Tag: speech

Do Nazis Deserve Free Speech in America?

M. Buck | United States

There comes a point in political dissent where one might advocate for the erasure of someone else’s rights while relishing in their own. They might partition their speech as being worthy of liberal treatment. Meanwhile, they could see others as not deserving the same rights. If this sounds like a conundrum to you, you’re not alone.

To be specific about using social rights to try to erase those of others, take deplatforming on the Internet. One side uses the anonymity and liberality of the Internet to disenfranchise a group from their own (an Antifa member doxxing Nazis or vice versa, for example). One might conclude that the lack of consistency makes this unjust, but the notion is still worth looking at.

Free Speech and Violence

To start, we can analyze how deplatforming works and what it means. Antifa, a decentralized, militant organization of folks committed to ending fascism, understands how to doxx and deplatform effectively and rather stealthily. They infiltrate private groups of fascists and other far-right fringe groups, get them to reveal just enough personal information, and spread it online for all to see. They also engage in both offensive and defensive violence at rallies. Why are they doing this? What does it mean, and is it right?

The answer, as you’ll see, isn’t so clear-cut. Reading it plainly, you’ll see a double standard of who gets to talk and who doesn’t. This is expected, isn’t it? Really, any government will guarantee some compulsion in which citizens are forced to do something. It leads us to what underpins the entire argument of regulating free speech: is compulsion necessarily bad?

First of all, we could argue that compulsion is unjust because it goes against a natural sense of autonomy; the natural ability for someone to be free does not reconcile with force. Because of how natural autonomy is, it doesn’t make sense to coerce people into speaking “correctly”. After all, it will only lead to a damaged and unnatural state of mind. So, we let free speech exist absolutely.

But what about free speech existing for those who can monopolize it? For those who can use their free speech to occlude others from using theirs or do away with free speech entirely? Is seeking absolute free speech a good idea if it will end in recklessness sooner, rather than later?

Controlling Nazi Speech?

So, enters the argument for control. The people do not inherit goodness just naturally, they are molded that way. There is no natural state of autonomy because hierarchies exist naturally and we live under them. Thus, limiting free speech would create social cohesion so no group would have to question their existence in a state, thereby obstructing the government. (Note: this argument does rest on the assumption that certain people don’t know what’s good for them). 

But what about eventual questionings of the state? How would governments liquidate rebel political movements from influencing public opinion? Both arguments have their pitfalls, and one must evaluate these questions not to find an answer, but just to reach another conclusion.

To move back to the real world application, two violent groups who vehemently oppose each other are playing out the argument. Sure, it’s polarization, but one must remember that it is not banal. It is violently separating one group from the community and taking their ideologies out, with a knife or a cyber attack. Is this for good reason?

It’s not this article’s place to judge that. However, one must understand the brevity of the circumstances we are in currently and make just decisions. I encourage every reader to think and see for yourself.

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Happy Birthday: How One Song United a Nation at The State of the Union Address

By Matthew Geiger | @mattg444

The talking heads of the mainstream media will tell you that we live in a nation divided. On their broadcasts, journalists will exclaim that the republic is crumbling. If you watch the news, you’d know that the world is burning, and its epicenter is the Trump Administration. Maybe that’s true, but at the State of the Union address on Tuesday night, it was not.

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How to Craft a Winning Speech: 7 Steps

By Manuel Martin | United States

It was 10 AM, and I had just finished my coaching session for the upcoming Great Communicators Tournament at the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) National Convention. Over 120 students applied for this tournament, and I was one of three who made it to the finals.

I was optimistic about my speech until the coaches told me to start over, as my speech was too data-driven. If I didn’t change my speech in a drastic way, they said, I would have no chance of winning. I had one day to come up with a new speech and win the YAL tournament for a shot to head to the Great Communicators Tournament finale and compete for $10,000.

I abandoned the YAL convention activities (even skipping Ron Paul’s remarks at the convention) and focused all of my attention on creating a killer 3-minute speech. The Great Communicator’s Tournament is organized by Think Freely Media. They believe “that until we begin to seize the moral high ground and make the moral arguments in favor of free enterprise and liberty, we will continue to lose the fights that matter the most.” Let’s be honest: the last things libertarians need are more data-driven and logically reinforced arguments. After all, we’ve been doing that for decades with little success.

After absorbing the coach’s advice and starting from scratch, I created a speech that earned me first place and a shot at the finals.

At the finals, the judges allotted us four minutes for our speech with these criteria.

You work as a policy analyst for a national think tank that focuses on free-market solutions for third-world countries. And you have been invited to be one of a half-dozen or so speakers at a prestigious conference whose attendees are several dozen of the world’s wealthiest and most influential philanthropists investing in developing nations. Collectively, you will be speaking to individuals and corporations with many hundreds of millions of dollars in giving capacity. The purpose of the conference is for the attendees to hear a variety of perspectives on the best and most impactful strategies for philanthropic giving in developing nations. You’ve been asked to explain why your principles are most effective at lifting people out of poverty.”

