Free Speech & Milo

Did anybody see Milo on Bill Maher the other week?

What did you think?

I don't agree with much of what he says, but I wasn't bothered.

In fact, it crystalized my understanding of people like him and their supporters. At his core, I'd say Milo is a more flawed and more articulate Sarah Palin.

I found Malcolm Nance to be very impressive. Fact based and unflappable. The kind of guy we need in military leadership positions. He totally nailed Milo on the root cause of his views.

I did see Milo on the Bill Maher show.

I agree with Maher's take on Milo--that he is an Ann Coulter wannabe whose goal is create controversy by challenging liberal assumptions , while having nothing constructive to offer. In short, he plays the devil's advocate.

Maher took some indirect credit for his downfall, which occurred not long after his appearance on the show, in that the increased scrutiny of Milo occurred due to Milo's appearance on his show, which led to the disclosure of statements made by Milo that not even conservatives could tolerate.

It's no mean feat being more flawed than Sarah Palin, and it's not much of a feat being more articulate than her.

It will be interesting to see if Milo fades into the past or if his star will rise again. Hard to tell with the world wobbling at the moment.

I did not see the show but it was covered broadly.

As far as free speech goes, I am not sure there is much to say since it really is entirely between private parties with no government involvement.

The matter is probably more one of what is acceptable in society and there the answer will depend on who one asks. Students at Berkeley did send a clear message of how they viewed this type of thinking and behavior while Breitbart has 3.2 million "likes" on Facebook and claims" Breitbart Beats NY Times, CNN, and Fox News for Election Day Facebook Engagement."

What I always wonder about the more well-known of these "personalities" on both sides of these social issues is whether they really believe their own rhetoric or whether they are simply playing to an audience. All of them seem to be very successful in developing a "brand" which opens lucrative opportunities on the speaking circuit, books deals, and gigs on TV shows.

So is it the case they are really fighting for causes in which they truly believe or are they simply building their own brands or is it a bit of both?

I was reading an article about Dinesh D'Souza a while back. As with many of these political commentators, you see that they found their calling early, often at university.

I don't doubt that many of these people feel strongly about what they say. But the fact is that emotional needs are the driver of everything. In D'Souza's case, it was clear to me that his views are as much about him wanting to be relevant and were a way for him to establish a unique niche in the world of political opinion. In that way he effectively becomes a believer in what he espouses because it gives him an identity, relevance and acceptance. It's not very different to somebody's motivation for seeking out a gang. Of course, if you're skilled at gang stuff, you will rise quickly. And D'Souza is certainly good at what he does.

When you look at where he went with his success and his behavior, you begin to see the true essence of him. He pled guilty to breaking campaign finance laws, narrowly avoided prison but then claimed he was persecuted by Obama. He had an affair while still married while attending a Christian Conference. He's onto his second marriage after multiple relationships. Not something I personally have a problem with but a sign of hypocrisy shared by many of his fellow believers. In short, all of these behaviors really reveal a person who is self absorbed and has said what they've said more for their own benefit than because they truly believe them.

Which brings me onto Milo. I see many parallels between the two. Milo for sure wants attention. He learnt that his sexuality and the fact that he enjoyed saying and doing exactly what he wanted to, could help him claim the libertarian high ground to rally against a left who are "intolerant" to others. He banked on the fact that so long as he targeted certain groups that were intolerant, he would have the support of the Breitbart reader. That gives him relevancy and a career. Or it did.

Apparently, in his business endeavors, Milo has not been at all successful. I'm going to take a guess that his insatiable need to provoke has something to do with that. The fact that he was the "Technology Editor" speaks wonders at the wool that is being pulled over people's eyes with the "branding" of political commentators.

I had a vague recollection of some of the story you explained above.

There is a really basic problem with the role of the media that nobody wants to talk about.

The image is that the media is somehow above the fray and is simply acting in the "common good."

Of course, the reality is much more complex. The media is all privately owned and its responsibility is actually to its owners who are simply running a business. A big part of the the revenue base comes from advertising and advertising clients are certainly not supposed to be above the fray and certainly are not in terms of where they do their ad spend.

