Time Columnist Denounces Free Speech as a White Man’s “Obsession”

It has become depressingly common to read unrelenting attacks on free speech in the Washington Post and other newspapers. The anti-free speech movement has been embraced by Democratic leaders, including President Joe Biden, as well as academics who now claim “China was right” on censorship. However, a Time magazine column by national correspondent Charlotte Alter was still shocking in how mainstream anti-free speech views have become. Alter denounces free speech as basically a white man’s “obsession.”

What is most striking about the column is Alter’s apparent confusion over why anyone like Musk would even care about the free speech of others. She suggests that Musk is actually immoral for spending money to restore free speech rather than on social welfare or justice issues.

She suggests that supporting free speech is some disgusting extravagance like buying Fabergé eggs.

“Why does Musk care so much about this? Why would a guy who has pushed the boundaries of electric-vehicle manufacturing and plumbed the limits of commercial space flight care about who can say what on Twitter?”

The answer, not surprisingly, is about race and privilege. Alter cites Jason Goldman, who was an early figure shaping the Twitter censorship policies before he joined the Obama administration. Goldman declared, “free speech has become an obsession of the mostly white, male members of the tech elite” who “would rather go back to the way things were.”

Alter also cites professor of communication at Stanford University Fred Turner who explains that free speech is just “a dominant obsession with the most elite… [and] seems to be much more of an obsession among men.”

In arguing in favor of censorship, Alter engages in a heavy  use of historical revisionism, claiming that

“‘free speech’ in the 21st century means something very different than it did in the 18th, when the Founders enshrined it in the Constitution. The right to say what you want without being imprisoned is not the same as the right to broadcast disinformation to millions of people on a corporate platform. This nuance seems to be lost on some techno-wizards who see any restriction as the enemy of innovation.”

It is also lost on me.

Censorship has always been based on the notion that the underlying speech was false or harmful. Calling it “disinformation” does not materially change the motivation or the impact. What Alter calls a “Tech Bro obsession” was the obsession of the Framers.

Alter is confusing free speech values with the rationale for the First Amendment. For years, anti-free-speech figures have dismissed free speech objections to social media censorship by stressing that the First Amendment applies only to the government, not private companies. The distinction was always a dishonest effort to evade the implications of speech controls, whether implemented by the government or corporations.

The First Amendment was never the exclusive definition of free speech. Free speech is viewed by many of us as a human right; the First Amendment only deals with one source for limiting it. Free speech can be undermined by private corporations as well as government agencies. This threat is even greater when politicians openly use corporations to achieve indirectly what they cannot achieve directly.

Key free speech figures practiced what they preached in challenging friends and foes alike. After playing a critical role with our independence, Thomas Paine did nothing but irritate the Framers with his words, including John Adams, who called him a “crapulous mass.”

Yet, free speech was a defining value for the framers (despite Adams’ later attacks on the right).  It was viewed as the very growth plate of democracy. As Benjamin Franklin stated in a letter on July 9, 1722:  “Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such thing as Wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without Freedom of Speech.”

The same anti-free speech voices were heard back then as citizens were told to fear free speech. It was viewed as a Siren’s call for tyranny. Franklin stated:

“In those wretched countries where a man cannot call his tongue his own, he can scarce call anything his own. Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech; a thing terrible to publick traytors.”

Yet, Alter assures readers that this is just due to a lack of knowledge by Musk and a misunderstanding of why censorship is a natural and good thing:

“Tech titans often have a different understanding of speech than the rest of the world because most trained as engineers, not as writers or readers, and a lack of a humanities education might make them less attuned to the social and political nuances of speech.”

It appears that Alter’s humanities education in college allows her to see “nuances” that escape the rest of us, including some of us who are not “trained as engineers.”

Just for the record, Alter has a degree in English Language and Literature/Letters (Harvard). Musk has his undergraduate degrees not in engineering but a Bachelor of Arts degree in physics and a Bachelor of Science degree in economics (both from the University of Pennsylvania). None of these degrees bestow any basis for claiming superior knowledge of constitutional law or human rights.

