You remember back in the day when white people were so upset that they couldn’t say the n-word, but black people could? Now they’ve grown up a little bit, I didn’t say matured, and decided that this is a free speech issue, and it is the single greatest threat to modern society. Everyone knows, or at least has the confidence of blind zealotry, that free speech is an unalterable human right. Human rights are funny things. They’re conceptual ideas that are basically made up, their only justification being that they sound nice, and then it’s claimed that everyone is entitled to them. Free speech can be a human right, sure, but so can healthcare. So can collective bargaining. If the entire basis of your demand for free speech rests on the fact that it’s a human right, wellllllll maybe look into the distinction between negative rights, positive rights, and collective rights, because odds are you’ll abandon the entire foundation of your argument, go back to saying the n-word, and just give up on trying to justify your racism. The tricky thing about human rights is that they are usually conceived in such a way as to benefit everyone, not just those with the loudest voices.

However, free speech is often seen as a human right even by those who roll their eyes at the Milo Yiannopoulos’ of the world, and so let’s look at free speech as a human right. If you’ve had access to literally any news source within the last few years, you’ll probably know that it is under attack… from the left wing of the political spectrum.

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I’m here for your speech to redistribute it so that everyone has an equal share.

Everyone knows how the right cracks down on free speech. They use violence to enforce their rigid ideology, cracking down on any dissent. This turns into censorship, and fascist propaganda is used to replace alternative perspectives. Today, the tables have turned, and now you can’t even say women are chromosomally inferior at computer programming without some SJW calling you sexist. Antifa beats up journalists! Both sides!

So what’s the difference between universities not allowing certain speakers from lecturing, or Twitter users dog-piling on someone for a bad joke, or protests popping up against companies that discriminate against gay people, and the government torturing and killing journalists and academics? According to some, nothing. They are exactly the same. The smug self-righteousness of “centrists” claims that the left and right, after a certain distance from the reasonable centre, become identically insane. They both want to crack down on our free speech!

Let me stop you before you start talking about Stalin and his purges and pogroms, because a university declining a platform to someone whose claims are as dubious as a Flat Earther is not anywhere near the same thing. That’s what is known as a false equivalency. Don’t do that.

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Stalin claimed to represent communism. Communism is on the left. Those who act on leftist principles must be harbouring Stalinist urges. See? Like that. It’s dumb.

Let’s look at an example of free speech. Imagine a company that has one black employee, and the rest are white. Within this company, there is a group that loudly makes racist jokes and comments. Whenever the black employee contributes at a meeting, this group laughs and derides whatever they contribute, regardless of its merit. The group can’t be silenced since any attempt would be censoring their free speech, nor can they be fired for the same reason. Reasonable discourse regarding the illegitimacy of racism goes nowhere because these people are buffoons. How long do you think before this black employee either stops contributing, or simply leaves the company? My guess is not that long. You can replace the black employee with female, homosexual, or whatever you like. When a majority group is allowed unregulated freedom to trammel the minority under foot, the minority will be silenced or excluded.

Free speech, as demanded by centrists and the right, is simply the demand to silence the speech of minorities by creating environments where they are not welcome. If a university allowed racist and sexist commentators, would ethnic minorities and women really be able to claim a place there? How safe would they be if those whose violence is only tempered by its social stigma are suddenly given legitimacy by reckless, but free, speech? When leftists claim that speech can be violent, they mean the violence of social exclusion, and actual, literal violence that is its logical consequence. Inciting a riot is an uncontroversial crime, as is uttering threats. When the violence is social, its causal network is more complex and the results are more ambiguous, but the link is there.

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A white supremacist who openly recognizes the link between speech and social consequences? Must be a utopia.

Free speech cannot be universal because unregulated free speech censors the speech of the less powerful, which means, ultimately, that it fails as a human right. You know how allowing the super rich to contribute as much money as they want to political parties essentially means that the average person’s voice no longer means anything in a democracy? That happened in the States, and the argument of “free speech” was the driving force behind it. This means that when the left challenges the “free speech” of racists and misogynists, they are not attacking a human right, or censoring a dissenting opinion, they are fighting for the voices that this “free speech” silences. They are promoting democracy, not defying it.

