Je Vous Dis, Merde! 18: Free Speech in The Age of Trump

Free speech is the liberty of unfettered expression in opinion, thought, and lifestyle, hence the liberty to engage in what John Stuart Mill called “experiments in living,” and above all the liberty to express edgy, challenging beliefs and ideas by means of talk, writing, or any other communicative medium.

Free speech has many important values, including scientific truth, aesthetic beauty, profound artistic or philosophical insight, and authentic self-realization — and their pursuit.

But the highest value of free speech is manifest when we exercise the liberty to engage in peaceful criticism of and protests against violations of respect for human dignity and human oppression, and in peaceful resistance against immoral uses of power.

This kind of free speech isn’t merely “speaking truth to power,” because it is also ethically-driven and peacefully rebellious.

It’s emancipatory speech.

There are three serious problems about free speech in The Age of Trump-POTUS.

The first serious problem is that by virtue of his Presidential Oath of Office, which he took on 20 January 2017, Donald Trump is required to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”; and the First Amendment to the US Constitution says that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”; yet Trump tweeted this on 17 February 2017:

“The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”

In other words, Trump spoke out against the freedom of the press, thereby violating his Oath of Office.

The second serious problem is that, following in Trump’s faulty footsteps, others have also begun to restrict and suppress freedom of speech.

In a New York Times article on 29 March 2017, “Hungary Plan That Could Shutter Soros’s University Is Called ‘Political Vandalism’,” Palko Karasz writes this:

A law put forward by the Hungarian government would force a university founded by the Hungarian-American financier and philanthropist George Soros to shut its doors, the school’s top official said on Wednesday.

The move, according to observers, was the latest development in a crackdown on free expression and liberal values under Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has embraced President Trump and vociferously denounced Mr. Soros, a billionaire who is a frequent target of attacks by the right-wing news media in both the United States and Europe.

The school, the Central European University, opened in Mr. Soros’s native Budapest in 1991, not long after the fall of communism and the start of Hungary’s uneven transition to democracy. The school is known as a center for research in the social sciences, with programs led by internationally prominent educators.

The university has also given a platform to dissident voices, particularly in the period since Mr. Orban, who helped popularize the term “illiberal democracy,” came to power in 2010. Proponents of illiberal democracy place majority rule over civil liberties and minority rights, and they say that financiers like Mr. Soros are part of an elite capitalist class that puts cosmopolitan values over national interests.

This article was followed up on 2 April 2017 by Michael Ignatieff’s New York Times Op Ed piece, “Academic Freedom, Under Threat in Europe.”

And in a Reuters article on 30 March 2017, “U.N. Experts See ‘Alarming’ U.S. Trend Against Free Speech, Protest,” Tom Miles writes this:

Nineteen U.S. states have introduced bills that would curb freedom of expression and the right to protest since Donald Trump’s election as president, an “alarming and undemocratic” trend, U.N. human rights investigators said on Thursday.

Concerns for free speech in the United States have risen in part because of the Republican Trump’s antagonistic relations with prominent U.S. media, which he has branded “the enemy of the American people” as it has reported on policy missteps and dysfunction in his administration.

The push for stricter laws on expression has come as Trump’s liberal foes have pursued public protest against his policies on issues ranging from immigration to abortion and climate change.

Maina Kiai and David Kaye, independent U.N. experts on freedom of peaceful assembly and expression respectively, said in a statement that the state bills were incompatible with international human rights law.

“The trend also threatens to jeopardize one of the United States’ constitutional pillars: free speech,” they said in a statement, calling for action to reverse such legislation.

“From the Black Lives Matter movement, to the environmental and Native American movements in opposition to the Dakota Access oil pipeline, and the Women’s Marches, individuals and organizations across (American) society have mobilized in peaceful protests,” Kiai and Kaye said.

They said it was their fundamental right to do so, but that bills in Republican-governed states like Indiana, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Missouri sought to stop them exercising that right.

And the third serious problem is that, clearly, neither Trump nor his followers — not to mention many other people — have the slightest idea what the moral and political limits of free speech are.

The only moral and political limits of free speech are:

(i) incitement to or triggering of violence,

(ii) slander (i.e, malicious, false or at best half-true, injurious speech) about individuals, and

(iii) coercion, i.e., the immoral use of power to force others to obey our will.

In other words, the only moral and political limits of free speech are the very things that give free speech its highest value when we use it peacefully to criticize them, protest against them, and resist them, by means of emancipatory speech:

(i) violations of respect for human dignity,

(ii) human oppression, and

(iii) immoral uses of power.

This means that merely being OFFENDED by someone else’s speech is NOT a moral or political limitation on their free speech.

Thus profane or scatalogical speech, erotic or otherwise sexual speech, shockingly religious or shockingly anti-religious speech, “politically incorrect” speech of any kind, politically subversive speech, and emancipatory speech of all kinds, are ALL fully morally and politically permissible, provided that this speech does not include incitement to or triggering of violence, malicious slander of individuals, or coercion.

So this little essay is a perfect example of morally and politically permissible free speech, and more specifically, of emancipatory speech.

To Trump, his followers, and all other enemies of free speech,

Je vous dis, merde!

***

“Je vous dis, merde!” (literally, “I say to you: shit!” or more loosely, “You’re so full of shit!”) is a morally and politically defiant slogan invented and first published by an early 20th-century Catalan anarchist who used the nom de guerre “Miguel Almereyda.” Almereyda, who was murdered in a French prison in 1917, was also the father of the famous French film director Jean Vigo, who immortalized the same slogan in his breakthrough 1933 film, Zéro de conduite, aka Zero for Conduct.