Indeed, no degree offers such determinative authority.  Some of the most anti-free speech figures in our history have law degrees. A degree guarantees neither wisdom nor understanding. Many of the Framers were not legally trained but they had an innate sense and commitment to free speech.

James Madison warned us to be more on guard against such nuanced arguments: “There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

As Time, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and other media outlets align themselves with the anti-free speech movement, it is more important than ever for citizens to fight for this essential right. There is nothing nuanced in either this movement or its implications for this country.


159 thoughts on “Time Columnist Denounces Free Speech as a White Man’s “Obsession””

  1. Does this explain why there are so many autocracies in Africa?

  2. Writing this from the two fingered mobile device I’m forced to use in order to skirt my laptop IP address being banned and censored on this blog…

    Looking forward to how Turley is going to work the leaked Roe decision info into the pandering for white man’s free speech he does for the right on these pages.


    1. ..can someone explain why anyone who is too cowardly to have a ‘face’ to their reply deserves the privilege of stabbing someone in the back with false allegations..? and, btw, since when did ‘free speech’ become associated with race..? . what an absurd concoction…..

  3. To improve the quality of national discourse and problem-solving, it will take a very calm, focussed, and constructive dialog. I already see those necessary atmospherics being runined by the ad-hominization of the issue as folks run to their corners and take up defensive crouches.

    Getting the most productive results out of the 1st Amendment is a matter of fine-tuning. Amplification of the most strident, solopsistic voices isn’t going to accomplish anything.

    1. Adjustment to the quality of national discourse is not required. You can keep you censorship.

    2. Sounds like pseudo educated B.S. to me. Censor yourself if your up to it.

  4. So try this narrative, black people should not be allowed to speak freely.

  5. I think people are finally growing tired of, “If you aren’t a Democrat, you’re a racist!”

    Pound sand Democrat racists.

    1. They’ve never learned the lesson of ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’.

  6. “The answer, not surprisingly, is about race and privilege.”
    THE answer? or her answer? It’s not my answer.

    1. They think people of color don’t have the brains to care about free speech?

  7. You forgot the Magick word, They were all born jewish.
    Just like the writer of this article.

    The faith of God. Sadly, though, the faith of Samael, the Dragon too

    1. The last geniuses that blamed politics on genetics cost the world 20 million.

      Those are JINOS who have no connection to Judaism.

      And fools like you have no connection to our fight for freedom

      You’re as dangerous to our freedom as they are.

    2. Progressive Jews with a Twilight faith, Pro-Choice “secular” religion, and liberal ideology, who take a knee to mortal gods, goddesses, and other for secular benefits.

  8. If Charlotte Alter is her own example, a humanities education makes a person better able to say stuff and yet utterly clueless as to what gives her the right to say it.

    1. Obviously what she just said is worthless because her right to free speech was just cancelled.

  9. These nut jobs do not have the intelligence required to understand free speech or freedom. They are mind numbed robots just reciting the dogma they have fallen for.

  10. …or, more worryingly, Boys are Girls!

    Truly, when a culture cannot universally acknowlege and respect the most binary of objective realities, it is LOST!!

  11. “ As Time, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and other media outlets align themselves with the anti-free speech movement, it is more important than ever for citizens to fight for this essential right. There is nothing nuanced in either this movement or its implications for this country.”

    Nuance this: Only the second amendment guarantees the first.

  12. Elimating free speech is the first thing tyrants want . It’s the beginning where the ignorant obey and the end of a nation .

  13. So is wasn’t other races who wanted free speech along the way?

    I could’ve sworn that BLM wanted to be heard in Washington/Oregon with their CHOP/CHAZ stuff.

    I could’ve also sworn that in the 1950’s, when we put Korean’s in internment camps in America, they wanted to be heard.

    I certainly could’ve sworn that the NAACP, BLM and Black Panthers wanted their voices heard during the 2008 and 2012 elections. They were standing at the poles with weapons to ensure it.

    It’d be really nice if the donkeys would stop their race baiting tactics. It’s 2022, and blatantly obvious what they’re doing at this point.

