This book traces the history of free speech, or, more precisely, the history of censorship from its ancient beginning to its current condition and potential future development. It mainly reviews the co-development of technology and people’s use of it to express their ideology and suppress the expression of the ideology of others. The book strongly stresses the value of free speech as the necessary condition of prosperity in all its forms: material or psychological. Here is the main point as the author presents it:” To impose silence and call it tolerance does not make it so. Real tolerance requires understanding. Understanding comes from listening. Listening presupposes speech. By connecting past speech controversies with the most pressing contemporary ones, I hope to demonstrate just how much humanity has gained from the gradual spread of free speech—and just how much we stand to lose if we allow its continued erosion in this most recent digital phase of the age-old conflict between authority and free expression.”
MY TAKE ON IT:
I think free speech is vital for all people’s good life and prosperity. However, it is obvious that the speech could be used as a weapon to condition a mass of people to commit all kinds of not very nice things, from high school bullying to genocide. I do not believe that suppression of speech could effectively fight fake news or hate speech. It was proved historically many times over and quite convincingly. Neither suppression of Bolshevik propaganda in czarist Russia nor suppression of Nazi propaganda in Weimar Germany prevented the rise to power of two of the most disgusting regimes in human history: the Third Reich of Nazis and Communists’ Soviet Union. I think the one and only tool against propaganda should be a massive and necessary coercive increase in speech. Here is how it could work:
Step 1. Some propaganda outlets, like New York Times or CNN, massively promote the false story of Trump being a Russian spy.
Step 2. Trump formally accuses them in a specially designed legal forum. Let’s call it the Special Information Court.
Step 3. Special Information Court conducts a public hearing online when both sides can present the material proving for their position.
Step 4. The Special Information Court decides that Trump is right and there is no evidence of his connection to Russia, leave alone being a Russian agent. Then the punishment should be a coercive presentation of materials supporting Trump’s position in the same amount of time and prominence as was previously used for propaganda operations.
In other words, if New York Times published 1000 articles on the front-page accusing Trump of being a Russian spy, it would have to publish 1000 articles with the same or a close number of words on the front page by individuals designated by Trump to compensate for the damage. Similarly, CNN would have to allow the same amount of prime time to present Trump’s side of the story.
Unlike the current situation when retraction is limited to the two lines on the last page and has no real effect, such a remedy would be very effective without limiting the freedom of CNN and the New York Times to present their original story as they wish.