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Tyranny of the Listener

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posted on Jul, 3 2016 @ 01:45 PM
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Free speech is important because it is the only way we can share who we are with one another. It is how we seek, receive and impart information about ourselves and about the world. It is the only method through which we can criticize or compliment the structures of power. Speech reduced to a whisper, or vetoed in some way or other, silences not only the voice but also the life and perspective it speaks from. If speech is not free, absolutely, neither are we.

I also say this because the only consequence of hearing speech we do not like or do not approve of is we do not like it or we do not approve of it. The consequence of suppressing speech we do not like, however, is a thousand fold.

The evil of censorship is that it robs us the opportunity to exchange dogma for doubt, fallacy for validity, and “the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth produced by its collision with error” (Mill). When the speaker loses his right to speak, we also lose our right to hear it.

A patron saint of free speech once succinctly put it in a metaphor:

“And though all the windes of doctrin were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licencing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falshood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the wors, in a free and open encounter.”
– John Milton

Speaking, writing and articulating thoughts is a victimless act. There is no consequence to speech. How could there be when the most hateful prose couldn't move the finest of feathers? Indeed, if words had a fraction of the causal power often attributed to them, they would have enough power, however subtle, to have some effect on any other phase of matter. They don't.

If we were to scour the annals of medicine and search through the hospitals, we would be hard-pressed to find a single instance of anyone being injured by words. Yet, if we were to look through the same annals and the same hospitals for the broken, burned and eviscerated bodies of those who were injured for speaking or writing their thoughts, it would take a life-time to analyze every case. The history of censorship is a long and bloody one.

Rather, it is evident that this fantastical endowment of such ludicrous power upon forces and objects that amount to no more than the expelling of breath, a vibration of the vocal cords, or combinations of scribbles on paper, is the worst kind of dogmatic superstition and custom, one that has worked its ways into our laws, our culture, and which now permeate the very structures of society.

With this in mind, and with the images of the burnt and hanged corpses of those murdered for thought-crimes still present in our imagination, injustice arises when we blame the speaker for the dangerous crime of articulating certain sounds, or otherwise positioning, one after another, certain combinations of symbols, than to place blame where it rightly belongs—on the listener.

To give an idea of how long we've been inundated by this superstition, we could go as far back the pre-Socratic rhetorician Gorgias. This sophist believed words had a certain effect on the body, as if the body was led by a “master’s order”, like a “powerful drug”, but one administrated by a sophistical wizardry and warlock’s brew of pleading, poetry and playacting. To him this power was god like.

In his defence of Helen of Troy, Gorgias sought to absolve her of her adultery:

“For discourse was the persuader of the soul, which it persuaded and compelled to believe the things that were said and to agree to the things that were done. He who persuaded (as constrainer) did wrong; while she who was persuaded (as one constrained by means of the discourse) is wrongly blamed.”
-The Encomium of Helen

In other words, Helen’s adultery was the result of someone else’s words and not her own volition, like she was programmed to do so. Even today we can see this piffle peddled about with charges of "incitement", and other concepts resting on this very same assumption. The notion that people, usually of some minority or other, are pushed around by verbiage and conversation is a soft form of bigotry.

To a fellow rhetorician, Socrates, the sophistry of Gorgias was parlour tricks and sleight of hand instead of power. According to Plato, the difference between a sophist and a philosopher was the “eros” guiding his wisdom. If he had an erotic self-interest in crowd adulation and self-advancement, he was a sophist. If he had an erotic self-interest in knowledge, he was a philosopher. But the most interesting argument of Plato's against the sophists was that the sophist overestimated the power of words. Plato didn't, and was immune to Gorgias' powers.

Like the sophists in our own day, Gorgias’ belief that rhetoric endowed him or others with powers was founded on an assumption, a false cause, that because there is a correlation between speech and certain actions, the words were therefor the cause of them. But any number of reductio ad absurdem suffices to reduce this notion to nonsense.

Rather than appeal to some mystical causation, it seems clear that Gorgias possessed and acquired power directly from the folly and ignorance of his audience; that is, to the extent and ease through which they were willing to give power to him—to concede here, decide there, and to act according to their own volition and choices, never his.

We can find the legacy of Gorgias in every censorship law ever written. I hate hate-speech laws because they assume one thing and one thing only: that people can be sent into raptures once in contact with certain combinations of articulated sounds or scribbles on paper—words. Doublespeak such as “incite discrimination” or “stir up hatred” or “excite hostility”, as ill-defined as they are in various hate speech laws throughout the world, imply that the speaker is some sort of wizard, that through magical spells and verbal incantation he can bend the will of the listener to his own. Anything that occurs afterwards, no matter how far removed from the events that take place, he is partly responsible for. Speech has consequences.

Before you wonder what they mean by “speech has consequences”, look no further than the magical thinking in this suggestion. Speech, apparently, causes things to happen. It can manipulate matter and events.

Clearly, there is a much simpler explanation. Humans are often dupes, indoctrinated in such a way as to be weak, petty, and self-concerned when it comes to the thoughts of others, and we have been superstitious in this way for a very long time. What else can we expect from a solipsistic mammal whom would rather her own thoughts reign supreme, much like the puritanical priests of the Inquisition or anyone who has burned books, and often, the people who write them?

It will take a great deal of criticism, learning, and free speech to shine any light on these superstitions, so let’s just hope we haven’t banned all expression by that point.

What I wanted to argue was this: Though a speaker is to blame for uttering fallacy and falsity, the listener is always to blame for believing him. As soon as words leave a person’s mouth, they are no longer in the speakers dominion, no longer under his control or power. As a corollary, whatever comes of speech after it is heard is the consequence of the agent of any subsequent action: the listener. Or you fellow reader?

