You might say, looking at humanity, that some of us believe in humanity and some do not. Those who believe in humanity think that logical thinking, honest communication, diligent research, and group organization can lead us to a better future even if not a Utopian one.
Life looks from these eyes like a great opportunity. If we organize our time and efforts well, we have a space in which we can explore, experience, and enjoy. Life can be pleasurable, or at least most of it, and we can live with a sense of an existence made valuable by the intensity it provides.
To that end, our species needs to finally mature about censorship, which is simply a way of taking options off the table for discussion so that the different variations of the remaining options — those desired by the censors — are the only possible choices.
First however we need a sense of what discussion is, since the exchange of ideas is discussion, and what is conducive to it. That does not mean pure anarchic chaos, but more likely that some standards independent of topic or viewpoint be asserted.
What can be called “Open Discussion” therefore has two parts:
The internet once had this because it had a high filter. That is, the only way to get on was through a somewhat challenging path that required initiative of the individual, and most of the people on the net were from colleges, technology companies, or the military.
Among useful people, this seems to be the norm. They disagree quite clearly and state their reasons for doing so, but can still remain friends without calling each other nasty names, bullying, vandalizing, spamming, and other pitfalls of human behavior that become pathological and spread in a group.
As a recent salvo on decentralized open-source Twitter replacement the Fediverse, I fired off a missive about Open Discussion, focusing on the need for actual information exchange instead of posturing, trend-chasing, and attention seeking behaviors:
Every organism exists to perpetuate itself, which requires adapting to its environment by understanding enough of its reality to manipulate the parts it needs to survive. For humans, that includes a couple additional wrinkles, namely personal joy in existence and a civilization or organization which can remain both positive and realistic enough to achieve its goals and therefore serve enough of a positive purpose to keep going. Researchers have found that those geared toward success communicate differently than those who are less likely to succeed:
Participants had to debate hot-button topics in an online chatroom. One group was instructed to adopt a competitive mentality in order to “win&” the argument, while the other group was told to “argue to learn.”
An “arguing to learn” mentality rests in viewing contentious conversations as collaborative exchanges that can deepen your understanding of a given topic, rather than battles to be won.
This means that Open Discussion provides people with both sides of the conversational benefit, meaning they are both heard and able to hear others, leading to if not agreement at least an understanding of what the other wants rather than seeing only what the methods they are demanding that they hope (often partially incorrectly) will lead them to what they actually desire. Open Discussion means collaborative discussion and debate with civility but no limits on topics or opinions offered.
A key aspect of Open Discussion is a lack of viewpoint discrimination, which is the universal human fallacy that says that if you eliminate any non-conforming data, only the data supporting your point will remain and therefore you “win.” Political correctness operates by this standard, as does the censorship common to Socialist and Fascist regimes, eliminating viewpoints in order to make their own viewpoint the only possible source of discussion:
When the government engages in content discrimination, it is restricting speech on a given subject matter. When it engages in viewpoint discrimination, it is singling out a particular opinion or perspective on that subject matter for treatment unlike that given to other viewpoints.
The necessity of being able to express any viewpoint therefore becomes important because removing certain viewpoints results in people only being able to discuss any topic in the context of approved viewpoint, which constitutes a form of compelled speech and through it eventually, thought control, as explicated by the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which states that language programs the mind, therefore changing language changes mental outlook:
The central idea of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is that language functions, not simply as a device for reporting experience, but also, and more significantly, as a way of defining experience for its speakers.
Sapir-Whorf goes two ways: language shapes thought, and shaping language controls thought, making language a battleground. If you can exclude the viewpoints of others, the tool of communication — language — becomes a propaganda weapon. It works because language defines self-esteem through a religious purging of humiliation and assertion of status:
Speech gave the human beast far more than an ingenious tool. Speech was a veritable nuclear weapon! It gave the human beast the powers of reason, complex memory, and long-term planning, eventually in the form of print and engineering plans. Speech gave him the power to enlarge his food supply at will through an artifice called farming.
One of Homo loquax’s first creations after he learned to talk was religion. Since The Origin of Species in 1859 the doctrine of Evolution has done more than anything else to put an end to religious faith among educated people in Europe and America; for God is dead. But it was religion, more than any other weapon in Homo loquax’s nuclear arsenal, that killed evolution itself 11,000 years ago.
I had come to the conclusion that virtually all people live by what I think of as a “fiction-absolute.” Each individual adopts a set of values which, if truly absolute in the world–so ordained by some almighty force–would make not that individual but his group . . . the best of all possible groups, the best of all inner circles.
For humans, language initially served an entirely descriptive role. Then it described the most sacred things we had, and finally became part of our “fiction-absolute,” or our way of justifying ourselves as winners and therefore dispensing humiliation brought on by making unrealistic choices by instead maintaining symbolism of the self as sacred. Language made us into solipsists; now, the battle for territory in our heads is shaped with censorship and mass culture trends, meaning that language directly affects our future.
At this point, defense of hope in humanity through open communication remains one of our few salvations as the groupthink closes in and people seek increasingly miraculous, disbelieving, guilt-ridden, or pacifistic and fatalistic symbolic ideals as a religion-replacement to deal with the rising doubt.
My hope is that here in our comments section we can maintain a congenial and thoughtful outlook without ever backing down from any idea, no matter how much it appalls us. After all, much of what I find to be true I do not like, but “it is what it is” as the ancients would say, and that is the end of the story.
Tags: censorship, fiction absolute, free speech, moderation, open discussion