In recent years, the left seems to have ceded the issue of free speech — or, rather, flipped on it. For years, it defended against censorship, stood up to global imperialism, decried efforts to silence resisters and renegades, and mocked the right for culture war stodginess and pearl-clutching that whined ‘won’t somebody please think of the children?!’ But much of the left has retreated on speech. That turn may have implications for those who work to hold power to account in a world full of fallible human beings who often get stuff wrong, and powerful actors and institutions who use censorship as a cudgel.
- First, (@11:52), Aaron Maté writes for The Grey Zone and The Nation. He also hosts Pushback — a show name that he lives, too. Maté pushes back against U.S. hegemony and the dominant foreign policy narratives of the day. He decodes the orthodoxies of hegemony, analyzes journalistic censorship and self-censorship, and argues for the need to keep information flowing.
- Next (@32:37), Gabriella Coleman is the Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy at McGill University. She’s also the author of Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous. Remember Anonymous and all the hope we had for hacktivism? Where did that go? We ask Gabriella Coleman, who takes us into the world of hacking, hacktivism, leaking, and the social movements that shape them — or don’t.
- Finally, (@53:48), Ben Burgis is a philosophy instructor at Georgia State University, a columnist with Jacobin, and the host of Give Them an Argument on YouTube. He reminds us that the left needs to persuade people, not just mobilize people who already agree. We do a dive dive into the philosophical arguments for and against free speech, from J.S. Mill and Immanuel Kant to Karl Marx and Rosa Luxemburg.
——————-FURTHER READING & LISTENING——————-
- Have a look at Aaron Maté’s Russiagate work for The Nation and elsewhere, including digging into the origins of the affair, making sense of its end, and calling it “a humiliation for everyone who promoted it.” For a primer on the whole thing, read this “Skeptic’s Guide to the Russiagate Fixation.”
- Also check out The Grey Zone’s work on the secretive anti-Russian information campaigns , and Mashable’s coverage of Twitter’s decision to warn users that the reporting came from “hacked materials.”
- Explore the world of Anonymous with Gabriella Coleman’s book on them and their activities. Then go deeper into the world of the public interest hack. For more of her writing, writing her website. You can also check out her hacker culture videos through Hack_Curio.
- Listen to Ben Burgis explain “What Karl Marx Really Thought About Liberalism” on Jacobin’s YouTube page. Then dig into Reid Kane’s exploration of socialism and free speech. But don’t be afraid to go straight to the source and find the canonical arguments for free and open debate: from Immaneul Kant in What is Enlightenment? and John Stuart Mill’s classic defense of speech On Liberty.
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Darts and Letters’ is hosted and edited by Gordon Katic. Our lead producer is Jay Cockburn, and our chase producer is Marc Apollonio. We had research and support from Addye Susnick and David Moscrop. Our theme song was created by Mike Barber. Our graphic design was created by Dakota Koop.
This episode received support by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research, which provided us a research grant to look at the concept of “public intellectualism.” Professor Allen Sens at the University of British Columbia is the lead academic advisor.
Darts and Letters is produced in Toronto, which is on the traditional land of Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat Peoples. It is also produced in Vancouver, BC, which is on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.