  14. Time magazine is now owned by tech billionaire Marc Benioff (Salesforce), who is a trustee at the Davos WEF along with fellow billionaires Larry Fink (BlackRock) and David Rubenstein (Carlyle). Fink and Rubenstein are directors at the New York CFR, and Benioff is a CFR member.

    Nearly every key player on the “Biden team” is also a CFR member, including the secretaries of State, Treasury, Defense, Commerce and Homeland Security. Also the CIA director, Fed chairman, UN ambassador, and dozens more.

    1. What do these characters have in common ?
      Born Jewish (JINOs) , but They all serve the Left Hand Path.

      The invisible but powerful Trojan horse that America still fails to recognize.
      You can’t cover the Sun with your thumb.

      1. Yes, Winslow, many Jews stand out for many different things. For example, in the last 50 years, over 20 Jews have won a Nobel Prize for chemistry. Over two dozen won a Nobel Prize in physics. This type of intellect is repeated everywhere, so it isn’t surprising that Jews will be represented in an area you are unhappy with.

        Now that you can see that Jews are overrepresented in science, the arts and elsewhere, maybe you can better understand yourself.

        By the way, how many of the Henry Winslow clan have won Nobel Prizes or produced so much value?

        1. S, Meyer, you are correct to a point. It is not Jews, who have blessed mankind, but rather European Ashkenazi, which is my ancestry on my mother’s line. . Last time I looked, I don’t think there were any Moroccan or Yemeni Jews on that list. The Ashkenazi are without doubt the smartest people on the planet. Therefore, we will be overrepresented in all movements, to include those on the Right (e.g. Ben Shapiro, Mark Levine, Dennis Prager). I am a centrist populist, so I like some things that liberals and some things that conservatives do. But what annoys me most about liberal Ashkenazi is that they push this diversity on everyone else, while they themselves enjoy statistically significant, and I mean SIGNIFICANT overrepresentation in positions of political power and cultural influence. The word is called hypocrisy.

          1. I don’t know that the word to describe what you are saying is hypocrisy (there was a mismatch in your wording), though some might act hypocritically. Ashkenazi Jews are overrepresented as they are elsewhere. I’m not particularly eager to separate people in this fashion. It does little good, but Winslow was going down the wrong path.

            You can also divide the Ashkenazi Jew and see correlations based on religiosity.

        2. Unfortunately, 90% seem to make those 10% who are nobel winners, freedom lovers, etc., look really bad.

          1. It would help if you had a better understanding of the numbers and how to approach things you don’t understand. That is one mechanism behind anti-semitism, ignorance. Leftists are frustrating, whether Jewish, atheist, Catholic or other. It is leftism that is the problem. If it were the teachings of Judaism, then one might wonder why the most religious Jews, Orthodox Jews, are mostly on the right and Jews that claim or are closer to atheism are almost always on the left.

            Many on the left have given up religion leaving a void. Many turn to leftism, which is as faith-based a religion as any other, to satisfy that void. The difference is that many religions are trying to better humanity, while leftism is an experience that uses power and exploitation. All one has to do is look at the 20th century to see over 100 million killed (outside of war) so that the leftist leaders could remain in power.

  15. Frederick Douglass on Free Speech “That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants”

  16. Every time I here this wicked liberal crap, I think I’m in the twilight zone. Up is down, down is up.

      1. The Left is consumed with Their control of All National messaging…… I will not say control if Information, because that would imply some degree of fact….They, the Left, do not consider that necessary………

  17. The left is trapped by a depressing, dead end ideology built on a foundation of politically-motivated division and the brutal suppression of dissenting views. Democrats know political power is slipping through their fingers and that they are powerless to stop it. Americans are on the verge of taking back their country.

    Decrepit, dementia addled Joseph Robinette Biden and historically unqualified Kamala Harris, selected as a black woman who can be counted on to carry water for the progressive cause, are the face of an ever growing litany of policy failures. The 2020 BLM race riots. Americans’ lost faith in the integrity of the 2020 elections. A failed COVID policy led by political scientists at the CDC hell bent on draconian lockdowns and forced vaccinations. Biden’s humiliation in Afghanistan. A never-ending disaster at the Mexican border. Runaway energy prices fueled by a religious devotion to absurd green energy policies. The worst inflation in a generation wreaking havoc on the lives of millions of working class Americans, including still more millions of legal immigrants. The Russian invasion of the Ukraine enabled by Putin’s accurate assessment the Biden administration’s weakness. The list of failures is getting longer with each passing day. Is Biden even capable of serving out his term?