The problem is even bigger at the level of the individual journalist. For a journalist the way to fame and fortune is access. Of course, access, in turn, is affected by how a journalist presents the material obtained through prior access. Thus there is an unspoken conflict between the journalist's "duty" and the journalist's personal career advancement.

None of these issues are easy to address and there is probably no ideal solution. What is troubling is that they are almost never discussed.

I do not know if you ever watched the show "Crossfire" on CNN with Carville and Begala on one side and Carlson and Nowak on the other. It resembled a screaming match much more than a rational discussion of world views.

The root cause behind this is the dogma that the for profit motive is the only way. It's the reason we have a health system with double the costs and worse outcomes. And it's the reason we have, as you point out, the press that we do.

My biggest realization about how poor the media is came during the financial crisis. I would tune in during primetime expecting to see experts being interviewed, and found nothing helpful. This happened day after day. Exasperated, I decided to do a search for news and found PBS. They got hold of somebody who worked in the financial markets in London and had a calm rational conversation about what was going on. I was immediately informed. PBS were asking the right questions which meant they were getting the right sources with meaningful answers. Why the highly paid journalists on flagship news programs were not able to do this baffled me.

If you watch them today, there is virtually no discussion of policy or detail. There is just opinion and talking points and repetition. It's a business and over time, they've discovered that this is what the audience wants.

But also look at what the audience has done. Those who actually want real news, go to more credible alternative sources. Those who are not finding the news entertaining enough or not confirming their viewpoints enough, go elsewhere.

And then add in the factor of fear and outrage that politicians have always peddled in, but had to become more imaginative about once the Cold War ended. This idea of fear and outrage reached it's zenith during the Obama presidency, thanks to a mix of power hungry GOP politicians, a profit driven and new internet driven media landscape, and a gullible public. The healthcare system was already failing millions, but Obamacare would create death panels. Obama deported more illegal immigrants than anybody else and net immigration is negative, yet we are being destroyed by illegal immigration. Americans are as scared of terrorism now as they were after 9/11, yet you're 15 times more likely to be killed by lightning.

Politicians should be seeking to get elected because they think rationally. The media should be helping the people think rationally. People should aspire to think rationally. But they don't, which is why they get the politicians and media they deserve.

"People should aspire to think rationally. But they don't, which is why they get the politicians and media they deserve."

I have been having a discussion with a friend on this precise topic for years now.

Essentially the question we keep getting stuck on is the following:

In most areas of life, people act in what they can see produces an outcome that is either beneficial or not and adapt accordingly. For instance showing up at the Post Office at lunchtime and expecting to get in and out quickly.

When it comes to social and political issues people seem to behave in an entirely different way. It seems to be more important for them to simply surround themselves with others who view the issues in the same or similar ways and criticize the thinking and even the integrity of those who hold different views. This never produces any useful "outcome" but it seems to provide great psychic satisfaction.

So why in one area is the outcome the primary goal but not in another?

Take the budget deficit as an example. It is a hot button issue with most voters. Very few voters (statistically 0%) could actually clearly explain exactly what the Federal budget deficit is (in fact it is technically complex even for specialists in the field and more than one approach is permissible).

Even if people could actually explain what it is, the fact is that it is a financial rather than an economic concept and so is only actually useful in the context of the study of intertemporal sustainability of government finances. This is not something any sizeable group of voters could usefully discuss.

So really the "budget deficit" discussion is actually about whether one like the party in power or not and has nothing to do with economics or the budget itself as such.

One thing is that we're all emotionally driven. I worked with a lot of Germans and after a while concluded that they are highly emotional and emotionally driven ......... to be logical. It's somewhat like Spock and indeed all Vulcans.

Second thing is that when we can't explain something with rational thought processes, we use our intuition. I see two aspects to this. Some people are better at over riding emotional impulses with rationality. And some people have more capacity for deeper levels of rational thinking. To understand these as two different things, look at Dr Ben Carson. The brain power required for brain surgery is above average, while the rationality in conclusions about other matters appears to be severely lacking.

Indeed, if we focus on one thing, it usually means we're not so good at other things. Scientists are clever but geeky because they haven't applied the focus of their available brain power on the appearance side of things. Blondes are supposedly not so clever because of where they've chosen to apply their brain power.

