One of the most frustrating aspects for the free speech community these days is when anti-free speech advocates claim to be champions of free speech before calling for censorship. That was the case last year when Barack Obama bizarrely called himself “pretty close to a First Amendment absolutist” before calling for sweeping censorship and media controls over expression. This week, it was NYU Communications professor Gabrielle Gambrell who prefaced a call for censorship by assuring the audience on Dr. Phil that “I am extremely in favor of the First Amendment.” It turns out that she loves free speech as much as a glutton loves his lunch. She proceeded to carve up free speech as an impediment to self-improvement through censorship.
Gambrell gleefully agreed that people should be fired for expressing “harmful” thoughts and that “we have seen things that happen when social media is not censored.” People should be punished, in her view, when they express thoughts that “can hurt people, where there’s negative intent, there should be censorship.” That includes people deemed to be racist or homophobic:
“In some instances where I see viral videos where someone is clearly racist or homophobic or anything nasty and then the video goes viral, they lose their job, I’m like ‘score’ because that person does not deserve to have this title which can impact certain communities, they need to work on themselves.”
She added a note that sounded like a pitch for people to embrace censorship like the latest self-help fad. It turns out that it can be good for those who are fired and silenced: “What I do truly believe in is redemption. There’s opportunity to learn, to be better, to not harm people.”
She is not the first to make such a pitch. Facebook even tried a massive creepy commercial campaign to convince the public to embrace censorship.
Likewise, other academics have voiced pro-censorship views (though they later denied it). Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith and University of Arizona law professor Andrew Keane Woods declared that “China was right” on the need for censorship of the Internet. They declared that “in the great debate of the past two decades about freedom versus control of the network, China was largely right and the United States was largely wrong.”
Many on the left are seeking to preserve censorship by surrogate on social media and seeking to prevent the publication of books by those with whom they disagree, including a book by Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. With corporate censorship threatened, many leaders like Hillary Clinton are turning to good old-fashioned state censorship.
Indeed, President Joe Biden has questioned how citizens will know the truth without censors framing what the truth is on social media and the Internet.
Gambrell is only the latest cheerful advocate of censorship, seeking to convince citizens that limiting their free speech is a good thing even for those punished for their views. Indeed, being fired for harmful thoughts in her view is character building, almost therapeutic.
Of course, I find professors advocating censorship to be “negative” and “harmful.” Would it be therapeutic for me to launch a campaign to fire Gambrell?
Of course not. It would be an attack on her free speech rights and further reduce the diversity of thought on our campuses. Yet, the left has adopted these rationalizations for their intolerance and orthodoxy.
Many on the left still cannot accept that they are the new censors, the intolerant voices seeking to silence opposing views. They have become the new McCarthyites in seeking to block publications, purge faculties, and control speech. Yet, that is hardly a virtual signaling status. The only option is to pretend that it is not censorship to censor people or that censorship is actually a good and wholesome thing.
Fortunately, the multimillion dollar campaign by Facebook did not produce a call from the public to be censored by their corporate overlords. Rather, not only are users signing up in record numbers, but a recent poll shows a majority of Americans “support Elon Musk’s ongoing efforts to change Twitter to a more free and transparent platform.”
It turns out that the pitch of “a better life through less freedom” is not selling well with the public. However, it clearly is the rage on many faculties.