I’m coming to the conclusion that freedom for speech is for the powerless. It’s for losers. Let me explain.
When traditionalists had actual power they didn’t believe in freedom of speech. They believed in censorship. Now that they have no power at all they’ve developed a hitherto unsuspected passion for free speech.
Half a century ago the New Left was wildly enthusiastic about freedom of speech – they had not yet consolidated their hold on power. Now that they have almost complete power they’ve discovered they don’t believe in freedom of speech after all.
Freedom of speech is one of those ideas that became fashionable during the so-called Enlightenment. It was popular among sceptics and enemies of religion like Voltaire because at that time such intellectuals were still relatively powerless. Today you’ll hardly find a self-identified intellectual who believes in free speech. If Voltaire were alive today he’d be denouncing freedom of speech.
Like most Enlightenment ideas it’s a mixture of naïvete, hypocrisy, self-delusion and folly.
The truth is that freedom of speech is a strategy you use to undermine the existing power structure. It’s a strategy employed by political factions that do not have power. As soon as such a faction gains power it reverses its position on the subject.
At the moment it makes sense for traditionalists and other dissidents to support free speech but it has to be realised that this strategy is an admission of political impotence.
Politics is about power, not principles.