But back to the topic of understanding the federal budget and other complex issues in the political area. Once a subject's complexity exceeds your ability to look at it rationally, you will start to use intuition, together with all your biases, to explain it. Just as people a long time ago might think the sun is in the sky or is God.

But even people with processing power have biases, especially the more complex an issue becomes. And as I said above, the tendency to be truly rational is not the same as the ability to be be rational. This is an important distinction.

Personally speaking, I try not to form definitive conclusions about things I don't understand enough. But then there is another emotional need that most people have which is the need for certainty.

"The root cause behind this is the dogma that the for profit motive is the only way. It's the reason we have a health system with double the costs and worse outcomes. And it's the reason we have, as you point out, the press that we do." JTSR71

Nice point. Put another way: it's what I like to call the proliferation of prostitution throughout America.That is,the selling off of integrity and dignity for money,for profit.

Practically all modern democratic countries have for the most part separated their health systems,as well as other systems,from the profit motive for moral reasons.
And yet the US fails to join this group based on nothing more than weak arguments, all the while making claims about the superiority of the American health care system. The US has an attitude similar to a mentally disturbed person who thinks everyone is crazy but himself. Obviously,the people and leaders in the modern countries that have chosen to have a one payer health care system separate from free market capitalism, which they also endorse, are neither crazy nor unintelligent,but are probably superior morally speaking.

When I was in the 4th grade, I was was in a debate, where I was given the task of arguing for the British Socialized health care system against one of my formidable classmates who had the task of convincing the unruly class that the American health care system was superior to the British system. In my preparation, I came to "believe" that the British system was actually better than the current US health system. Even 60 years ago the British lived longer and were generally healthier than Americans. My debate opponent was stumped and had no answer to the the longevity issue, though it actually proved nothing anyways. We were kids. But from then to today I have always been a proponent of Socialized medicine, for want of a better word, and I am glad most of the world has agreed with me.

Thus it has been profit and greed that has kept American ensconced in a broken and morally questionable healthcare system. And not surprisingly, the AMA, Doctors, have been historically the leading opponents of socialized medicine in the US, all for fear of losing their profits. A blatant recent example of this ingrained profit motive was on display when a large rigorous study concluded that the routine blood testing ( PSA test ) of men was doing more harm than good, and that it, therefore, should be ceased, which was followed by a litany of objections from American Urologists, who of all people should have known the benefits of this study. But of course, Urologists make a lot of money from prostate cancer, and this study, if accepted, would do away with much of this money. What happened to do no harm?

So the dogma that a profit based healthcare system is the only way is sadly still espoused. However, given the fact that almost 50% of Americans are enrolled in a government run healthcare system ( Medicare, VA, Medicaid ), we can see that there is another way that healthcare can be run. It is absurd that people think it
would be so hard to transition all Americans to these already in place systems.Would it be so hard for doctors to live on 2 to 3 hundred thousand a year rather than 4 to 5 hundred thousand a year?

This healthcare morass is but one example of the profit motive leading to the prostitution of the American ethos.And the profit motive, as has been mentioned, is at hand in many areas of American life, areas where there are better ways, the roads not taken. Free market capitalism can thrive and coexist with government run programs, as thoroughly attested to by numerous first world countries.:dry:


I do feel sad whenever the issue of health care is discussed because, in my opinion at least, it is an issue that has been allowed to reach a point from which fundamental change will be very difficult to achieve.

The bottom line is that healthcare costs in the US, as a share of GDP, are almost double what they are in other advanced countries, the clinical results are not better and a far more limited percentage of the population has access to a full range of medical care.

There are solutions but the most fundamental problem is that it is not even possible to have an adult conversation about the topic.

The basic reason the current system has so many issues is that there is a disconnect between the objective "to provide an adequate level of care for everyone" and the means to achieve that which is through the provision of medical services by private parties and the absence of transparency of any type in pricing from the point of view of patients.

That model simply cannot achieve this stated objective. Efforts so far, and the ACA is by far the most ambitious to date, have ignored that reality and have been limited to manipulating various aspects of the insurance market.

