the infamous free speech xkcd – you know the one, the one that gets pulled out every fucking time some troll on the internet attempts to rules-lawyer their way out of a ban because they have free speech- that XKCD has one big flaw when applied to anything bigger than a close-knit internet community. 

there comes a point where it’s technically legal to say something, but in practice, if you say that thing, your life is over. you will not be able to get or keep a job. you will not be welcome anywhere that ‘respectable’ people spend time. anyone who tries to defend you will get written off as a fringe nutjob- a person to be ignored or avoided. you will likely get doxxed, get rape/murder threats, and/or be at risk of literal violence. if there’s anyone who agrees with you and has the power to help you, they are probably in another state/country/continent, and they will probably think that some of the other things you think are just as awful as the toxic thing you just said because they’re from another country.

While this often overlaps with “it’s illegal to say this thing”,  it doesn’t always. This is especially true in the USA, because we have strong protections of your legal right to say nonsense, but it can happen in other places too. 

…and lest you think that this is a good thing because racists/misogynists/homophobes/etc. ought to be afraid to say things, let me remind you that there are plenty of places where saying “no, gay people are not sinners/degenerates/pedophiles” or “birth control is a human right and will not fill your OMG WOMB with dead fetuses” still falls into the “only technically legal” category. This can happen with any unpopular opinion, no matter how right or wrong. 

The problem here is that there comes a point where enough people deciding “you’re an asshole/degenerate/bigot” and showing you the door means you can’t speak freely. Even if you’re not going to be thrown in jail for saying what you’re saying- the forces of social convention can ruin someone’s life just as effectively as the forces of THE LAW. 

Freedom of association is just as important as freedom of speech, and you can’t effectively have freedom of association if assholes keep invading your space. I get that this is a really atomised phenomenon and that the solution might well be worse than the problem. And there are times when the only moral thing to do is to use the forces of social convention to shut people up- I’d say any group of people that advocates for DEATH TO ALL [X] does not deserve a platform. 

But… I dunno, I feel like a lot of people who say things like “I am not a government so I can shut you down, it’s not an infringement on free speech” are not thinking about how social conventions are a weapon. They are not thinking about how de facto free speech is just as important as de jure free speech, and they are not thinking about how saying de facto free speech is unimportant could come back to bite them in the arse. 

If you can’t express an idea in public, you aren’t really free to express that idea. If you can’t express an idea in public without your life being ruined, you aren’t really free to express that idea. And while there are a very small handful of cases where that’s warranted, most of the time it’s not

Oh my GOD you managed to articulate the thing.

I despise that comic.

Also I am not speaking for anyone but myself here but this is also why I really dislike “my civil rights are not up for debate,” too.

Accepting that civil rights matter without needing to argue about it is a good state of affairs! Of course it is! And I sympathize with people who are closeted and don’t want to debate whether homosexuality is immoral in class, which is what I think they actually mean.

But the thing is? There is always a group whose civil rights ARE treated as up for debate. (Right now it’s “illegal immigrants” EVEN IF THEY ARE REFUGEES.)

As something they can lose, if they haven’t already. As something they have to prove themselves to get

If you’re not in that group, if you’re in the group that gets to say “I can’t believe you even said that,” you’re higher up on the ladder than you actually realize. You’re a rung higher, and have at least a little power to shame people who say “yeah but.”

I don’t like “my civil rights are not up for debate” because it ignores that somebody’s always are… and that you could easily be somebody again.

Be Prepared.

Pass on the debate when you need to for your sanity, but know how to have it.

Because someday, you might not get to take that pass.

And because some of your fellow humans already can’t.

This is exactly why I really really really want the left to take debate back. Debate, done properly, is powerful and wonderful. And yet most leftists seem to have decided that, since a group of jerks who can’t even debate properly by even the most basic standards, have started ambush-insulting people under the guise of “debate” we should abandon it wholesale.

That’s it. That’s the thing. That’s the thing that ruined this hellsite and maybe also America.

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