Sonny Bunch of the Washington Free Beacon links to both the above cartoon by Randall Munroe, from his popular “XKCD” Website, and a response to it by Vikram Bath of the Ordinary Times Website, who writes:
I hate this comic. It views “the right to free speech” as a legal requirement to be regrettably complied with. It places no value on free speech as a matter of principle.
Just because the first amendment to free speech speaks only of the government does not mean that the rest of us should feel free to shout down (youtube) those we don’t agree with. Yes, I know you think your opponents are assholes and that you are simply using your own free speech to prevent them from speaking, but that actually makes you at least as much of an asshole as them. Retract those claws.
I think part of the reason Randall drew this comic was a sense of his side winning in the marketplace of ideas. The most recent boycotts seem to be of bigots and other unsympathetic characters. Munroe isn’t thinking about the McCarthy-era blacklists that were simply private boycotts of workers holding legally protected but worse-than-assholish political beliefs. Are these the norms of private behavior we wish to emulate and carry into the future?
At the WFB, Sonny Bunch adds:
As I noted when Chris Kluwe called on people to steal (or perhaps borrow) Ender’s Game because purchasing the book would put a few pennies in the pocket of a person he disagreed with, no one’s saying you don’t have the right to engage in a boycott. No one’s saying you should be forced to do anything you want to do and no one’s saying that your refusal to purchase a copy of a book is a violation of an author’s First Amendment rights. What I am saying is that your politicization of every facet of the public sphere makes you kind of a dick and leads to a coarsening of society. And, as Bath notes, it shows that your commitment to the liberal order—to the marketplace of ideas, to very basic pillars of civilization on which our silly little band of super-smart apes relies—is tenuous, at best.
For nearly 50 years, there was a steady stream of anti-blacklist literature and movies from the left — ranging from 1962’s The Manchurian Candidate and 1964’s Point of Order, to The Front, the 1976 film starring Woody Allen, to George Clooney’s 2005 film, Good Night and Good Luck, and the documentary two years later on blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, all of which argued precisely the opposite. Are the point of those films now rendered null and void?
“If you’re yelled at at, boycotted, have your show cancelled, or get banned from an Internet community, your free speech rights aren’t being violated,” notes the above comic. “It’s just that the people listening think you’re an asshole, and they’re showing you the door.”
Replace “Internet community” with “Hollywood community” — since many of those blacklisted in Hollywood found meaningful work on the stage or in radio, or writing under pseudonyms (the plot of The Front). If I’m reading the above cartoon correctly, then what we witnessed was a half century modified limited hangout by the left, which has reached its conclusion — unexpectedly! — now that their long march through the institutions is more or less complete.
Update (4/29/14): Like I said last night, the world’s longest modified limited hangout is now officially concluded: “The Los Angeles City Council is government,” Bryan Preston writes today at the PJ Tatler. “And now it is now wading into [the Donald Sterling] situation that the NBA has already taken care of, and in a particularly odious way. Government colluding with media to go after a private citizen who has not been accused of any actual crime other than thoughtcrime.”
Read the whole thing, and then check out related thoughts from Mark Steyn: “Loose Lips Ship Clips.”