Free Speech and Censorship

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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by LadyLuck on Sat Mar 07, 2015 5:08 pm

What's the rationale for rejecting this sort of definition for censorship?

Because the negative connotations associated with censorship simply do not match all of the behaviors that definition describes. To go with the classic example, shouting "FIRE!" in a crowded building is not considered "protected speech". By your definition, punishing a person who does that is censorship. Furthermore, you've more or less implied that you consider all censorship wrong - RE your post saying "You're expressing support for an act of censorship, it's kind of hard to avoid an argument at that point.", indicating you feel compelled to argue with anyone supporting anything that fits the wikipedia definition of censorship.

However, by that logic, you're ok with people inciting a stampede (fire example), inciting riots/lynchings, and engaging in verbal abuse/harassment. All of these regularly result in people being seriously injured and/or killed. Furthermore, your position also implies you do not think there should be any negative consequences for the person who does these things - even if they are aware of the likely results of their speech, and even if their speech was intended to result in someone's injury/death in the first place.

This doesn't seem like the best take on the issue, in my opinion. You'll note that the wiki article mentions that some of the things that meet the definition of censorship are legal, even in countries with strong "free speech" laws. The reasons for that are also explained in the same article - other people have rights too. Your right to say stuff that incites violence is often trumped by other's rights to basic safety, for example. In this specific case, you're forgetting that the NYYS has free speech rights too, which include the right to pick and choose which works of art they wish to give support to.

tl;dr if you go with that definition of censorship, you really need to concede that not all censorship is badwrongevilOHNOES! if you want to have a consistent and convincing position.

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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by nearly_takuan on Sat Mar 07, 2015 5:13 pm

So, I think it might be worth looking at our differing ideas about censorship from a pseudo-rationalist standpoint.

I'll start with the definition of censorship you're providing, from Wikipedia. It reads to me as saying that any time you suppress any information, from any source, even if it is yourself, then that is censorship. Plugging my ears is censorship, then, because it suppresses the auditory dissemination of information directed at me.

So let's say we hypothetically tighten things just gently, and say that it only counts as censorship if we're suppressing information that is meant for other people. Well, that still leaves quite a lot of room for arbitrary things to be called censorship: any TV network that cancels a show to make room for a potentially more profitable show would then be technically censoring the first show. Since we all need money to live comfortably, any arbitrary employer is coercively censoring arbitrary information from its employees by refusing to pay them if they spend time obtaining that information when they are supposed to be working.

If that's what censorship is to you, then that's fine, but it seems a little strange to me that you would still view censorship as unethical by definition. For censorship to automatically be unethical, we must constrain its definition enough so that it only describes unethical things. (This is what I mean by pseudo-rationalist; I'm forming tautological arguments to show that definitions are themselves tautological.)

And this is kind of what we really want to discuss, I think: not whether the action fits this or that definition of censorship, but whether it was unethical. I personally find that it isn't, and one of my reasons for this is that I believe the alternative would be a less ethical form of censorship.

The topic of what is or is not ethical is somewhat more subjective than a legalistic definition, but I just happen to think that the American legalistic definition of "censorship" generally does suit my ethical views on the subject.
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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by reboot on Sat Mar 07, 2015 5:24 pm

nearly_takuan wrote:So, I think it might be worth looking at our differing ideas about censorship from a pseudo-rationalist standpoint.

I'll start with the definition of censorship you're providing, from Wikipedia. It reads to me as saying that any time you suppress any information, from any source, even if it is yourself, then that is censorship. Plugging my ears is censorship, then, because it suppresses the auditory dissemination of information directed at me.....

....still leaves quite a lot of room for arbitrary things to be called censorship: any TV network that cancels a show to make room for a potentially more profitable show would then be technically censoring the first show. ....

if that's what censorship is to you, then that's fine, but it seems a little strange to me that you would still view censorship as unethical by definition. For censorship to automatically be unethical, we must constrain its definition enough so that it only describes unethical things. (This is what I mean by pseudo-rationalist; I'm forming tautological arguments to show that definitions are themselves tautological.)

And this is kind of what we really want to discuss, I think: not whether the action fits this or that definition of censorship, but whether it was unethical. I personally find that it isn't, and one of my reasons for this is that I believe the alternative would be a less ethical form of censorship.

The topic of what is or is not ethical is somewhat more subjective than a legalistic definition, but I just happen to think that the American legalistic definition of "censorship" generally does suit my ethical views on the subject.

For example, if an organization is putting together a disability issues conference rejects speakers who call for eugenics, warehousing the disabled out of mainstream society, or other such solutions is that censorship? Or is that free choice? Or if those speakers host their own conference and people object, causing the facility to cancel the meeting is that censorship? Or is the facility free to choose who speaks there?
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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by nearly_takuan on Sat Mar 07, 2015 5:31 pm

Yes, exactly. Also, our forum guidelines are censorship under the Wikipedia definition: we're asked to prevent ourselves from posting things that are too objectionable (at least on certain axes) and if we do it anyway then our posts will be redacted and there may be additional consequences. But this is part of our agreement when we participate here; it's not unethical censorship in my view!

Sometimes spam-bots post on forums. Is it unethical for a mod to delete posts made by spam-bots, on the basis that the bots are disseminating information created by the people running them and are therefore a protected form of creative expression? IMHO it is perfectly within the bounds of ethical behavior for us to respond aggressively against such things, rather than have to tolerate severe inconveniences in the name of freely-replicated speech.
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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by JP McBride on Sat Mar 07, 2015 6:36 pm

reboot wrote:So JP would you prefer a world where everyone was required to host/listen to/read everything and no one was allowed to criticize anything?

Could you guys tone down the straw manning a bit? Censorship isn't universally wrong, and when it's wrong, the magnitude of the wrong isn't a constant.

