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Freedom of Speech

2,573 words

Author’s Note:

This is the text of the speech I gave at the Erkenbrand Conference in the Netherlands on Saturday, November 3, 2018. I wish to thank the Erkenbrand organizers and everyone in attendance.    

I’ve got good news and bad news. 

The good news is that everyone likes to get good news. It is easy to bring good news and easy to receive it.

The bad news is that nobody likes to get bad news. It is hard to bring bad news and hard to receive it. Receiving bad news is upsetting, which is why bringing bad news is difficult. Sometimes one has to deal with tears and anger.

But bad news is always more important than good news, because if something is going wrong you need to know. Bad news is not a problem. Bad news is one’s awareness of a problem. And no matter how bad a problem is, it is usually better to know than not know, because knowing about a problem is the first step towards fixing it. The only situation in which it might be better not to know is if a problem is insoluble, so that knowing about it simply adds to the problem rather than helps alleviate it.

Because bad news is upsetting, people often respond to it irrationally. Sometimes they would prefer not to know, even though you can’t solve problems you don’t know about. Sometimes they misplace their emotions. Instead of getting upset with the problem itself and seeking to solve it, they get upset with the bad news and seek to punish the bearer. But this is foolish, because society works best when information flows freely, and the most important information is bad news.

Because receiving bad news is upsetting and giving it is risky, dealing with bad news is a test of character. Those who receive bad news have to master their emotions, for if you dissolve into tears or explode into anger, you are making it more burdensome to bring you bad news in the future, which means that you might not receive news about a problem until it is too late to rectify it. Bringing bad news is also a test of character, because one always risks unpleasant personal consequences, but sometimes short-run personal risks are necessary to secure the greater good in the long run. But since the bearers of bad news are doing us all a favor, it is incumbent upon us to reduce the risks to the absolute minimum. This is why freedom of speech needs to be a right enshrined in the fundamental law of every land.

One does not need the right to freedom of speech to tell people what they want to hear. Freedom of speech is the freedom to tell people what they don’t want to hear — but need to hear anyway. A right to freedom of speech, moreover, is not necessary when one bears bad news to powerless people, for instance one’s children, one’s students, or one’s employees. After all, they can’t punish you for your good deed. We need the right to freedom of speech when we bear bad news to people who are more powerful than us — people who need bad news to make important decisions, and people who have the power to punish the bearers of bad news. But they can’t punish us if free speech is our right. Our rights trump their anger.

The two most important things for White Nationalists today are:

  1. Breaking down the taboo against white identity politics, i.e., the idea that it is immoral for whites — and only whites — to take our own side in ethnic conflicts.
  2. Maintaining our freedom of speech long enough to destroy that taboo.

White Nationalists are the bearers of bad news: that diversity is not a strength, but a source of alienation, conflict, and violence; that modern politics and morals have put our race on a path to extinction; and the only solution is to abandon liberalism, hedonistic individualism, globalization, and multiculturalism and bring back healthier, pro-white policies and values. We are changing people’s minds, and the establishment is powerless to change them back. Thus they are trying to censor us.

How can we deal with this threat?

In the short run, we need an internet Bill of Rights to protect dissidents from censorship and deplatforming. Beyond that, we need an across-the-board ban on politically-correct terms of service and employment, so we are free to dissent without threatening our livelihoods and social capital. If we can get such legislation in place, I am confident that we can win, and sooner rather than later. We will change so many minds that we will reach a tipping point. The taboo against white identity politics will melt away. Pro-white values will pervade the culture. Eventually we can mobilize enough support to overthrow the existing political establishment and replace it with a pro-white one.

But who told us that this would be safe and easy? White Nationalists are battling against the most all-encompassing soft-totalitarian system in history. It is a system bent on nothing short of the genocide of the white race, a goal so evil that when Plato and Aristotle drew up their lists of bad regimes, it was simply inconceivable. To overthrow this system, we might have to risk much more than our livelihoods. We might have to risk our very lives.

In the long run, though, we are probably going to win even if we don’t get an internet Bill of Rights. Censorship can slow us down, but it can’t really stop us. Already people are laying the foundations for a new internet that will be free of the choke points where censors perch. Thus, ultimately, the only way to prevent us from getting our message out online will be to shut down the web entirely. But the establishment cannot contemplate that, because the global political and economic system depends on the Internet.

