“Rights activists”

August 16, 2015 – 12:45 pm by John

Those of us who defend and extol the free market (and even dare to call it "capitalism" sometimes) know all too well how derisive and disdainful the left can be toward the term "free market" and all that it entails. If we ever invoke the "free market" as a proposal to solve any material, structural, or organizational problem humanity faces, we know beforehand how they will scoff, "Oh, yeah, let's just leave it to the free market and let everyone starve or freeze to death." In any debate with such a person, we either avoid using the F-word or wince and cringe while using it because we know how pathetic it sounds to them.

I predict the same thing will happen to the term "rights" in general and the rights of free speech and due process specifically. Sometime this century probably, among the descendants of the current illiberal leftists who trade in identity politics and outrage/shame signaling, the term "rights activist" will become a pejorative—an insult levied at insufficiently social-justice-minded conservatives and libertarians, especially white heterosexual American ones, to stigmatize them for putting some people's rights above some (less advantaged) people's well-being, or for caring about abstract principles more than real people's "safety" or "oppression" (two words that now seem to need scare quotes a lot more often than they used to).

It's not hard to see why this might come about. Mainly, defending free speech and due process rights usually entails defending bad or at least shady people—sometimes obviously guilty ones. In an age when some of the popular leaders of the wider leftist movement claim that to be objective is to take their side, and when many Millennials seem to think their duty is to shut down debate rather than expose themselves to something unpleasant, they will become more and more entrenched and invested in their bubble of progressive-left thought. It will become more and more crucial to defend the idea that they are objectively, demonstrably correct and that anyone who opposes them must be stopped, silenced, ridiculed, and marginalized. They will see defenders of rights for all as opponents of justice for the oppressed.

Already, their goal is not increased liberty or the defense of rights but the promotion of economic and social justice and equality for historically disadvantaged groups. And already it can be seen that (negative) rights and the cultural values underpinning them are not only absent from their advocacy program but are directly anathema to it. It is only a matter of time until they come out into the open about it. It is only a matter of time until they go from scoffing at specific, narrow defenses of free speech or due process to attacking the entire free speech/due process philosophy and its proponents.

And, I must admit, my prediction might not be all that forward-thinking or insightful, because the illiberal leftists who seem to dominate college campuses and social media, if not in numbers then at least in notoriety, already do everything I'm predicting except disdainfully refer to us as "rights activists". If we point out that "hate speech" is free speech and that no such sub-category exists nor ought to exist, we get accused of promoting hate, threats, racism, misogyny, etc. If we point out that words are not, in fact, capable of harming anyone or threatening their safety (much less oppressing them, JFC...), we get accused of being blinded by privilege and refusing to see the world from a less privileged perspective. If we demand evidence, formal investigations, fair hearings, and all the other aspects of due process before shaming someone into unemployment or convicting them of a crime, we get branded racists, sexists, rape apologists, etc., as the case may be. The only thing that's left is for them to make it explicit how much they disdain both the culture and the laws supporting free speech and due process, and how obstructive both are to their social goals.

Bookmark and Share

Trackback URL for this entry is: http://www.blagnet.net/2015/08/16/rights-activists/trackback/

Post a Comment