Unless and until the nation is willing to have a rational discussion along the following lines: what percent of GDP do we want to spend on health care services and what mechanisms exist to ensure that provides adequate care for everyone regardless of income or current health status?--and is prepared to translate that discussion into an action plan that realistically would take probably 15 years to phase in fully, the present situation is unlikely to change dramatically no matter which political party is in power.

This is a wonderful synopsis of the predicament---particularly the sadness of it all.:frowning:

I am in total agreement. I would offer another root cause for the dogma. The focus on the individual that is the foundation and bias for so many beliefs.

This idea of "individual" liberty was put in place as a reaction to the issues of the time, namely that of being subject to the rule of a British King. But the interpretation today goes beyond the reactionary declaration in the past. Firstly, the men who declared it were themselves privileged. They were thinking of themselves. It was not the most oppressed who came up with the idea. Secondly, individual liberty was not applied equally to all men and women. If the people of the time truly believed in individual liberty, then they would have applied it to everybody. But they were only interested in it for themselves. For example, only white male property owners were initially able to vote in most states.

Today, this idea of the individual has morphed into a sense that an American is supposed to be selfish about everything. Seeing that it's human nature to seek happiness through material things, there is almost a conditioning here that getting what you want, regardless of the cost to others, is the route to your happiness and key to preserving America's exceptionalism. Very little education takes place about how our fortunes are connected.

So there is little space for rational thinking about how other countries organize systems where there is benefit in government intervention and how those systems should run. And when such systems are implemented, the behavior of the players tends to undermine the system because of the focus on one's own interests. In California, one only needs to look at the packages and pensions of public workers as well as their behavior. At UC Davis, a campus police officer successfully sued for huge damages for emotional distress after he pepper sprayed protesting students.

A couple of other comments:

  • In the UK, the first priority of the Labor government who emphatically won the election against Winston Churchill, was the NHS (National Health Service). The biggest opponent? The BMA (British Medical Association). The biggest opponent against any reforms of the NHS for the last few decades? The BMA.

  • Your "do no harm" comment. Indeed. The oath to do what is best for your patients. What % of medical providers are hypocrites? I've certainly met a few here. It annoys me no end that we pay twice as much and have to do so much work to screen providers, figure out whether what they are saying is a medically or financially motivated, and then do all of the admin around managing and using plans.

  • Health outcomes. Apart from the medical system, the US was unique because of diet. In many ways, it remains unique because of the lobbying by big food and the utter crap allowed in food here compared to the rest of the world. Separating out diet from the health system is obviously hard to do, but I would suspect that it's been another factor here for poor health outcomes.

I see it exactly the same way as you. I think one way to solve this issue might be at the state level.

I don't know what it would take to achieve it, but essentially wipe the slate clean and implement an entirely new system at a state level. Taiwan did this but it was easier because they had no public system already in place. Switzerland did however overhaul their private system. Put in place a transition period to ease the adjustment from market pricing to whatever the new system does.

While some medical professionals would not like the reduced profitability of a more interventionist system, I have spoken to many doctors who don't like the existing system either. The last one told me that things were much easier when he was working at Kaiser Permanente. So while the most profit orientated (and some would say the best) medical professionals may leave that state, it would also attract those people who want to put the patient first, which is a win for consumers.

I think all sovereign nations base their self-image on a vision of the history as today’s society would like it to have evolved rather than what actually happened.

Take the US for instance. There is universal acceptance of the fact the origin of the nation can be traced to the Declaration of Independence. The entire system of government, and more importantly, the legal theory on which it is predicated is based on that belief.

Of course, those who signed the Declaration of Independence had no legal authority to do so since there was no framework that permitted such an act. Accordingly, from a strictly legal perspective, there is a rather serious problem here. Conveniently, the problem was been effectively solved by electing to ignore it.

The entire history of the United States up until the mid-1950s is really the story of factor imbalances. There was just too much land, and too many resources and too few people. Accordingly, opportunities existed to achieve extraordinary rates of economic growth as a new society was created.
Eventually, the imbalance between labor and other resources disappeared and the economy transitioned to a more sustainable long-term growth trajectory. With less scope for rapid expansion from only the domestic market, dealing with other countries became necessary.
With the collapse of the fixed exchange rate system (the Bretton Woods model) in 1971 forces were unleashed that continue to reshape the economy. Increasingly, traditional jobs started to disappear and the process of each generation surpassing the living standards of the previous by large amounts began to slow.