The establishment — or at least the tiny stratum that is fully aware of the present threat of white identity politics — has the same relationship to the Internet as a junkie to his habit. He knows that it will kill him in the long run. But very few junkies overcome their addiction because they cannot bear the short term pain, even if it is the price of long-term survival.

Human beings might best be defined as the intermittently rational animal, and one of the most pervasive forms of irrationality is pursuing short-term self-indulgence at the expense of long-term well-being. This is how nations and individuals get into debt; this is how economic, demographic, and ecological crises arise. Fortunately for us, it is also how the system will fail to do the only thing that can stop the rise of White Nationalism — until it is too late.

So be of good cheer. If we continue to get out message out, we will win. And internet censorship cannot stop that process. It can only make it slower and more difficult.

Once we win, what should  our attitude be toward free speech? Some White Nationalists see free speech as merely a means to take power. I wish to argue that free speech is something that we will want to keep after we win.

Freedom of speech is a value because we are all fallible and vulnerable. Fallibility means that we can make mistakes. We can have false or inadequate pictures of the world which can be improved upon. Vulnerability simply means that unforeseeable contingencies can upset our best laid plans. To overcome mistakes and misfortunes, we first need to know about them. That means that we need the freedom to be the bearers of bad news. We need freedom of speech, because it makes genuine intellectual and social progress possible.

A society that lacks the ability to change lacks the ability to preserve itself. But a society can’t change if it lacks the ability to communicate bad news to its leaders. This is why we should want to protect freedom of speech, even when we are the ones in power.

Why do people oppose freedom of speech? There are two main reasons.

First, some people think they already have the truth. This truth is, moreover, absolute: it is complete and not subject to revision. Any contrary position is, therefore, a falsehood. This is why religions in the Abrahamic tradition — including Marxism — have opposed freedom of speech. They claim to be absolutely true. Therefore, all other religions are false — or, at best, semblances of the truth — and must be suppressed.

Second, people with a vested interest in a given political and economic system don’t like criticism because it threatens their power and peace of mind.

Both views are irrational.

We all make mistakes. We all suffer misfortunes. But only some of us are destroyed by them. Others learn from them and overcome them. But, again, the first step to overcoming a problem is knowing that one has it.

One of the most powerful ideas of Plato’s Republic is that political regimes and personality types have analogous structures, so the city can throw light on the soul, and the soul can throw light on the city.

Years ago, I read a listicle on signs that your boss might be a narcissist. The item that made the strongest impression on me is: Narcissists tend to punish bearers of bad news.

Defining narcissism is a tricky thing, because we live in a society in which all manifestations of honor, especially male honor, have been pathologized as narcissism. There is nothing wrong with thinking well of yourself and demanding that others treat you with respect. There is nothing wrong with taking pleasure in praise for your achievements. There is nothing wrong with high self-esteem, as long as it is based on objective merits.

Narcissism is a problem, though, when one puts preserving a positive self-image ahead of positive self-actualization.

Everyone makes mistakes. The path to self-actualization requires that we acknowledge our mistakes, take responsibility for them, learn what we can from them, and then rise above them. The narcissist, however, seeks to preserve his positive self-image at all costs. So when confronted with his mistakes, he denies them and doubles down on them. Or he blames others for his mistakes. Or he goes on the attack, particularly against the bearer of bad news. Anything, really, to avoid taking responsibility and acknowledging that he might have some room to learn and grow.

Narcissists may be highly attractive people. They may have enormous potential. Unfortunately, they think they are perfect just the way they are, and such complacency is deadly to personal growth. So as time passes, you will notice that narcissists seldom actualize their potential. Instead, they come off as dilettantes with a smooth patter. Older narcissists also seem increasingly puerile when compared to their contemporaries.

Narcissists also have difficulty maintaining friendships. Friends tell you what you need to hear — even if it is painful. Flatterers tell you what you want to hear. Friends aid self-actualization because they will tell you bad news. Flatterers encourage complacency because they only tell you how wonderful you are. Friends threaten a narcissist’s positive self-image, whereas flatterers reinforce it.

Obviously it is disastrous to put narcissists into positions of power, because they end up making important decisions based on false or incomplete information fed to them by flatterers. It is no way to run a society.

Today’s censorious establishment is narcissism writ large.

