Don’t allow your hatred to cloud your judgment of what free speech is

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Aaron Sobczak sandwich

You would think that simple ideas shouldn’t need much explaining, but with the growth of the alt-right and reactionary movements as a direct pushback against leftist agendas, people have been allowing the source of a view to dictate how they feel about it.

It was a retweet by Elizabeth Nolan Brown of Reason.com that proved this today.

She’s been voicing her concern about the representation of women within the libertarian movement and has been rallying other libertarian women to raise awareness using the hashtag #MakeLibertyWin.  Someone decided to make a joke by tweeting a picture of a sandwich with the caption: “The best way for a woman to #MakeLibertyWin.”

Brown didn’t like the joke and presented his tweet with the comments: “This is a young man who ostensibly wants a job someday, tweeting at professional women in his field under his own name” and “RT to help ensure Aaron Sobczak’s prospective employers know this when they search for Aaron Sobczak’s name.”

And that’s when everyone lost their minds.

If you disagree with Brown’s objection to the joke, that’s fine.  If you want to call her out in the same way she called out Sobczak, that’s fine.  If you want to boycott and dissociate from Brown and Reason.com, that’s fine too.

But if you want to accuse Brown of violating Sobczak’s right to free speech, then you’re absolutely wrong.  For a right to be violated, some sort of violence must be threatened or committed as a way to prevent or stop someone from exercising that right.  Social pressure, such as the risk of being ostracized by peers for expressing a view, is neither violence nor a threat of violence.  So while you might not agree with the tactic or the reason for the social pressure, you cannot claim that anyone’s rights were violated.

This is true even if Brown sent alerts to Sobczak’s potential future employers about his joke.  No one has the right to either a current job or a future job, so providing truthful information to people to help them make a decision does not constitute a violation of any of his rights.  If it did, then boycotts would be a rights violation as well.  That hasn’t stopped many from claiming Brown has threatened Sobczak’s livelihood or is attempting his stifle his ability to speak freely or that this somehow disqualifies her from being a libertarian.

Somewhere and somehow the idea of freedom of association became unjust.  And even more ridiculous is the idea that retweeting someone is a violation of the Non-Aggression Principle.

It is the poison of the reactionaryism against social justice warriors and leftism that creates this contradiction among many so-called “libertarians.”  Interest in the pursuit of truth and peace is overtaken by the childish desire to prove that the people they hate are wrong.  This manifests itself by taking the opposite position of the enemy without regard to previously cherished principles.  Those principles—the rocks on which the philosophical foundation is built—become malleable.  They are made to fit the conclusion instead of being used to draw a conclusion.

This of course results in very anti-libertarian positions.  At best, it makes the basis for free speech very nebulous and subjective, which is all but guaranteed to lead people to make the permissibility of certain speech contingent upon their acceptance of it.  The same people who are upset that Brown called for a boycott of Sobczak would applaud an employer who fired someone for espousing toxic leftist views.

The worse result of this is having a group of people waiting to be offended by people who are easily offended.

I don’t care about the joke.  It doesn’t matter to me either way that Brown didn’t like the joke.  I don’t care if people want to criticize her or defend her for her thoughts on the joke.  Whether or not you should be offended by certain speech is subjective and the differences of opinion on that should be tolerated.  What I do not accept, on the other hand, are people who claim to uphold principles while simultaneously demonstrating massive contradictions.

We need to be better.  If we want to popularize libertarianism—to both men and women—we need consistency and to hold true to its tenets.  Accusing someone of being wrong just because you don’t like what that person stands for will march the movement straight into oblivion.


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