Is the solution to violently attack those who take advantage of their role as social censors under the irony of free speech? Is it morally permissible to punch Nazis, basically. Unfortunately, it’s a narrative that drives these attitudes, not facts and figures, which makes discourse a difficult endeavour. Disallowing that narrative to spread is one way to combat it, but it also needs to be replaced with a better one or it will lash out as it is backed into a corner.

Post-Script: Twitter is just fucking stupid at its foundations. It has real life consequences that are depressingly inane across the spectrum, and social media in general should be abolished. That’s my view of Twitter censorship.

A few years ago, I worked in a butcher shop. I learned the different cuts of meat, learned the value of a sharp knife, and ingested probably more than my fair share of raw meat juice by grabbing snacks after handling ground beef. Just a bit of extra iron; it’s fine. Anyway, while I was there, I accidentally stabbed myself in the face. I was tying up a roast, holding my knife point-up as I did so (don’t do this), and when the twine broke, my hand shot up, and the tip of the knife entered my forehead, just above my right eye. Another thing I learned at the butcher shop is that foreheads bleed quite profusely.

For a few weeks, I had a very noticeable red gash on my face, or alternatively, a conspicuous Band-Aid that didn’t quite give me the same tough-guy edge as Nelly’s. I spent these weeks contemplating what it would mean to have facial scarring.

Obviously it would not change anything about me. My personality had not been altered, my essential biology remained the same, even my apathy toward basic food safety when it comes to what I put in my mouth continued at its same charming rate. I had a scar, a mark on my skin. Nothing more.

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Elephant Man: A Social Construction

What I wondered about was how others might see me. If they were to stare, would they look away embarrassed if I caught them, or would they continue unashamed? Would they ask me how I got it, demanding I retell the same ridiculous story over and over, or would they uncomfortably skirt around it, pretending they don’t even notice? Would I be treated as an incompetent buffoon, someone worthy of pity and paternalistic “helping”? Laughed at?

How would I handle that? At what point would I start to question my self worth? How long would it take me to ignore the stares, absorbing them into my new normal, or would I always have to endure noticing them? Would I internalize their attitudes and begin to believe myself to be “scarred” rather than someone who just happens to have a scar? Would I act “scarred”? Would I start wearing hats and become less confident around women? Would I start associating any kind of rejection as an expansion of the way “unscarred” people would shun me?

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How long of being treated like a monster before you become a monster?

I am fortunate enough that the scar is hardly visible now. Just another scratch on a Jackson Pollock of pockmarks covered by the unkempt scruff and bangs of someone who is too lazy to regularly shave or get a proper haircut. The stares are gone and nothing was internalized. However, the scar, pockmarks, and eternal five o’clock shadow all reside on the same surface: white skin.

If people had the potential to treat me very differently based on an etching on my skin, what about the skin itself? When people say that something like race is a social construction, they don’t mean that blackness and whiteness don’t exist. I have a scar. It’s definitely real, and that’s definitely how I got it. Social constructions are attitudes people adopt based on traditions and shared values toward things that don’t mean anything in and of themselves. Something as superficial as a scar, for instance. They are “constructed” because they are built by social perception.

Does a bombardment of beauty standards define how people might look at a scarred face? How about movies where darker foes are vanquished by whiter heroes? Or a Eurocentric history that teaches a dichotomy between white civilization and coloured savages? What about timid news stories about violence committed by those with white skin compared to the more harrowing tales of violence committed by those with darker skin? Every act of racism perpetuates attitudes which further shapes the construction. By the virtue of something as arbitrary as my skin, I am automatically treated differently by society based on how it constructs the image of “whiteness”. How much of that have I internalized? How often do I act “white”? What parts of “whiteness” have been absorbed into my normal?

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At least I don’t give a shit about Pumpkin Spice.

Not everything that is a social construction is as controversial as race and gender (or beauty standards, for all my facially-scarred homies). Money is a social construction, for instance, as is the authority of a uniform. It is not necessarily a pejorative, but an appropriate description of how society functions. When the construction becomes particularly harmful is when we have to take a step back, collectively, and reexamine what is real, and what has value in and of itself.