By censoring and suppressing White Nationalist ideas, the establishment changes almost nothing. We like to flatter ourselves that the White Nationalist movement is the driving force behind the rise of white racial consciousness. Our enemies share the same illusion. But the main forces behind the rise of White Nationalism are the moral outrages and catastrophic consequences of multiculturalism and white dispossession. People are coming to us in droves less because our movement is pulling them than because the system is pushing them. Which means that white racial consciousness would continue to rise even if White Nationalists were completely silenced.

Our anti-white oppressors, of course, do not see it that way, for that would threaten their positive self-image. The rise of white identity politics cannot be their fault. So it has to be our fault. They think white identity politics only exists because silver-tongued deceivers like Jared Taylor and Millennial Woes have Twitter accounts. Which is why they conclude that censorship will actually stop us. But White Nationalists are not the cause of ethnic conflict. We are just the bearers of bad news — and advocates of a workable alternative.

Censoring White Nationalists online does not stop people from noticing things, drawing conclusions, and formulating dissenting thoughts. It does not prevent people from discretely communicating their thoughts face to face or organizing in the real world. All censorship does is render the full extent of dissent invisible. This makes it difficult for the establishment to make rational political decisions. Censorship does not make the system stronger; it only makes it blinder, brittler, and more vulnerable. Advocates of censorship are like people who remove the battery from their smoke detector because they are tired of false alarms. But when the house catches fire, you need to know sooner than later.

If I were running a society, I would like to know who the dissidents are and what they think. So I would make freedom of speech a fundamental political right. If the dissidents are right, we can learn from them. If they are wrong, we can instruct them. If they are dangerously and stubbornly wrong, we can keep an eye on them.

But if we win, are we really going to give our enemies the freedom to regroup and rebrand, then lead our people back down the road to extinction once more? Don’t we want to shut their dirty, lying mouths forever?

There are two points here.

First, if we do come to power, we will have to purge the existing institutions. We will not leave wealth, influence, and political power in the hands of implacable enemies. We will take away their platforms in politics, the media, and the academy. We will just give them early retirements and a lifetime ban on addressing the public. Then we will fill their positions with people who are loyal to us. But that is a far cry from instituting a regime of intellectual censorship.

Second, even if there is a great purge of the existing system, no matter what kind of society you have, in every generation, there will be aberrant personalities who are drawn to ideas that threaten social order. The best way of preventing bad ideas and institutional subversion from taking root again is not to create a world where people have never heard of such things. Instead, we need to create a world where everyone has heard of them. A proper education imparts sound information as well as healthy values and tastes. Such an education will inoculate us against bad ideas. We don’t have to censor bad ideas if we are immune to them.

Evil will always be with us. But we need not fear it if we are immune to its charms. We should keep evil around, but keep it powerless, as a kind of memento mori, a death’s head at the feast, so we have a constant reminder of the hell on earth we will vanquish — but only if we start using, and defending, our freedom of speech today.

Related

13 Comments

  1. A.B.
    Posted November 12, 2018 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Mr Johnson,

    A bit off topic, but what are your views on the second amendment of the US Constitution and the freedom to possess and deal in arms?

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted November 13, 2018 at 1:15 am | Permalink

      I am for it.

  2. dominique_malaparte
    Posted November 6, 2018 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I suffer from narcissistic personality disorder. I constantly seek to recreate conditions of my mother’s womb, consciously and subconsciously. But I’m also a white nationalist. Could the latter somehow redeem the former?

    Does this not implicate Rousseau? Is it not a question of loving “what is truly beautiful more than what is deformed”? The “beautiful” qua this “great object”–the city–or in the instant case, the European race–the love of which enlarges and elevates the soul.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted November 7, 2018 at 12:24 am | Permalink

      Rousseau’s whole educational and civilizational project was to try to undermine the conditions that he thought created something like a narcissistic personality disorder. He was a nurturist — man is “perfectible” thus malleable — and thought that parents who did not give their children unconditional love and support, but instead created an environment in which the child’s vital needs depended upon pleasing the whims of the parents, created a mentality that was dependent upon manipulating other people rather than capable of making its own way by understanding objective reality and manipulating nature.

  3. Charlles Andersen
    Posted November 6, 2018 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Traditional and conservative movements have also been called reactionary movements because they are supposedly provoked by progress, of course look at where all the progress is bringing the world today, is it going to be civil unrest or world peace? The funny thing is the ones who provoke the most dischord say the word peace the most.

