24 Feb 2008

Some words on the 'Free Speech' fallacy and the true purpose of blogs

Oh dear, the readers of the blog Language Hat have finally flipped their little lids. The attacks against me have now gone from "fallacious but almost believable"... to "downright kookoo". Stephen Dodson, the American author behind the Language Hat blogsite heralding from Massachusetts continues to, as he says, 'defend free speech'. While naturally concerned at first (as a non-anonymous netizen should be) about the slander allowed to exist in his commentbox, the absurdity and desperation of trolls have reached an all-time low. It now turns out that Queen Elizabeth I herself has joined Language Hat's "intellectual debate" to denounce me and have me hanged while Prince, the famous musical artist, agrees. Chris Crocker however is in my defense. How honoured I feel to be mentioned in the presence of so many celebrities. Now I just have to laugh about it, LOL!

As Karma works its magic on Language Hat, linguists might be interested by the topic of free speech and how, despite all our fuzzy and warm intentions bred by political propaganda, it can never be honestly 'free' at all. Other blogs have written about this too and one site by Henry Hessing clarifies for us what's really going on here and the treasonous self-defeatism Language Hat is fostering in humankind:

"The fundamental basis for freedom of speech is a respect for the rational mind, which requires the freedom to weigh the evidence, to dispute and debate, without fear of coercive interference. By their reliance on violence and brute force of mob gatherings, the vandal shows contempt for the mind. It is confession of intellectual and moral bankruptcy, a confession that, for them, rational argumentation does not matter: all that matters is that their opponents are cowed into submission." (Click here for full article)
Flamewars transpire on the internet 2000 times a minute and it's only getting worse as anonymity has the negative side-effect of promoting a lack of accountability to reality. Any rational person who still goes outside once in a while and smells the daisies must eventually say "Enough is enough". We have to start fighting back against the Tyranny of the Stupid. Can free speech ever be truly unlimited in practical life or is this just abstract dogma? This is easily answered by pointing to clearcut examples where people's credit card numbers and other personal data have been shared online by malicious criminals whose actions can never be undone. No one, not even Stephen Dodson would want his credit card number or pictures of his wife and kids exposed online without his consent, obviously. So if even one instance of free speech is indefensible in civilized society, then waving the "I'm a defender of free speech" flag is exposed as nothing more than a stunted, extremist ideology. A tactic perhaps to maintain a double standard.

Interestingly, Mr Stephen "Free Speech" Dodson has since erased these joke comments in the picture above while defending more abrasive jokes by commenters named Anonymous and John Emerson under the hypocritical banner of defending free speech. Apparently jokes directed towards serious cognitive disorders like Asperger's Syndrome (i.e. Michael Farris' comment: "a) Gordon is an Asperberger's kind of case who can't perceive anything beyond the surface meaning of words.") are of greater value to Dodson than other jokes without a prejudiced slant. If only Dodson were more honest with us about what logic or lack thereof lies behind Language Hat's nebulous policies on the demonstrated limitations of his inconsistent free speech doctrine.

Accepting then the limits of free speech, are we clear on what those limits are? Have we really thought through what the overblown catchphrase "free speech" really means and what value it can possibly maintain in a sea of unmoderated gibberish? With only a few specks of intelligence strewn about in this media muddle, Truth eventually becomes indistinguishable from Lie and Value becomes indistinguishable from Valuelessness. If speech loses value, the value in defending individual speech will assuredly be the next thing on death row... and then our rights in a democratic society.

Dodson also misunderstands the true purpose of his and everyone else's blog. He continues to cowardly hide behind a politics-laced statement "I'm a defender of free speech" without confronting the logical meaning of his ideology. The fact is that blogs are not here to defend everyone's free speech at all. Blogs are here to defend one's own free speech. If everyone has the power to make their own blog, then free speech needs no defending on any single blog because it is the continued collective power of many voices in unison that defends free speech by virtue of their combined existences. Why do I as a linguistics blogger need to defend your free speech on my blog if it fails to have relevance to the clear purpose of my site (i.e. linguistics) and undermines logical, knowledgeable debate by promoting a culture of fear and lies driven by trolls? Unlike Dodson, my stance on comment deletion is clearer and more objective: Comments without relevance, whether their purpose is to jet ad hominems at me and others or to exploit other logical fallacies, are deleted without such purely negative trash ever being published to infect debates with emotional irrelevancies. I remain unremorseful about this policy.