In domestic and foreign policy the driving force was the concept of “exceptionalism” even though few seemed able to explain it in any operational way. As a result vast resources were devoted to establishing facilities around the world to support “American interests.” Of course once established it was almost impossible to close such a facility since vested interests fought tooth and nail to preserve it. The cumulative legacy represents an enormous drain on resources today. While such endeavors are perhaps a source of national pride they certainly divert resources from domestic issues such as infrastructure, education, health etc.

As a society, the nation has never been willing to accept what every freshman economics student learns and that is there is a budget constraint: one can have more guns and less butter or more butter and fewer guns but one cannot have more guns and more butter.
By the time of the collapse of the Bretton Woods system, vested interests were already established in every sector and have simply consolidated their power in the intervening decades.

The fact that the US dollar is a reserve currency and foreign creditors are willing to hold US Treasuries affords a window of opportunity to tackle these serious structural issues. Like most chronic conditions they become increasing severe with time.
The real problems the US faces is perhaps its least publicly discussed ones are the unfunded liabilities the as-yet unrecognized challenges of an aging population, and the full impact of the disappearance of secure pensions.

If things continue on the current path, there will come a day when the bids at the Treasury auction will be insufficient to absorb the supply. That will get some attention but its full implications will only become clear later. At that point, the range of options will be limited and none of them will be especially attractive.

I am quite familiar with Kaiser Permanente and one of its true strengths is its integrated medical record system. That may not be obvious to a patient but if somebody has multiple serious conditions--I know someone in exactly that situation--the ability for the primary care physician and all the specialists involved to have such streamlined communications capabilities and access to the complete medical record is extraordinarily valuable.

A while back I had a medical condition that was out of the ordinary but am not with Kaiser or any similar institution. The process of dealing with numerous doctors in separate practices and ensuring the all the relevant records and test results were correctly routed was a nightmare. In fact, I ending up being the project manager for my own case. This is clearly not sensible.

As to the mechanics of a solution, I do see a clear model whose features are more a set of principles that a fully architected set of operational guidelines. The actual funding mechanisms are flexible as long as the total resources are provided in one way or another.

However, none of the matters unless a way can be done to start a conversation.

We do not need leaders who have "plans". We need a bold leader who has the courage to say, "Fellow citizens, we have a problem, and we need to talk."

"The focus on the individual that is the foundation and bias for so many beliefs."

Once again, another good point.

I think the notion of "individual" is a social construct, for each one of us is from birth a product of social evolution and the social environment that raises and creates us. This is not to say that each one of us is not born with unique abilities and traits which give us our individuality. but it is to say that our fundamental nature is social. Evan an individual feral human raised by wolves is social in nature, but only in the wolf pack he/she was raised in, and not in any human society. The idea of the solitary individual who pulls him or herself up from one's own bootstraps and determines his or her own fate is really the stuff of fiction,and entertainment.

And I think you are right to point out how the idea of individual freedom or choice or whatever has been used to distort peoples understanding of social problems and the solutions thereto. Politicians and others have used this Ayn Randian "Virtue of Selfishness" drivel to convince people that we must have individual choices for our healthcare needs,just to note one example. ( Funny story: I was once at a symposium where Hebert Marcuse, the revolutionary social thinker, was presenting the ideas from what turned out to be his last book, when a critic of his asked him what he thought of the ideas of Ayn Rand. His response was "who", and when told who she was, he responded that he had never read any of her writings, which I thought was amusing.)

Yes the concept of "individual" is not fixed but is the child of its' time. Time for a new definition, a less selfish one.

Which brings us neatly back to Milo. At his essence, he's selfish. (But in a way we all are, even when we do outwardly good things).

What was interesting to me personally when I watched him was how many responses he stimulates simultaneously. Not only does he reveal himself, your reaction to him reveals yourself.

I also wanted to come back to the topic of free speech. Watching that interview also showed how unhappy people are with the consequences of free speech. Is it not explored in schools here? It is the First Amendment after all!

The same people who might profess support for a particular type or types of minority seem to readily forget that the principles are in place to support ANY minority not just those you feel emotionally attached to. Whether it's a religious majority who don't feel religious minorities deserve the same rights, or student protesters at Universities who prevent certain speakers from attending, it's the same thing.