Here is the seven-part platform of The Wake The Fuck Up! Party , aka The WTFU Party —

1. Universal Respect for Human Dignity (URHD):

· Human dignity is the absolute non-denumerable moral value of every member of humanity, and everyone ought to try wholeheartedly to treat everyone else in a way that is sufficient to meet the demands of respect for human dignity, especially including (i) alleviating or ending human oppression, and (ii) actively engaging in mutual aid and mutual kindness.

2. Universal Basic Income (UBI):

· Anyone 21 years of age or over and living permanently in the USA, who has a personal yearly income of $50,000.00 USD or less, and who is capable of requesting their UBI, would receive $25,000.00 USD per year, with no strings attached.

3. A 15-Hour Workweek for Understaffed Non-Bullshit Jobs (FHW-for-UNBJs):

· Anyone 18 years of age or older who is living permanently in the USA, who has completed a high school education, and is mentally and physically capable of doing a job, would be offered an eco-job, paying a yearly wage of $25,000.00 USD, for fifteen hours of work (three 5-hour days) per week.

Thus anyone 21 years of age or older with a high-school degree and who is also mentally and physically capable of working, would have a guaranteed yearly income of at least $50,000.00 USD if they chose to do an eco-job.

The rationale behind the three-year gap between (i) being offered an eco-job at 18 and (ii) beginning to receive their UBI at 21, is that every young adult who has finished high school will have the option of pursuing three years of part-time or full-time free higher education without credentialing, i.e., for its own sake, after high school, before making longer-term decisions about what I call job-work and life-work.

***

Here are a few more details about UBI and eco-jobs.

(i) The UBI is to be paid by a monthly stipend check.

(ii) Eco-job income is not taxed.

(iii) For all individual yearly incomes of $50,000.00 USD or under, no tax will be levied; hence for someone receiving their UBI and also doing an eco-job, no income tax will be levied.

(iv) For all individual non-eco-job incomes, for every $1.00 USD earned above the standard UBI of $25,000.00 USD, the monthly UBI stipend is reduced by 50 cents, until the recipient’s UBI is reduced to zero; hence for those individuals with yearly non-eco-job incomes equal to or under $50,000.00 USD, the maximum UBI + non-eco-job income sum is always $50,000.00 USD.

(v) For all individual yearly incomes over $50,000.00 USD, for every $10,000.00 USD earned, that surplus income is taxed at the rate of 1%, with the highest surplus income tax rate being 50%; hence the maximum surplus 50% tax rate starts at individual yearly incomes of $550,000.00 USD, and applies to all higher surplus incomes.

***

4. Universal Free Higher Education Without Credentialing (HEWC):

· Everyone would be offered, beyond their high-school education, a free, three-year minimum, optional (but also open-ended beyond those three years, as a further option), part-time or full-time universal public education program in the so-called “liberal arts,” and also in some of the so-called “STEM” fields, including the humanities, the fine arts, the social sciences, mathematics, and the natural sciences.

· For many or even most people, their HEWC would fall between (i) the end of their high school education at age 18 and the corresponding availability of eco-jobs, and (ii) the beginning of their UBI at age 21.

· But HEWC would be open to anyone with a high school degree, no matter how old they are, provided they are mentally and physically capable of doing the program.

5. Universal Free Healthcare (UFH):

· Every human person living permanently in the USA will receive free lifelong healthcare.

6. 2-Phase Universal Open Borders (2P-UOB):

· Phase 1: Starting in 2021, there will be universal open borders with Canada and Mexico, and everyone who moves across those borders and then claims residence in the USA, will receive temporary or permanent residence in the USA and also full membership in the system of UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs/eco-jobs, and UFH in the USA, with the precise number of new temporary or permanent residents to depend on the current availability of (i) adequate funding for UBI, eco-jobs, and UFH , and (ii) adequate living accommodation, in the USA, provided that all new residents also fully respect the human dignity of everyone else in the USA and elsewhere in the world.

· Phase 2: Also starting in 2021, the USA, Canada, and Mexico will collectively form a Global Refugee Consortium (GRC), with three-way open borders to any political refugee, economic refugee, or asylum seeker from anywhere in the world (aka “global refugees”), who will receive temporary or permanent residence in the USA, Canada, or Mexico, and also full membership in the system of UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs/eco-jobs, and UFH in the three GRC countries, with the precise number of new temporary or permanent residents, and the precise distribution of new residents among the three members of the GRC, to depend on the current availability of (i) funding for UBI, eco-jobs, and UFH , and (ii) adequate living accommodation, in the three GRC countries, provided that all new residents also fully respect the human dignity of everyone else in the GRC and elsewhere in the world.

7. Universal No-Guns (UNG):

· No one in the USA, including police, internal security forces of all kinds, armies, and intelligence forces of all kinds, has the moral right to possess or use guns of any kind, for any purpose whatsoever, because the primary function of guns is coercion, and coercion is immoral.

· UNG would be implemented by repealing the Second Amendment to the US Constitution in 2021 and then universally banning the possession or use of guns thereafter.

I’m also assuming that Universal Public Education (UPE) — universal free access for all human persons of any age to good public education up to the end of high school — already exists in most countries, and needs no further justification.

Where UPE does not already exist, it would automatically become a necessary part of the seven-part WTFU Party package, thereby making it a eight-part package.

Mr Nemo, Nowhere, NA, 31 March 2017

The WTFU Party is a sub-project of the online mega-project Philosophy Without Borders, which is home-based on Patreon here.

Formerly Captain Nemo. A not-so-very-angry, but still unemployed, full-time philosopher-nobody.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store