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TheArchDruid has a good discussion on conversations as commons, a defence of FreedomOfSpeech made in terms of a distinction between "informative freedom" and "performative freedom".

It's a good argument I recommend reading :

I'm pushing back though. Here's my comment to him :

I think you've missed the crux of the matter and the reason for the problems we face today.

And why "wokeness" as you call it has arisen. And why, to an extent, it would inevitably arise.

Because it addresses a real issue.

And that is that "publishing" or having a "public" conversation is already a "performative act". And the distinction you are trying to maintain between "informative freedom" and "performative freedom" breaks down in an age of particularly social media, but even widespread more traditional broadcast media.

Everything we say now is in public, and partly with a thought to third parties who are watching and reading us. That inevitably makes everything we say as much a kind of performance as it is "informance".

I'm sure you and I can sit down and have a perfectly civil and sensible conversation, in private, about "Is John Michael Greer an asshole? Arguments for and against." This isn't going to faze you in the slightest. Nor is it a problem. But if every week I'm on my blog and on Twitter with thousands of followers saying "Further thoughts on why John Michael Greer might be an asshole", then that has obviously become something different from the gentlemanly impersonal discussion. It's now me performing. It's now me insinuating. Insistently pushing an idea into the public mind. Even the frequency at which I return to the theme carries a certain performative information, rather than being an irrelevant statistic. When I'm raising this question every day ... how can there be smoke, my audience thinks? Without fire?

That's inevitable; it's impossible to use public platforms like Twitter or other social media, or mainstream media, and NOT be sending these kinds of messages or "performing".

Take this up a level. In exactly the same way, we can have a civilized gentlemanly conversation about whether you are an asshole (for the record, I don't think you are, I'm just making the point starkly), we can have a civilized gentlemanly conversation about, say, whether black people are genetically determined to be a little bit less intelligent than white people and thus doomed to be a little less successful in our society.

And that's fine.

But the moment I want to write a book on this theme and have it released by a mainstream publisher. Or want to be able to talk in a hall of a university with the implicit endorsement that this brings, or post regularly about it to hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers, or be a guest talking about it on a popular podcast with millions of listeners, I am performing again.

This is why we talk about "de-platforming" the racists and not "shooting" the racists. It's not about stopping people think or talk. It's that there's a recognition that platforms inevitably turn speech into performance. And that rules governing performance not mere informance should be in operation when we decide what goes on a platform.

The situation we are facing today is not "Oh noes. The kids these days are all oversensitive snowflakes who can't handle bad ideas and are becoming illiberal monsters".

The situation is that the kids these days have noticed that we are always in public, always on platforms, always performing, and that we need to discover a new set of norms for balancing the virtues of free speech, while protecting against the harms of fake news, false witness or even true facts that are "spun" in a misleadingly damaging way.

And the old heuristics, such as those you're presenting here, which were OK-ish (although probably never perfect) are certainly inadequate for today's electronic social media noosphere. This is what the fighting and soul searching about whether Facebook should ban Trump, or stories about COVID coming from a Chinese Laboratory are about. Not that people have mysteriously become intolerant. But that we are faced with a new situation in terms of how speech flows, how many people it reaches, how many checks on its accuracy and honesty there are, and that we need to find the new rules of "courtesy" that are adequate to this environment.

See also :