Indeed, surprise surprise, you can even find this behavior where the majority on an internet forum, marginalizes a minority with a different view. Which brings me to an interesting story.

Somebody I knew participated on a forum that he very much enjoyed, but which had a no politics rule. However, most of those on the forum held a right of center view and a few of them constantly injected those viewpoints into conversations, often about the first and second amendments of the constitution. Anybody retorting to such comments would either be personally attacked or sanctioned disproportionately by the moderators. And of course, you couldn't question the moderators. So this person went and set up their own forum. Inevitably, many comments on the new forum were critical of the old forum and of particular posters. But the idea of the forum included free speech so this was allowed. In fact people from the old forum were not barred from posting on the new forum. However, when they did so, they were almost entirely personal, including threats of violence.

This of course was good news because those people exposed themselves as being unable to answer the actual points that were raised. Furthermore, they posted with names different to those they used on the old forum. Anyhow, these posters got so worked up, that they asked the moderators on the old forum to see what they could do. The new forum was hosted on a free service, so the moderators contacted the free service administrators and argued that the personal attacks meant that the new forum was breaking the terms of service. The administrators agreed, and the forum was shut down.

So the forum was restarted on a new service where there were no such restrictions. The aggrieved members of the old forum got worked up again and asked the moderators to shut the new forum down. In the meantime, they visited the new forum and hurled insults and made threats. Eventually, however, the moderators told them they couldn't shut down the new forum.

Back on the old forum, the moderators and aggrieved members now made statements that they weren't bothered at all by the new forum. Which was clearly not true. However, the forum itself, in particular the members who were most disruptive and had been criticized on the new forum, actually began to improve and not engage in as much divisive political commentary. This actually helped the forum become more popular. It seems that because a minority found a way to speak out and to not be silenced, they actually helped the entire community by being able to challenge a disruptive clique who were obviously bringing their personal paranoia and problems into non political discussions.

"Which brings us neatly back to Milo. At his essence, he's selfish. (But in a way we all are, even when we do outwardly good things).

What was interesting to me personally when I watched him was how many responses he stimulates simultaneously. Not only does he reveal himself, your reaction to him reveals yourself." JTSR71

We "are" all selfish, or at the very least we act on our self-interest. When a person "anonymously" helps someone or some group , I wonder if that solitary individual feels good about their deed because they were able to help without receiving any recognition and are therefore above other people that do good deeds for the recognition, or if there are actually people who who do good from the pure goodness of their hearts, and do not derive any ego boosting satisfaction from such actions. I suppose only the doers of good deeds know the answer.

I think Milo is just as selfish as the next person,but has a magnetism that is rare, for, otherwise, he would not be receiving all of the attention. There are many people who could say similar controversial things, but they would be dismissed post haste by most listeners because they lacked that "something" that Milo and others of his species possess. Mussolini and Trump seem to be of the same ilk, though perhaps not as intelligent, but just as oblivious to criticism. Listening to Milo on the Maher show, I got the sense that Milo loved the fact that he was the rare person who was immune to and above what people thought of him.

Freedom of speech: Given the millions of pages written about this big idea, what can I add? Let me just say that the words free or freedom usually throw me for a loop, for I would put myself in the determinist school of thought, which means that I am of the opinion that all that we humans do,say,think or feel is the results of understandable processes not of our choosing. So if we understood Milo, we would understand why he says what he does.

But what we're really talking about is a social contract that exists between the members of many of the societies or nation states of today. Milo can say what he wants, within legal limits, in America, England and several other countries without being arrested due to this right to freedom of speech contract, and he can say what he wants no matter how horrific and disgusting it appears to others. But he cannot libel or slander another person or entity while doing so. And his right to say what he wants does not mean that others must listen to him or provide a platform from where he can speak, except for a court of law,etc. In practice, there have always been a myriad of social and political limitations on a person's right to freedom of speech in all societies and peoples throughout human history.
But today we probably have less limitations than in any period in the past.