The Speech

Below is the speech that earned me second place and a pleasant purse:

After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, NGO’s were inspired to provide relief in many ways, including giving away solar powered lights. However, the free lights resulted in Haiti’s own solar light manufacturer, Enersa, having to lay off most of their staff, as Enersa went from producing 50 lights a month to less than one.

Tom’s Shoes has famously donated over 35 million pairs of shoes, but that’s what’s seen. What’s not seen is the local cobbler losing customers and going out of business, the local cotton farmer and leather curator losing the cobbler’s business. And what happens when the free shoes wear out with the cobbler gone: where are the locals to get new shoes?

International aid can relieve human suffering, but we must help wisely.  As philanthropists, we are so busy giving with our hearts, sometimes we forget to give with our mind. I fear that for every good or service gratuitously given to those in need, we conscript them to a life of never experiencing the growth and pride of finding employment, accumulating wealth and sustainably providing for themselves and their family.

Entrepreneurs within market economies have lifted billions of souls out of poverty, but markets have limits; entrepreneurs can’t compete with free, and markets must generate wealth from the bottom up.  Economies don’t just magically grow from farmer John to farmer John Deere.

Private enterprise and bottom-up wealth creation are why I stand here today. My great-grandfather was a subsistence farmer on the small Atlantic island of Terceira. At the age of 20, he got a small loan to buy a half-acre, one cow, and build a dirt floor cinderblock house. Every day he walked a mile to the local market to sell his cows’ milk and buy flour, eggs, and spices. Life was hard, but if he were here today, he’d remind you the last thing his small milk farm needed was for an NGO to sell his customers free milk. Through hard work, incremental saving, and an unhindered market he labored his way to 8 cows and a flock of chickens, assets he liquidated to fund his move to America.  

His struggle was once the American struggle. In 1790, 90% of Americans were subsistence farmers, and despite the pompous British, American entrepreneurs built a strong economy one step at a time. Kerosene lamp before electricity, electricity before the incandescent light bulb, fluorescent light, LED light… lightsaber.

My friends, we can end poverty, not by creating dependency but by opening up opportunity. Here are some ways you can sustainably help elevate the third world poor.

Use your influence and push Congress to eliminate agricultural tariffs and subsidies, unfair advantages that drive global inequality and which our technologically superior farmers don’t need.

Influence foreign leaders to establish reliable and defendable land ownership systems; land ownership may just spark a cultural shift towards free markets and honest governance.

Reduce donations to NGO’s attempting to design foreign economies from the top down; instead invest in foreign financial institutions which specialize in helping small to medium size businesses grow. Struggling foreign entrepreneurs are desperate for the opportunity to turn your loan into sustainable profits for themselves and you. Imagine the lives and generations you’ll help change when both sides of the Atlantic are engaged in market-based value creation.

Lastly, remember the third world working poor are beautiful vibrant human beings, endowed with all the intelligence, creativity, and desire to be self-sufficient as every person in this room. They don’t need a fish or to be taught how to fish; maybe, just maybe what they need is for the world to stop disturbing their pond.

7 Important Steps in Writing a Speech

Here are the tactics I used to create my speech, which you can apply to yours.

  1. Study everything. In preparing for giving a speech on foreign aid, I watched every documentary I could get my hands on and read more articles that I can even count. I wanted to be the expert’s expert in the room. I had to understand the traditional foreign aid story and how it has worked and failed, then learn the liberty alternatives.
  2. Use emotions and storytelling. When preaching about the virtues of free markets and the vices of NGO’s disrupting local markets, it’s important to give the reader something real to feel. The Story of Enersa laying off most of their staff is very real and lives were severely threatened by NGO “help.” My great grandfather’s story is very real. Towards the end, I asked them to picture the lives and generations they will help change, getting their feelings on the table.
  3. Use humor. I incorporated what I thought would be four laughs in the speech. Turns out two earned laughs, one got a couple chuckles, and the other bombed. If the points in your speech you thought would get you laughs don’t, just keep going but always try.
  4. No Limits. It doesn’t matter if you have a 4 minute limit on your speech or a 300-word limit. For your first draft, write whatever you think is pertinent.
  5. Trim the fat. There is no such thing as a good writer: there is only a good re-writer. Don’t say in twenty-five words what you can say in seven. My first draft was 850 words, I trimmed the fat to 507 words, then added new ideas to bring the speech back up to around 610 words.
  6. Write two speeches. After writing the above speech, I wrote a separate one from a different angle to see if I could get anything out of my mind and the line, “Economies don’t just magically grow from farmer John to farmer John Deer,” resulted from that spare speech.
  7. Memorize your speech. If you are focused on reading your speech while your opponent is focused on performing theirs, you will lose. Memorize your speech so you can perform your speech. Both I and the first place winner had our speeches memorized.

