In the wake of CNN threatening to out a critic if he does not limit his speech in the future, former federal prosecutor and First Amendment champion Ken White has published an eminently sensible post about the incoherence of the present moment's views on free speech, and on the way that partisanship causes us to apply a double standard that excuses "our bunch" and damns the "other side."
As you'd expect from White, he goes beyond the "pox on both your houses" and sets out a course for a consistent and coherent view on free speech, speech with consequences, and taking sides.
We're not consistent in our arguments about when vivid political speech speech inspires, encourages, or promotes violence. We're quicker to accept that it does when used against our team and quicker to deny it when used on the other team.
We're not consistent in our moral judgments of ugly speech either. We tend to treat it as harmless venting or trolling or truth-telling if it's on our team and as a reflection of moral evil if it's on the other team.
We're not consistent in our arguments about whether online abuse and threats directed at people in the news are to be taken seriously or not. We tend to downplay them when employed against the other team and treat them as true threats when used against our team.
We're not consistent in our arguments about whether calling some individual out by name exposes them to danger. We tend to claim it does when the person supports our team and sneer at the issue when the person supports the other team.
We're not consistent in our treatment of the significance of behavior by obscure individuals. When some obscure person's online speech gets thrust into the limelight, we tend to treat it as fairly representative if they're on the other team and an obvious non-representative outlier if they are on our team.
We're hopelessly bad at applying consistent legal principles to evaluate whether speech is legally actionable depending on which team it comes from.
We're pretty inconsistent in our assessment of what social consequences should flow from ugly speech, with our views of proportionality, decency, and charity diverging widely depending on whether the person at issue is on our team or not.
CNN, Doxing, And A Few Ways In Which We Are Full of Shit As A Political Culture