  4. Vehmgericht
    Posted November 6, 2018 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    The third paragraph from the end clearly urges white ethnostate to deplatform its dissidents. If I am not misreading matters, that would be for the sake of public safety, in the usual authoritarian sense of the term. Isn’t that precisely the position of the leftists, albeit they proscribe as abominable an opposite set of ideas?

    What I think is missing from the ‘free speech’ debate is sense of proportion and responsibility. We all agree presumably that directly inciting a mob to violence is both unwise and unjust. Now because the white nationalist critique of the present centre-left dispensation is radical it is also dangerous. It is thus one thing to conduct learned and courteous discussions at CounterCurrents, but quite another if overly manichaean rhetoric elsewhere spurs a madman to slaughter innocent persons.

    Let us bear in mind that the goal is not a revenge directed at the litany of traitors and undesirables, but the continuity of our own people along with the nations they founded. I would argue that well-argued factual rebuttals of the globalisers and multiculturalists advances that cause, whereas harping on the perfidy or barbarism of traditional enemies will only set it back.

    • Rob Bottom
      Posted November 6, 2018 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

      Recently Hungary banned gender studies, and the Japanese government convinced almost half of its universities to drop the humanities and social sciences. If 50% or more of studies cannot be replicated, does it still constitute science? These professors demand their students regurgitate their warped views if they want to succeed, and actively distort or suppress contradictory evidence. Allowing them to mold future generations to continue to propagate their lies is the greater sin.

  5. Wanred
    Posted November 6, 2018 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    One of the things that brought me over was the strange sight of of people being called ‘Neo-Nazis’ passionately standing up for the freedom of speech and those who claimed to bring about a ‘free’ society actually sought to suppress said freedom more and more because criticizing immigration became inconvenient to them. Then being male became inconvenient to them and somewhere along the lines, being white became inconvenient as well. I now wonder what else will become inconvenient to them but at least I will have no further part in the destruction of our remaining freedoms.

    So thank you Greg Johnson for spending your time so tirelessly to reach out to us.

  6. Kuwait Kool Aid
    Posted November 6, 2018 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Is it possible to get this Freedom of Speech article in podcast form to be listened to?

  7. ScribblerG
    Posted November 6, 2018 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Well said. I’ve been lurking for a while and have made a comment here and there. I’m probably like many people who are awakening to the disaster of the overdone diversity of the West, but are also quite bothered by White Nationalism as a concept. I’ve been diving in for a while, and am unsure as to whether I’m in agreement that white nationalism solves the problem.

    My fundamental question is this: What ‘white nation’ are you referring to? I know this has been asked many times, and I’ve seen some different takes on it and I think it’s much easier for a native a European nation. Our founders in the U.S. were Dutch and English – two very different ethnicities united by Enlightenment values and Christianity. I’m also struck by the assimilation that occurred in the U.S. after the immigration freeze of the ’20s. The ’50s monoculture doesn’t arise without that, I think, as well, the social outcomes for blacks in the U.S. were much more like what we saw in the white working class.

    It makes me think something here as an identity is possible other than whiteness. I also have huge issues with many white people and don’t want to share a nation with them. I’m sure you’ve written on this or have other resources. If you have a sec to drop a link as you did on my last question, I’d appreciate it. Regardless, thanks for the very thoughtful and penetrating commentary. I only wish more people got past their biases and listened to this POV.

    • Ozark Recluse
      Posted November 6, 2018 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

      “I also have huge issues with many white people and don’t want to share a nation with them.”

      My trek to White Nationalism has had more to do with my visceral anger at Jews and their perfidy than with an emotion of love toward my fellow Whites, half of whom haven’t the slightest concern for our survival as a distinct race, openly hate us, want us dead, and actively ally themselves with our enemies. They are traitors, they disgust me more than the Jews, and I want them nowhere near my homeland.

  8. Jud Jackson
    Posted November 6, 2018 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Brilliant Article Greg,

    This article reminded me of John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty” in which he defended freedom of speech and thought. If I remember correctly, you should never be afraid of having your ideas challenged, because, if you are right, you can show why your opponents are wrong, and if you are wrong, you can change your position to that of your opponents and come to gain true belief.

  9. Posted November 6, 2018 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    brilliant. profound. here are thoughts and concerns many of us have long considered but, for whatever reasons, never fully developed in our minds; thoughts and concerns now written in a large, bold, understandable manner. later today I will reread this, and reread if necessary, until I fully absorb it all.

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