Meat Loaf is known for three things: being the sole visible casualty of anarcho-conformism in Fight Club, singing songs about doing anything for love except for one thing, and going great with ketchup. The philosophy of Fight Club is soul-crushingly tedious, sugary tomato paste isn’t particularly scintillating either, but I am dead set on writing a blog about Meat Loaf, so I guess we’re stuck with that one song of his that everyone thinks is about anal.

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But I won’t do that!

Meat Loaf is pretty clear about all the things he would do for love.  He would run right into a metaphysical plane of existence, for instance, and then come back. In addition, he would never lie to the person he loves, and that’s a fact. When pressed about his commitment to doing anything for love, Meat Loaf agrees to all sorts of conditions: coordinating his lover up or down according to which direction is most suited for the occasion, helping her move, and adjusting the thermostat.

What’s less clear is what he wouldn’t do. Near the end of the song, Lorraine Crosby accuses Meat Loaf of eventually cheating on her, just like every other man. Meat Loaf says that he won’t do that. This makes the song somewhat confusing since saying that you’ll do anything for love except screw around on your partner isn’t the most conventional vow.

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“If you *REALLY* loved me, you’d have sex with that woman!” “Nah babe, I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that!”

I mean, unless there’s a silent third party in the song that Meat Loaf is in love with, but he won’t have sex with this third party while he’s still in a relationship with Lorraine? Let’s just assume for the sake of this blog that Meat Loaf and Lorraine Crosby have a weird swingers thing going on. In any case, Meat Loaf has made a vow, and regardless of how far his relationship goes, he will not give up this one part of his autonomy.

Let’s get real for a moment here. To give you all a tantalizing glimpse into my own love life, I once had an argument with a past girlfriend where she was upset because I had asked her to pay for bowling after I had paid for supper. It was her belief that as the man, I should pay for the dates to their completion, and in return, she, as the woman, would prepare home cooked meals for me. I’m not the biggest fan of gender roles, personally, so we got into a bit of a tiff. The relevance here is that she exclaimed, “I would do anything for you!” and my reply was that this clearly was not the case, as she wouldn’t pay for bowling.

People make this claim all the time, despite the fact that most people have limits, be it screwing around, paying for two rounds of bowling, or having anal sex. Even the most devoted person probably wouldn’t kill their parents for love. “But Lorraine Crosby would never ask me to do such a thing!” Meat Loaf might exclaim, “She’s not that kind of person!” Who decides what kind of person Lorraine Crosby is? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not Meat Loaf. My ex-girlfriend believed me to be a man’s man, which I am definitely not, so she would do anything for me only insofar as I adhered to that mold. We make this claim of eternal devotion if, and only if, we have confined our partner into a box that we define.

The importance of this analysis is obvious when we look at cases of desperation. If a man will only treat his partner well if she acts in such a way that conforms to his idea of what a lady should be, for instance. Or the unrequited stalker who would do anything for his obsession except leave her alone. I would do anything for love, but I won’t allow self-determination or independence.

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I would sing for her, kill Beasts for her, but only so long as she doesn’t read books! She might start getting ideas, thinking…

Jean-Paul Sartre posited that any relationship is about transforming your partner into an object, or becoming the object they wish you to be. The person who would truly do anything for love, including killing their parents, has abandoned themselves completely and exists only as their partner’s whim. On the flip side, we are fully prepared to give the entirety of our autonomy only after we’ve convinced ourselves of our partner’s objectification.

Jean-Paul Sartre is a miserable sod, so let’s ignore him. Let’s focus on Meat Loaf. Meat Loaf is clear in his boundaries. There is no way he is going to screw around, no matter how much her love might depend on it. Meat Loaf is also great at communication: the entire song is a dialogue between two partners hashing out their expectations for the relationship. Both are allowed their autonomy, but this hinges on fundamental respect and a commitment to overcoming ambiguity with dialogue. Meat Loaf would not, in fact, do anything for love, and it is only for this reason that those two love birds might have a shot after all.