Joel Bowman: G’day, Doug. Thanks for making the time to talk again today.
Doug Casey: A pleasure, although it’s been hard connecting, since you’re in Australia and I’m in Argentina. And we’re going to talk about a third country, America, from two distant foreign countries— 12 time zones apart. Quite amazing, actually…
JB: Yes, indeed. Readers who tuned into this segment last Friday know we’ve embarked on somewhat of a mission here at International Man. Broadly speaking, we’re talking about how the United States of 2018 stacks up against the principals enumerated by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, specifically the first ten amendments to it, known as the Bill of Rights.
Last week you gave us your thoughts on Freedom of Religion (readers who missed the action can catch up here.) Let’s pick it up from there…
Although we can’t know for sure, we might feel reasonably confident that terms like “trigger warning,” “micro-aggression,” “safe space” and “hate speech” were not on the minds of the founding fathers when they drafted the second provision of the first amendment, that concerning Freedom of Speech.
To your thinking, how does the U.S.A of today rate on freedom of expression, as measured by the standards implied by the 1791 document? What do you see as the most direct and immediate threats to this explicit liberty?
DC: How does it rate? Relative to other countries, the US is still among the best. Europe is now very PC, and free speech is on the way out. The Anglophone world— the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand— has little respect for it. It simply doesn’t exist in Asia and Africa.
Relative to its past, the US is in a middle ground right now. I say that because during war time— the War Between the States and World War 1 in particular— you had to be very careful what you said. Many people were jailed. That was true to a lesser extent during the McCarthy days in the 1950’s as well.
Relative to the absolute meaning of the First Amendment, we’re doing badly. I believe words mean what they say, and it says “shall not be infringed”. That is an absolute prohibition— as it should be. How can those words be open to interpretation? And why should they be?
The biggest threat to freedom of speech? Predictably, the same entity that the Bill of Rights was supposed to keep in check—the US Government. The Framers were well aware that throughout history governments— and the type of people who were attracted to work for governments—liked to control what others said and thought.
I'm not overly concerned with what the Supreme Court does or doesn't say about the First Amendment, or anything else. They are just nine entirely mediocre people who have opinions, and those opinions can and do change arbitrarily.
What I'm concerned about is the way the culture in the country has changed. It’s mutated from a belief in freedom of speech as an absolute to, as you pointed out, trigger warnings and such.
The Supreme Court relies on precedent, but they pick the precedents they choose to observe. Maybe they’ll revert to precedents established during wartime… I don’t doubt they can be pressured, intimidated, or even bribed—as often happen here in Latin America—to say what seems convenient.
It’s not easy to change the culture— but it’s happened in the US over the last 50 years. The culture has veered away from accepting freedom of speech towards an implicit endorsement of the Orwellian concepts of thought crime and double think. The fact a lot of words are now taboo is a step towards Orwell’s Newspeak.
The U.S. is not nearly as bad as Europe or Canada, but you better be careful what you think and much more careful what you say. And extremely careful what you write. This part of the First Amendment is, like the rest of the Bill of Rights, on its way to becoming a dead letter.
JB: I suspect many of our readers would agree with you there. What of the fact that college campuses seem to be the hotbed of this suppression of freedom of speech? They say destiny is demography. These are the self-pronounced “leaders of tomorrow.” What does that say for where we're headed? Is it likely to get better or worse from here?
DC: It's likely to get much worse because, in general, trends in motion tend to stay in motion, accelerate, and grow. Like a snowball rolling downhill. But there are specific reasons as well.
Up until the 1960s very few people went to college. It was a unique privilege. And the teachers in college may have been left leaning— academia has always attracted busybodies and intellectuals who think they know what’s best for everyone else— but they were there to teach their subjects, not indoctrinate students in politics.
What's changed is that, first of all, almost everybody goes to college today. And college itself has become a corrupting influence. Instead of learning things, the emphasis has become PC indoctrination. And almost universally, the professors are hardcore leftists, neo-Marxists, socialists, SJW’s, and the like.
So not only has the character of college changed, but many more people—in both relative and absolute terms—are going to it, and being indoctrinated. After students graduate, the political, economic, social, and philosophical views they’ve picked up are reinforced by through movies, TV, newspapers, and all their friends that have been indoctrinated.
Freedom of speech is on its way out because it is not PC, and the culture has become very PC because of the educational system. What the Supreme Court says is only an afterthought, confirming the trend.
JB: It's depressing when it seems so inevitable. I'm wondering if there's any ray of light here? Might there be some kind of backlash against this censorial impulse, or are people who speak up against this general trend likely to be steamrolled along the way?
DC: I suspect that they'll be overwhelmed. If you’re part of a herd—which we actually are—it’s very hard, and dangerous, to run against it. It’s hard to survive as a lone wolf if the pack evicts you.
I suspect the only way that this can be reversed is by getting control of the educational system, and filling it with teachers who believe in freedom of speech, and other values of Western Civilization. That, however, is as hard as curing a body that’s riddled with cancer, or a house infested with termites.
It's going to take a long time to change the kind of people that teach in colleges and what they believe. It's almost hopeless, quite frankly. It's almost as if we're watching the Second Law of Thermodynamics in evidence here—the tendency of all things to degrade, wind down, and fall apart. That's happened to the education system in this country, and others in the West. The prognosis is not good.
Another reason that’s true is that people always like to think that they’re on the side of the angels— that they’re morally right. The Left has definitely captured the high ground morally. The Right doesn’t say they’re wrong, and offer a correct moral alternative. They just say the Left is “going too far”, which makes the Right seem weak and hypocritical— which is generally true.
Or they say what the Left does is “illegal”— which is also quite stupid. Because laws are arbitrary, and can be changed at a whim, but it cedes the moral argument, which is far more important.
JB: Yes, people seem to conflate the term “law” with terms like “just” and “moral.” Yet, anyone with even a moderate grasp of history can, right off the cuff, identify at last a dozen laws that were decidedly unjust and immoral. It’s amazing, then, that people so readily accept the laws of their own times, in their own nation states, as some kind of infallible Gospel.
Finally, last week you graded the U.S.A a pretty high B+ for Freedom of Religion. How do you score it on Freedom of Speech?
DC: Well, that wasn’t hard, since religion isn’t the kind of hot button it once was. But the issue of speech is more complex today. I’ll give the US a “B” in the legal sense of freedom. But only a “C”, trending towards a “D” in terms of how the culture feels about it.
JB: Thanks again, Doug. Next week we’ll pick up the conversation with your take on Freedom of the Press. Should be interesting. Until then, cheers!
DC: Who knows? If we say anything too radical— which means getting to the root of the problem, since that’s where the word derives its meaning in Latin— perhaps we’ll get to test the 1st Amendment in practice…
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