Above all else, realize that if you’re in a speech competition and don’t put in the work to win, you will not have a chance at winning. But follow the above seven steps, and you will do great.

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Supreme Court to Solve Free Speech v. Private Corporation Debate

By Mason Mohon | United States

Brett Kavanaugh’s turbulent entrance into the Supreme Court will first be met with a potentially groundbreaking free speech case. The case is that of Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck, No. 17-702. As CNBC reports, this case centers around whether a private operator of a public access television network is considered a state actor, which would leave it accountable to the free speech protections in the First Amendment.

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As Mind Hacks Go, Religion Isn’t The Best One

By Craig Axford | United States

In a June 3rd New York Times Op-ed, the philosopher Stephen Asma lays out a common argument for why humans need religion. “Religious practice is a form of social interaction that can improve psychological health,” Asma states. To make his point he tells the story of a student whose brother was brutally murdered and whose mother was only able to cope by finding solace in the belief she would see her son again in the afterlife.

That religious belief can provide great comfort in times of immense suffering has both powerful anecdotal and scientific support. But as with just about every other cultural adaptation that humans have come up with, there’s a downside as well as an upside. Some adaptations are more downside than up, while others are more upside than down. Asma’s forthcoming book, Why We Need Religion, may offer us a solid argument for the view that religion is largely upside but his NY Times opinion piece doesn’t.

Stephen Asma has a rather odd way of praising religion. His article in the Times often reads like a rather backhanded compliment. He seems to think that what we believe and how we go about believing it is either of little or no consequence or that it is worth the personal and social price we have to pay to purchase relief from the pain life’s slings and arrows inflict. Religions, of course, historically have taken themselves rather more seriously, and most still do.

In the tragic case that Asma cites — a mother who lost a son to a brutal stabbing and could only find comfort in a belief in an afterlife — we have only his word for it (based upon an account Asma received from a student) that this woman could find relief from her suffering by no other means. However, for the sake of argument let’s assume this is an accurate retelling of how one mother found a way to move beyond her loss. According to Asma’s own account, this story puts religion in the category of something that works as a last resort, not as a preferred or ideal method for coping with suffering.

Furthermore, Asma never attempts to interview even one out of the millions who have experienced personal loss without needing to resort to a belief in an afterlife or other untestable things in order to cope. In order to build a solid argument that a sincere belief in realms that can’t be proven translates into a speedier recovery or greater psychological health, shouldn’t a thorough survey of alternative worldviews be a necessary part of the research?

His failure to provide any research into how nonbelievers cope with personal loss doesn’t stop him from assuming they turn to science. After making this erroneous assumption he tells readers the approach we don’t take doesn’t work. “No amount of scientific explanation or sociopolitical theorizing is going to console the mother of the stabbed boy,” Asma writes. “Bill Nye the Science Guy and Neil deGrasse Tyson will not be much help, should they decide to drop over and explain the physiology of suffering and the sociology of crime.”

I don’t know Bill Nye or Neil deGrasse Tyson personally, but I don’t have any difficulty imagining that their method of providing comfort in a situation like this would be rather typical of most caring human beings: a hug and perhaps a few shared tears. A science lecture wouldn’t be in the cards unless Nye and Tyson are completely lacking in situational awareness. Asma, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, apparently thinks that atheists and agnostics do lack such awareness and would prescribe a few episodes of Cosmos for parents in mourning over a recently deceased child.

Science does not claim to be a source of solace. Science is a method for uncovering facts about our universe and how it functions, not an analgesic for the families of murder victims. To the extent science is useful in these situations, it is because it has provided therapists with a greater understanding of how we emotionally and physically respond to severe stress and aided our development of better therapeutic responses. To the best of my knowledge, no research into the stages of grief and the best means of getting through them psychologically intact has found a science lecture to be useful.

It’s troubling that a philosopher like Asma has adopted such a cavalier attitude about belief systems. Given life inevitably will involve suffering, human well-being must ultimately depend upon our capacity to cope with it without experiencing debilitating physical or emotional harm. Whenever possible we should strive to avoid using false or unprovable beliefs as a means to this end when equally good perspectives with greater empirical support are available. There may have been a time when religion was the best game in town when it came to coping with personal suffering, but that simply is no longer the case.