Bill Maher, being the free speech advocate that he is, allowed Milo on his program in contradistinction to the Berkeley students and certain conservatives who did not want Milo to have a platform. Why? Because I think Mr. Maher does actually believe in free speech, and like Milo, he fears not. He has disgusting people on his program all the time, including himself.

" marginalizes a minority with a different view. Which brings me to an interesting story." I suffered from some forumitis while trying to understand your minority bringing about change for the better. But history does seem to indicate that many changes or revolutions are brought about by dedicated minorities starting a dialectic within their larger society.

Speaking of minorities, a long time ago I experienced sort of a lesson in free speech that remains with me today. I was a member of 7 or 8 students that were soon to be part of a small class that was to be studying the first volume of Marx's "Das Capital" led a Professor who was a leading Marx scholar as well as person of interest to the CIA for his revolutionary ideas. When some of the students found out that another Professor had asked to sit in on this seminar, they called a meeting to discuss banning this Professor from the class because he was too conservative and would likely intimidate the students. Finally, a vote was proposed and I and one other student voted no to the banning issue. Of course the majority rules, which did not prevent the two of us from getting the cold shoulder thing. When this vote result was discussed with the Marx scholar, he basically said he had already given the Professor permission to sit in and there were no good reasons to ban him, which was pretty much what we two hold outs had said. Thus, I learned that the instinct to ban can raise it's ugly head just about anywhere. It's in all of us, even those who strongly advocate free speech.

Indeed. And when a debate takes place in person, you can understand the concept of being intimidated or distracted by the presence of another person.

But the internet and forums should be a wonderful place to practice free speech because you can digest what you're reading, give it some thought, and then respond thoughtfully.

As on pretty much every issue I am of two minds on this matter.

In the world of my own imagination there would be no limits of any type on speech. Instead people would say whatever they wanted in whatever manner they wanted and everybody would simply accept that as being the best way to handle the matter.

When it comes to the real world it is much more difficult. The well known restriction on free speech that prevents someone from shouting "fire" in a crowded theater when there is none does make sense. The issue is always the same--at what point does the tradeoff between the exercise of a personal freedom impose an unacceptable harm on others. In the case of the crowded theater it is easy to reach agreement while in cases where the harm is emotional, or might encourage certain types of behavior the line is much harder to draw.

Take the case of Chairman Pai in Barcelona the other day. I read the complete text of the address and it left me confused on this topic. On the one hand he was speaking as a human being and therefore entitled to remarks which were certainly well crafted, pertinent, and appropriate for the setting. On the other hand he was actually speaking as an appointed official and uttered some comments that were borderline inane and certainly wrong. Should there be a standard of "responsible" speech to which public officials are held when speaking or should they as a minimum be required to explicitly indicate what sections of remarks were nothing other than personal opinions?

Frequently at political gatherings protestors will interrupt. Are they exercising a right that should be respected or are they violating the rights of others?

One of my personal pet peeves about free speech is the loquacious person who insists on telling the cashier his/her life story while 10 people wait impatiently in line. That is free speech indeed but is it responsible behavior? Who gets to decide?

The problem is not really "free speech" as such but rather the naive way in which we like to think about the Constitution. We want to believe there are absolutely clear rules laid out that must be respected at all costs. Of course, that is simply not the case. If there were clear rules we would not need to have a group of experts who have final say on what these rules are in a given case. We certainly would not have the type of harsh disagreements we always do when there is a need, as at present, to appoint a replacement to the group.

The real problem is not the lofty image we have of "free speech" in theory but rather in the way each of us applies our own intellectual baggage to its application in a given case.

The well known joke about the dilemma of the spouse who is asked, "do this outfit make me look fat.?" is relevant here. Yes, the spouse is able to exercise free speech but the odd are than an unconstrained use is likely to lead unpleasant consequences. In such cases "sensible" spouses act in their self interest and often finesse the matter or tell an outright lie.
I was talking yesterday with somebody who had just been asked by the head of the company 'I am a good leader, tell me what you really think."

In this case most sensible people will choose to limit their exercise of free speech.

Thus we seem to have an innate ability to limit our right when we feel it is in our best interest. When we do not feel threatened we are less inhibited. That is where the real problem lies.

In Plato's ideal state, it really was only the Philosopher King who had free speech--that in fact was the definition of Justice.