Free speech rights are limited indirectly by many other laws. You can’t slander someone. You can’t incite violence or insurrection. You can’t create the likelihood of injury, e.g. by yelling Fire! in a crowded theater. You can’t plagiarize. Hate speech is illegal. These are just a few of the many boundaries that exist.

The Constitution doesn’t grant individuals a right of free speech per se. It prohibits the government from unnecessarily engaging in limitations of speech. It doesn’t prevent law-making regarding the impacts of speech, e.g. inciting a riot is illegal. Likewise, the conservatives love to say that the 1st amendment guarantees ‘freedom of religion’, but actually the 1st amendment prohibits government from making laws that establish a Christian theocracy.

In Trumpism’s case, we’re experiencing the effects of propaganda-laden hate speech, or hate-speech-laden propaganda, delivered over many years. (Mostly led by Fox.) There’s an entrenched pattern in both the content and the form of argument, almost always misinformation and logical fallacies. The outcome is rebellion and violent insurrection.

Social “cancellation” should be expected, but that should be the tip of the iceberg. We should be passing anti-propaganda legislation that restricts the rights of media outlets to support speech-based propaganda campaigns that endanger the country directly or indirectly. Political scientists know the specifics of what needs to be limited, and regulatory lawyers know the specifics of what can be measured and observed. We just need legislators to agree that conservative propaganda is not only a social problem, but also a matter of national security. Then the laws will have teeth. Small fines and misdemeanors aren’t enough.

If you practice the dark arts of logical manipulation and belief shaping on your followers, as Fox and the Republican Party have done, you are at first just a social problem, a cult of extreme meritocracy and white heritage. If, however, you use your control to foment rebellion, you’re now a criminal problem, and your crimes are now national security matters, not some small business regulatory misdemeanors. There is even collusion involved, e.g. Trump coordinating directly on the phone with Hannity.

Free speech is just not the full picture of what’s going on right now. Trumpism is being socially cancelled a little bit. But this ought to be the tip of the iceberg. We are dealing with the consequence of a coordinated, intentional propaganda campaign. It has reshaped people’s beliefs, reduced their ability to think critically, fomentd rebellion, and directed insurrection. After cancellation must come prosecution, and new anti-propaganda legislation.

Conversation mover. Engineer. GenX. FL-CA-AL-TX-Korea. edblosch@zoho.com

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