In a nutshell, this insanity exists because of a prevailing mental disorder called dogmatic relativism which sabotages individuals into feeling unentitled to uphold individual principles or to distinguish right from wrong for themselves. It seeks then to devalue individual choice, logic and speech itself. This societal impairment in reasoning that so often arises in various ways throughout history is not only of interest to linguists, psychologists and historians but to all people who value the inherent right to learn and grow in a democratic civilization that choses to defend free coherent speech while shunning persistent fools.


  1. Michael Farris was not joking. You also strike me as a sufferer from Asperger's syndrome. You don't seem to understand subtext or context very well, you apparently have a very limited sense of humor, and you often respond to other people's posts in socially inappropriate ways. Not to mention your mastery of a complex arcane subject that most people find of little interest. Asperger's is not always negative by the way, it's a description and should never be a judgement. Your attention to detail in the linguistic field is certainly to be applauded. It is of course ridiculous for any of us to diagnose you over the web, but certainly the persona you have created through your comments is about as pure an example of Asperger's as one could hope to find. Feel free to delete this comment, I don't mean to embarass you, this comment is for your eyes only.

  2. Vanya: "You also strike me as a sufferer from Asperger's syndrome. [...] It is of course ridiculous for any of us to diagnose you over the web"

    Then by your own definition, your speech is ridiculous. You seem to fail to understand how comedy actually works. May I direct you to some real comedy from Canada: Kids in the Hall. Yours is just stale.

    You're no doubt an untalented, bitter linguist and even jobless due to this antisocial behaviour of yours. However, this is just a conjecture about your comical, purposeless life. Lol! The fact that you still try to waste your time is what's most comical.

    Fair thee well, Vanya (aka Dodson, aka John Emerson, aka Who Cares?), and may you seek psychiatric help for your nihilism. Now scoot, grown ups have linguistics to do.

  3. Oh wait! More comedy! It seems that Vanya posts his/her comments at precisely the exact time as IP number which according to my stats is from... {drumroll please}... Massachusetts, USA. That's a hilarious piece of added information, I must say. Is your real name Stephen Dodson by chance, or are you his nextdoor neighbour? How many people can there possibly be in Massachusetts anyway? Hahaha.

  4. For people's entertainment, I also bring you the quote of John Emerson, a resident troll on Language Hat, babbling deliriously on yet another blog: "I work silently and secretly. I am pro-hatred and pro-flame-war, but right now I'm letting others do my work."

    Pro-hatred and pro-flame-war? It all adds up. Weirdos with too much time on their hands. But I'm glad I followed up on my stats. This has been both instructive and comical about how talentless people have nothing left to do but sabotage others. This fiasco is helping my stats nicely. Hooray for Asperger's!

  5. Making posts like those of Mr. Emerson, even in jest, does not contribute to intellectual discussion. Likewise, comments regarding the mental illness(es) a person may or may not have cannot be used to support or refute a linguistics thesis.

  6. Yes, I'm getting many conveniently anonymous trolls ever since Language Hat's promotional 'ungift'. The trolls are all from the United States (because they're the one and the same American man) supporting jokes against the handicapped. This time it's a guy named "Andrej" who's real name is in all likelihood Stephen or John but unless he has the mental strength to finally demonstrate his identity, there's no way of knowing for sure until ISPs become held criminally accountable to trolling, phishing and spam on a global basis.

    What we have here is a common battle on the internet about what kind of 'free speech' is worth defending. So I'm making a stance in defense of logic over irrational forms of free speech. I love to joke around with people but not everything has to be a comedy hour at Yuk Yuk's.

    Comments will now be restricted to other bloggers who by and large are responsible, mature and sensitive to the scourge of trolls. Trolls are nothing without anonymity to indulge in their antisocial behaviour. These trolls can now go to Youtube, Wikipedia or other "free speech" havens where they can ramble on to their hearts content about evil bloggers who deleted their comments so 'viciously'.

    I suppose I should have adopted this policy a while ago but I hate to make it harder for those who do not have blogs but are sensible adults.