-LesMis
edit on 3-7-2016 by LesMisanthrope because: (no reason given)




posted on Jul, 3 2016 @ 02:07 PM
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Very well said, and a very relevant and important subject. Star, Flag, and literal applause.



posted on Jul, 3 2016 @ 02:54 PM
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a reply to: LesMisanthrope

Eloquently put forward and very true, in both essence and subsequent action by the followers of sophism. It is interesting that governments chose sophism as a lever, but it is understandable and expected. A charismatic person could influence millions of people with a rational description of today's world and the need for real change, even if not given mass media coverage. That simple act of assisting in the installation of ideas could topple governments and the powers that be. Hence it is the logical method to prevent that from happening. An attack on free speech is an attack on ideas, which is a further attack on educating the masses and critical thinking.

It's no wonder the indoctrination system is so restrictive, by design. It sets up very bad habits concerning speech, opinions, expression, etc.

Cheers - Dave



posted on Jul, 3 2016 @ 03:10 PM
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a reply to: LesMisanthrope

Another fantastic and well put thread.
We had a saying when I was growing up.

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me."

The wisdom of these words seams to have been lost on this generation.



posted on Jul, 3 2016 @ 03:12 PM
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originally posted by: LesMisanthrope

What I wanted to argue was this: Though a speaker is to blame for uttering fallacy and falsity, the listener is always to blame for believing him. As soon as words leave a person’s mouth, they are no longer in the speakers dominion, no longer under his control or power. As a corollary, whatever comes of speech after it is heard is the consequence of the agent of any subsequent action: the listener. Or you fellow reader?

-LesMis


You will get no argument form me, sir. It's too bad though that there are still too many people who pay more attention to the messenger instead of the message. Especially when it's a subject or point the listener doesn't like or agrees with.

I learned a long time ago that the smoothest road to knowledge is also the most impersonal. Don't take learning to heart.....just take it.



posted on Jul, 3 2016 @ 03:23 PM
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I hear you and the three monkeys come to mind, the ones of seeing ,hearing and saying no evil. Its strange in a way because it means that we must listen and not parrot. When we are gifted with some wisdom, more important than anything is to digest it and the part of sharing once again is hardly an issue. One must be selfish and hold in what has been heard for to not do so would be to vomit out some sour milk. Even if what has been heard is pure milk, what is regurgitated is far from that. But if well digested at a later date may form part of something much more inspirational. In school we are taught that everything is right and to doubt is arrogance. Here we are trained to please and do and say what we have been told to do and say. How sick it a system that prices this focus? a reply to: LesMisanthrope



posted on Jul, 3 2016 @ 03:41 PM
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a reply to: LesMisanthrope

I agree with what you say, and protecting speech in normal societal situations, but what about in war?

In war we target the ideological think tanks, those who likely have killed very few or any with their hands, but use their words and presence to rally for the cause, we place priority on such figures, is this an assault on speech? no, I would argue war operates under different moral expectations.



posted on Jul, 3 2016 @ 04:01 PM
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a reply to: TechniXcality

You're right, war is a different beast altogether. Free speech is the necessary component of a free society, but not a component of warfare. Free speech might be ruinous to any campaign. For war to work, only the worst in human beings suffices to destroy others, and a regime of censorship, rights suppression, tribalism, violence is a necessity for that kind of endeavour.



posted on Jul, 3 2016 @ 04:14 PM
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a reply to: LesMisanthrope

Thanks Les for the thread S&F it's hard to get some to say that in regards to war, but as always your willing to answer the hard questions.



posted on Jul, 3 2016 @ 04:22 PM
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tl;dr



posted on Jul, 3 2016 @ 04:31 PM
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a reply to: daskakik

Don't go on forums, stick to irc chats you won't have this problem, I also suggest avoiding higher learning institutions. Cheers



posted on Jul, 3 2016 @ 04:37 PM
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a reply to: TechniXcality

The OP and I went back and forth about this lame argument of his in another thread.

The point?

If someone chooses to ignore your well thought out argument and just knock you on the head with a 2 x 4 then what difference does it make if you were right or not.



posted on Jul, 3 2016 @ 04:39 PM
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a reply to: daskakik

Yes, so you can silence someone but you cannot change their mind, a well thought out argument, however, can.



posted on Jul, 3 2016 @ 04:42 PM
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a reply to: TechniXcality

Not if it ends in "tl;dr".

Now do you see the point?



posted on Jul, 3 2016 @ 04:52 PM
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a reply to: daskakik

A lame argument you have been unable to refute. I wonder what that says?



posted on Jul, 3 2016 @ 04:53 PM
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a reply to: daskakik

tl;dr = too long; didn't read. How does that say something about his argument, and less about your attention span?



posted on Jul, 3 2016 @ 04:59 PM
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originally posted by: LesMisanthrope
a reply to: daskakik

A lame argument you have been unable to refute. I wonder what that says?

It's been refuted but due to tyranny of the listener, in this case you, it is not accepted.



posted on Jul, 3 2016 @ 05:00 PM
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a reply to: daskakik

would you care to elaborate on your argument using bullet points so i can see the logical progression? because I am lost currently, and I believe that is because of the delivery.



posted on Jul, 3 2016 @ 05:04 PM
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a reply to: daskakik

Your argument that it is foolish not to expect people to react to words is something I agree with. But that's a different issue altogether, so let's refrain from the straw men for now.



posted on Jul, 3 2016 @ 05:25 PM
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a reply to: TechniXcality

I think OP's post above is dead on.

In that other thread someone said "words have consequences".

Long story short, everyone seems to accept that the words themselves don't do anything so, that is not what people mean when they use that phrase.

Why a thread on something that is "a different issue altogether", since that is what censorship argues and not that the mass of the words is causing harm.



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