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Liberal Values

Entry 2032, on 2020-03-08 at 21:55:18 (Rating 4, Politics)

Social media is a source of major conflict around the world today. Many people think it is the ultimate cause of a lot of violence and intolerance, because of the extreme opinions being presented and spread on-line. And some people think that the answer to solving violence in the world is to repress certain types of speech there. Our prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has taken this path with her "Christchurch Call", and leaders of social media platforms, especially Facebook and Twitter, have recently faced intense interrogation by politicians in the US.

On a similar theme, I read an article on the "Medium" web site today which was critical of Facebook leader, Mark Zuckerberg's, apparent retreat from what the article's author called "liberal values". The basic problem seemed to be that Zuckerberg supported free speech but the writer thought that true "liberal values" involved repressing speech the "liberals" didn't like.

Like most of the ill-informed commentary on this subject, the writer didn't bother to say what exactly these values were, or to justify them in any way. Apparently it is easier just to keep that sort of concept poorly defined so that it can be warped to fit whatever political perspective you want to advance.

So let's look at the word "liberal" to see what the values might be. Here's the Oxford Dictionary definition...

liberal (adjective)
1 willing to respect or accept behaviour or opinions different from one's own; open to new ideas: liberal views towards divorce. favourable to or respectful of individual rights and freedoms: liberal citizenship laws. (in a political context) favouring individual liberty, free trade, and moderate political and social reform: a liberal democratic state. (Liberal) relating to Liberals or a Liberal Party, especially (in the UK) relating to the Liberal Democrat party: the Liberal leader. Theology: regarding many traditional beliefs as dispensable, invalidated by modern thought, or liable to change.
2 [attributive] (of education) concerned with broadening a person's general knowledge and experience, rather than with technical or professional training: the provision of liberal adult education.
3 (especially of an interpretation of a law) broadly construed or understood; not strictly literal: they could have given the 1968 Act a more liberal interpretation.
4 given, used, or occurring in generous amounts: liberal amounts of wine had been consumed. (of a person) giving generously: Sam was too liberal with the wine.

It seems to me that definition 1 is the most appropriate in this case, so let's have a look at that.

First, there is the idea of being respectful to other people's opinions. This article seems to encourage the complete opposite attitude to that, because these "liberal values" seem to be primarily aimed at shutting down alternative opinions. Clearly this author's advocacy for censorship is not a true liberal value.

Second, is the respect for individual rights and freedoms. Again, this article seems to encourage the complete opposite of that, because these "liberals" want to restrict the right and freedom to present an opinion, which is surely the most fundamental right of all.

Third is the need to favour individual liberty, free trade, and moderate political and social reform. Again, this particular interpretation of "liberal" seem to totally fail on this, because it specifically advocates restriction of individual freedoms, and its idea of reform is anything but moderate.

Finally is the preference for a Liberal Party. But there is no party specifically called that in the US (where the article was published), and the word liberal was always spelled with a small "l", so I'm guessing this is not the context they were alluding to.

So it seems that on every level the ideals that the so-called "liberals" this writer is representative of, are in no way liberal. In fact, "fascist" would be a word I would be more tempted to use, although traditionally that word refers to right-wing, rather than left-wing authoritarianism.

But you might ask at this point, am I not against the beliefs of extreme groups, such as white supremacists, Nazis, and fascists? Well, sure, I disagree with most of the beliefs of those groups, but does that give me the right to stop them offering their opinions? As long as those opinions don't extend to specific encouragement to acts of violence then I think they should be expressed. And, if we are going to discourage those extreme opinions from being conveyed, I think we should be doing the same to equally extreme ideas on the left.

Have a look at the sort of rhetoric this "journalist" is using in his article: "...Mark Zuckerberg has come to represent in Silicon Valley's faux appeal to progressive values. Instead of perceiving the long-lasting damage it's done to global democracy as deeply abhorrent and working to fix it, Facebook would rather continue to hide behind free speech platitudes and the faint promise of betterment with nothing concrete to bear it out."

Actually, I think a very good case could be made to say that it is fake liberals like him who are damaging global democracy. It is them who are repressing free speech, a fundamental requirement for the success of a democracy. It is them who are pursuing an extreme course of political correctness which is pushing moderates towards the right. It is them who are encouraging destabilisation of previously well-run countries through excessive immigration of people from countries with contrary values.

This writer, and all his other fake liberal friends, are the problem, not the solution. They are the exact cause of the problems they think can be solved through repressive and totalitarian reprisals against anyone who dares disagree with them. This is the exact opposite of liberal values. Maybe these clowns need to get a dictionary!


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