Asma’s curious attitude toward truth in this context is determined by what the “emotional brain” wants. Here’s how he puts it in his article:

Those of us in the secular world who critique such emotional responses and strategies with the refrain, “But is it true?” are missing the point. Most religious beliefs are not true. But here’s the crux. The emotional brain doesn’t care. It doesn’t operate on the grounds of true and false. Emotions are not true or false. Even a terrible fear inside a dream is still a terrible fear. This means that the criteria for measuring a healthy theory are not the criteria for measuring a healthy emotion. Unlike a healthy theory, which must correspond with empirical facts, a healthy emotion is one that contributes to neurochemical homeostasis or other affective states that promote biological flourishing.

No, emotions aren’t “true or false.” But they are warranted or unwarranted. A parent that has just lost a child is justified in feeling deep sadness regarding the loss. He/She has a reason for feeling this way. But there is nothing in our evolution as a species that states a mother or father must adopt a false or unverifiable belief in order to eventually move on with their life. Atheists and agnostics lose family and friends all the time, and the vast majority of them still manage to get out of bed in the morning.

If a person truly cannot find a way of coping with their grief that does not involve the permanent use of magical thinking, there’s nothing emotionally healthy or warranted about it. If a person loses even the capacity to entertain doubts about their religion (or any other worldview, scientific or otherwise), that’s not someone who has been rescued by their belief system, but someone who has become severely cognitively impaired by it. That’s not a good thing from either an individual or societal perspective.

Asma argues that “Religious practice is a form of social interaction that can improve psychological health. When you’ve lost a loved one, religion provides a therapeutic framework of rituals and beliefs that produce the oxytocin, internal opioids, dopamine and other positive affects that can help with coping and surviving.” This statement is worth breaking down and analyzing in greater depth.

The “social interaction” that Asma mentions I assume gets to one the greatest benefits of religion that researchers have cited, namely community. We are social creatures, and as such we don’t usually function as well physiologically or emotionally in isolation for long periods. But religious communities are just one of many forms our interactions with others can take. In fact, religious services themselves tend to occur only occasionally. The Abrahamic religions meet regularly only once a week on average, so by themselves, they would have to be very powerful experiences indeed to drag someone suffering a profound loss through the other six days of the week.

What religions provide is a reliable support network. These networks can be called upon during the remainder of the week to help individuals get through a crisis, which can make a huge difference to both the speed and quality of a person’s recovery. But it isn’t the belief in an afterlife that these communities share that either Asma or researchers in the field are pointing to here, but the “social interactions” they provide. In other words, a highly supportive book or chess club will do just as well in a pinch provided they are there for you when needed.

Next Asma refers to a “therapeutic framework of rituals and beliefs” that releases oxytocin, dopamine, and produces “other positive affects” that can assist a suffering individual. Again, that religion does have this impact isn’t in dispute. However, that it is the only or best mechanism for producing these “positive affects” is highly questionable.

First, let’s take a closer look at the importance of the religious beliefs. As was pointed out above, Asma himself admits that “The emotional brain doesn’t care” whether something is true or false. He also states that while “Beliefs play a role…they are not the primary mechanisms for delivering such therapeutic power.” It is the “religious practice (rituals, devotional activities, songs, prayer and story)” that offer “us opportunities to express care for each other in grief, providing us with the alleviation of stress and anxiety, or giving us direction and an outlet for rage.”

Since by Asma’s own admission the beliefs don’t really matter either to our emotions or as mechanisms for our recovery, all things being equal we might as well utilize beliefs that don’t require us to to adopt patriarchy as our default position when it comes to relations between the sexes or to jettison the theory of evolution in exchange for a 6000 year-old earth. Whatever impact these beliefs may or may not have on our emotional recovery after a traumatic event, they do have implications for the health of our relationships and society as a whole, so we should at least consider them in that context.

That leaves rituals, which can play an important role in providing people with a sense of continuity and some semblance of control during difficult periods. Ritual can be a strong antidote for the powerlessness we feel when our life is in turmoil. But here too religion need not be the only source for ritual. Meditation, for example, can easily be substituted for prayer and has the benefit of working as well in a secular as in a religious context.

If religions were more open to serving as halfway houses where people recovering from whatever it is that emotionally ails them could park themselves for a while and temporarily take on beliefs until their equilibrium was restored, Asma’s argument would be much more difficult to find fault with. Unfortunately, religion typically insists upon belief and loyalty in exchange for these services. In extreme cases, this can involve the rejection of science or even the rejection of non-believing friends.

Stephen Asma briefly touches upon religion’s “dark side” in a single paragraph in his Op-ed, but religion’s shadowy side deserves more attention than that. While there are a few liberal churches that have a high degree of tolerance for doubt and are willing to let people come and go as they feel the need, these institutions are sadly the exception. For obvious reasons, they have a hard time building up a large membership. Hopefully, his book will provide answers to the challenge more orthodox and fundamentalist religions pose that go beyond a few lines.

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