yaka, thank you so very much. Speaker 1 00:57:55 Thank you, Ja. It was, it was a pleasure. Thanks for, for having me on, Speaker 0 00:57:59 Um, and thanks to all of you who joined us go out right now. Bye. This book free speech, the history from Socrates to social media, um, as, uh, I'm a total audio book addict, and, uh, I five stars aren't enough, uh, for me to rate the audio book version of, um, of yaks, uh, free speech book. Um, it's really well done. So, uh, check it out and, uh, we can follow, uh, Yakub on Twitter. Uh, it's just at, with his name and, um, any place else Yakub that we should be following you, or how can we help Speaker 1 00:58:39 You? I'm, uh, sort of old fashioned, uh, I, I've got I'm I'm on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn still, still struggling with Instagram, you know, uh, that, that's how old school I am. <laugh> Speaker 0 00:58:51 Your kids will be able to help you any day now. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:58:54 But yeah. Yeah, but they're, uh, I think my daughter is like mostly TikTok and you know, that's up. I, uh, that's not Speaker 0 00:59:01 Familiar. I bridge too far. Speaker 1 00:59:02 Yeah, I think so. Speaker 0 00:59:04 All right. Well, thank you everyone. Um, Hey, join me. Uh, later on today, I've got a clubhouse with our senior scholar professor Steven Hicks. Um, it's gonna be an ask anything on philosophy tomorrow. We've got a clubhouse with, uh, another senior scholar at the ATLA society, professor Richard Salman, and next week, um, gonna have a very interesting, uh, the ATLA society asks, uh, as some of you may recall, we had the, uh, the feminist Kara Dansky on a few months ago, um, voicing her concerns about certain at aspects of, uh, the transgender, um, activist, uh, agenda. And so, um, I wanna make sure that we are taking in different perspectives. So I'm going to have buck angel. Um, he is a transgender man, so born a woman, um, living as a man. And, uh, and we're gonna get some, some different per uh, in terms of what it's like to, uh, to come to the realization that you don't feel like you fit well in your body. And, um, how he, he, he sees the, the current, uh, kind of battle over, um, parents' rights, individual rights, and, um, and acceptance for people, uh, pursuing their own unique identities. So thanks very much. See you later today. Thanks Jackie. Thanks. Bye. Bye.

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