Who's Afraid of Free Speech? It's Critics of Political Correctness Who Shrink from the Values of Free and Robust Expression

11 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2021

See all articles by Thomas Healy

Thomas Healy

Seton Hall University - School of Law

Date Written: November 18, 2020

Abstract

Critics of "political correctness" and "cancel culture" argue that liberals - especially on college campuses - are hypocrites who care little about the supposed liberal values of free speech and tolerance. In this essay, I argue that it is actually the critics who are afraid of free speech. Much of the social pushback and protest that critics complain about is itself expression. More fundamentally, such pushback is a form of counterspeech and is therefore an indispensable part of our free speech system. This does not mean that all forms of social censure are consistent with free speech. Violence and property damage are so coercive that they are akin to government censorship. But other types of social censure - such as insults, shaming, delegitimizing, demonizing, and even social ostracism - are all compatible with free speech since, although unpleasant, they do not cross the line from persuasion to coercion.

Keywords: free speech, political correctness, cancel culture, tolerance, college campuses, counter speech

Suggested Citation

Healy, Thomas, Who's Afraid of Free Speech? It's Critics of Political Correctness Who Shrink from the Values of Free and Robust Expression (November 18, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3733171 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3733171

Thomas Healy (Contact Author)

Seton Hall University - School of Law ( email )

One Newark Center
Newark, NJ 07102-5210
United States

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