Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Free speech for some

I have an ecopy of "Free Speech:A Very Short Introduction" by Nigel Warburton.  I haven't read it but I am getting interested in it. I have read that China is following in the footsteps of Russia and attempting to use social media to influence opinion in the US and other countries.

I have read before that other countries have used social media to try to influence populations at home and abroad.

I imagine the whole world (of humans!) is getting slowly united.  Somewhat like a new bride and groom recently married, there are times when one group finds another's ideas, beliefs, practices and opinions to be outrageous, ridiculous, insulting, barbaric, crude, etc.  Many governments are reputed to punish dissent, disagreement and other deviations from what they or the person at the top has approved.  Even we have crimes of slander (speech about someone that falsely claims something that damages another's reputation) and libel (written or printed such claims).  

Nevertheless, if a foreign leader or "channel" or article says we need to destroy all chocolate and I run to the local store and start melting candy bars, people are going to be upset.  With me, yes, but also with that foreign source that seemed to spark my behavior.  I have read of the well-known Supreme Court justice who said it is criminal behavior to yell "Fire!" falsely in a crowded theater.  I guess there are limits to what can be said.  

I am a little cloudy on what is ok to say if I am a US citizen but not if I live in China or Russia.  I have a sense of the same difficulties that emerged for regional universities when it became clear that a college over in that part of the state or the country started communicating to young people in our part that their campus might be more fun than our campus. They were ignoring the boundaries that we had previously respected.  If a Russian citizen tells me that my position on abortion or race or the environment is wrong, am I more likely to start believing as he or she advises me to than if an Oregonian or some Connecticut Nutmegers tell me that?

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