The Left Needs Free Speech

Katha Pollitt in Dissent:

People who want to deplatform a speaker or deep-six a book love to point out that the First Amendment only applies to government. But socially and culturally, the notion that people have a right to say what they think and read what they want is much broader than that. That is why common dismissals—you can still get the book online, the speaker has plenty of other ways to express herself, books go out of print all the time—sound flip.

Deplatforming a speaker who has been chosen through the accepted university channels, or attacking Powell’s Books for selling Andy Ngô’s Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy, means you lose the high ground. Now you look just like your enemies. And what have you won, really? Powell’s doesn’t put Ngô’s books on the shelves, but it sells it online. Charles Murray gets to look like the victim of a mob at Middlebury. Josh Hawley, like Woody Allen, takes his book to another publisher.

When you ban a book or shut down a speaker, what you’re really saying is that you need to protect people from ideas you disagree with.

More here.