Your First Amendment right to free speech is not absolute. The Supreme Court has found multiple exceptions, examples of speech that governments may abridge. Incitements to violence and true threats are two unprotected categories of speech. A third is fraud.
Knowing this, you can begin to understand why politicians, commentators, and reporters on the Left often talk the way they do. They are trying to shoehorn conservative speech into a category of unprotected speech.
Of course, the First Amendment applies only to government restrictions of speech. Big Tech or the major liberal media have every right in the world to deplatform, censor, or squash conservative arguments, facts, or jokes. Nobody can make them bake the cake they find objectionable. But these left-leaning institutions express liberal sentiments, which include the general principle of free expression. So now that the Left has such immense cultural power but sees itself losing political power, its best path is to become censorious while paying lip service to the principle of free speech. And the best way to do that is to lump opposing speech into an unprotected category.
If you want to silence someone you disagree with, just declare that their speech is either a threat or incitement or somewhere in between.
Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former chief censor, gave the most recent example. On a panel, he defended Twitter’s decision to ban the Babylon Bee for making a joke about Rachel Levine, a controversial transgender Biden administration official who is biologically male but identifies as a woman.
“The targeting and victimization of the trans community on Twitter is very real, very life-threatening, and extraordinarily serious,” Roth said recently, citing the account Libs of TikTok.
About the Babylon Bee’s joke, calling Levine the “Man of the Year,” Roth said, “Not only is it not funny, but it is dangerous, and it does contribute to an environment that makes people unsafe in the world.”
The intellectual argument here involves the term “stochastic terrorism.”
Armed with this notion, you can call any criticism of favored groups or people “incitement.” This is one method the Left uses to cement its privilege into place and silence opposition.
You saw this sort of argumentation from New York Times staffers after the op-ed page printed an op-ed the liberal reporters really didn’t like. They tried to claim that Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-AR) op-ed “puts Black New York Times staff in danger,” implying that this is some version of incitement or threats.
Fraudulent statements, likewise, are not protected speech. My freedom of speech doesn’t protect my right to claim that the water I’m selling is really wine. And that’s why liberal journalism moved away from disagreeing in opinion pieces and toward “fact-checking” and then flagging supposed “disinformation,” often flagging perfectly true pieces of information as false. This way, they could brand opinions they disliked as “lies” or “disinformation,” which in turn would give tech platforms an excuse to censor them.
You see, it’s not that we dislike the opinion that this virus might have escaped from a lab — it’s that it’s harmful misinformation!
News outlets in the Trump era have built out new divisions entirely dedicated to policing misinformation. What they are really doing is building up a permission structure for censorship.
Every time you see a liberal reporter cry “disinformation” or see AOC mention “stochastic terrorism,” know that what they’re really doing is categorizing speech they disagree with as unprotected speech — thus speech fit to be censored.