    On top of that, Americans are now learning about the worst political scandals in our history. The Clinton campaign, in collusion with the leftist media and politically motivated operatives in the government, carried out a years-long Russian collusion disinformation campaign of unprecedented in audacity to paralyze the Trump administration. A Biden family corruption scandal fueled by relationships with that very same Russia, the Ukraine, and China. Americans wonder how badly Biden, the man responsible for American lives and our policy in Ukraine, has been compromised and by whom. Just last week, we learned that the FBI abused its secret FISA powers to illegally surveil millions of Americans. The response? To argue that the number of warrantless surveillance cases is lower than it seems. They’re like the Anthony Fauci and CDC, only backwards. True progress would be a vaccine against government intrusion into Americans’ lives.

    As their world collapses around them, the left is lashing out like a wounded, panicked animal. The fervent leftists at Twitter are terrified they’ll lose their power to dictate the bounds of political discourse. That Twitter might return to a semblance of neutrality. Oh, the horror. And now, the Biden regime, in a move previewed by St. Barack last week, has established a Ministry of Truth under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security. A Ministry fronted by Nina “like Mary Poppins, but backed by the full power of the US security apparatus” Jankowicz, a poster child for the loony left if there every was one. With Kamala’s help, DHS succeeded in demonizing its own agents, but failed miserably in securing the border. But like death and taxes, Americans can be certain that the Ministry will be laser focused on stamping out speech they view as a threat to the left’s power. Except that the truth will always out.

    Americans really are taking back their country, one bit at a time. The election of Terry McAuliffe in Virginia. The acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse. Ron DeSantis’ courageous stand against the woke oligarchs at Disney. A rising tide of Hispanics voting Republican. Hundreds of millions of Americans of all races, religions and nationalities, unified by a shared vision for a stronger America. Each inspired by their own vision of hope and change.

    Yet the Democrats are terrified. Ironic, isn’t it?

    1. EDKH:

      “Americans really are taking back their country, one bit at a time. The election of Terry McAuliffe in Virginia.”
      In Virginia, it was Glenn Youngkin who beat “Terry!” as he liked to call himself. Terry was known as Governor McAwful around these parts when he first served and was suckceeded by Gov. Northam Carpetbagger and finally some sanity with our new Repub. Your point is no less valid.

  18. n the last couple of weeks I am seeing people write that the “younger generations” (Millennials and Gen Z) seem unable to think clearly, what passes for thought is muddled emotionalism.

    That seemed too pat and dismissive, until now. Clearly, Ms. Alter, with Harvard degree and distinguished journo parent (Jonathan Alter), could not think her way out of a paper bag with scissors in her hand.

  19. If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
    (Intended to be bolded)

  20. “If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

    George Orwell (pseudonym of Eric Arthur Blair) had great difficulty finding a publisher willing to release his famous fable “Animal Farm” because of its caustic allegory.

    He prepared a germane preface on the topic of freedom of the press. Yet, when he finally succeeded in finding a publisher, and the work was issued in 1945 by Secker and Warburg of London, the preface was not included.
    The preface was rediscovered in May 1971 among some books owned by Roger Senhouse, the former partner of publisher Fred Warburg, and it was placed into the Orwell Archive at University College London.

    The preface contained the following passage.
    Boldface added.

    “I know that the English intelligentsia have plenty of reason for their timidity and dishonesty, indeed I know by heart the arguments by which they justify themselves. But at least let us have no more nonsense about defending liberty against Fascism. If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. The common people still vaguely subscribe to that doctrine and act on it.”

    dennis hanna

    1. How “racist” of them to assume colored folk only desire tyrannical speech? To assume just because they “throw them a bone” that somehow freedom of speech isn’t essential. What’s wrong with these people? Sick AF!

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