What I don't do is euphamistically dance around the term when it's usage is called for. I think what the NYYS did was censorship, and from the limited evidence I've seen, I think they were wrong to do it.

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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by Werel on Sat Mar 07, 2015 6:47 pm

JP McBride wrote:
Could you guys tone down the straw manning a bit? Censorship isn't universally wrong, and when it's wrong, the magnitude of the wrong isn't a constant.

I think that's exactly what takuan was getting at-- am I reading that wrong? Not all restriction of a party's expression by another party or parties is inherently wrong, and the degree of wrong is variable. In this case, I think many people are making the argument that this restriction was not wrong (or if wrong, to only a minor degree/outweighed by how it was right).

JP McBride wrote:What I don't do is euphamistically dance around the term when it's usage is called for. I think what the NYYS did was censorship, and from the limited evidence I've seen, I think they were wrong to do it.

Can you elaborate on why you think the NYYS was in the wrong in this specific instance? What would an acceptable course of action on their part look like in your book?
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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by nearly_takuan on Sat Mar 07, 2015 7:29 pm

So, okay. I agree that the actions of NYYS in this story satisfy the definition of censorship that you are using. As for the rest, I think you should read what they wrote the way you would have written it. Wink e.g. find-replace "censorship" with "unethical censorship", since that is a closer approximation to what they meant to say in almost every case.

And you're still gonna need to clarify your position on the ethical side of things, because after several pages of debating semantics I still don't have a clue about why you think NYYP made the wrong decision.
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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by reboot on Sat Mar 07, 2015 8:09 pm

JP McBride wrote:
reboot wrote:So JP would you prefer a world where everyone was required to host/listen to/read everything and no one was allowed to criticize anything?

Could you guys tone down the straw manning a bit? Censorship isn't universally wrong, and when it's wrong, the magnitude of the wrong isn't a constant.

What I don't do is euphamistically dance around the term when it's usage is called for. I think what the NYYS did was censorship, and from the limited evidence I've seen, I think they were wrong to do it.

Not a straw man, that was sarcasm.

I want to know if and when you think it is appropriate to for people/places/organizations to say, "Nope. Sorry. Your work/speech cannot happen in our space."

EDIT: To answer my own question, I think it is fine as long as the organization/person does it only when the work/speech conflicts with their mission or values. Governments, on the other hand, should only restrict in narrowly defined safety scenarios (e.g. lady luck's "Fire!" example, death and bomb threats)
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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by Guest on Sat Mar 07, 2015 8:16 pm

As far as I knew, I thought that free speech was protecting speech you didn't like....

But it doesn't include speech that endangers public safety (yelling fire/rape in a crowded place), libelous or slanderous speech and hate speech (in the case of hate speech, that would be anything that incites violence against a particular group or intimidates or prejudices said group).

In addition, any qualms about audiences and the FCC or whatever, that has to do with broadcast media and obscenity in particular. You can read about it here.

And you guys have been arguing about the New York Youth Symphony playing a composition written for the Nazis or a guy who was Nazi? I haven't seen any links tossed here or anything so I've been hesitant to comment in this thread.

I have an opinion, yes, but I'm a little hesitant to share because I don't have the full story...

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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by Werel on Sat Mar 07, 2015 8:19 pm

Mikey, the original thread this was split from is here, with all the relevant details!
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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by Prajnaparamita on Sat Mar 07, 2015 8:20 pm

The Mikey wrote:
And you guys have been arguing about the New York Youth Symphony playing a composition written for the Nazis or a guy who was Nazi? I haven't seen any links tossed here or anything so I've been hesitant to comment in this thread.

I have an opinion, yes, but I'm a little hesitant to share because I don't have the full story...

Here's the context

I wrote a thread about the larger dynamics of creeper/entitled behavior that turned into an argument over whether or not the orchestra was in the right to decide not to perform that particular composition from Tarn anymore. I linked to the original article there, as well as my thoughts.

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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by Guest on Sat Mar 07, 2015 8:33 pm

Werel wrote:Mikey, the original thread this was split from is here, with all the relevant details!

Prajnaparamita wrote:
The Mikey wrote:
And you guys have been arguing about the New York Youth Symphony playing a composition written for the Nazis or a guy who was Nazi? I haven't seen any links tossed here or anything so I've been hesitant to comment in this thread.

I have an opinion, yes, but I'm a little hesitant to share because I don't have the full story...

Here's the context

I wrote a thread about the larger dynamics of creeper/entitled behavior that turned into an argument over whether or not the orchestra was in the right to decide not to perform that particular composition from Tarn anymore. I linked to the original article there, as well as my thoughts.

Oooh, yay, thank you, ladies. :3

EDIT: And having read your post, Prajna, you make total sense and you are absolutely correct.

That's like me making a speech at a commencement ceremony and tossing in a few anti-Semitic phrases in German and hoping nobody would notice and refusing to explain why I said what I did after coming off the stage. You make a lot of sense and I agree completely with you, Tarm should have explained what was up and his intentions with using that bit of the Nazi national anthem. Self-censorship as he calls it, is what South Park does at the beginning of their episodes.

Also, I don't have any particularly strong feelings about having pulled his piece, because that's not necessarily censorship. You DON'T have your full right to freedom of expression on private property. That's the key here, in this freedom of speech debate.

You can perform your Nazi laced piece in the streets of New York and nobody will care because THAT is in a public forum which is protected speech. Not to mention people in NYC tend to be pretty busy and/or don't nor will they care. For example, the Westboro Baptist Church assholes protesting the funerals of American soldiers, the WBC is smart enough to protest across the street because they know people can't anything against them on the sidewalk/street corner because that's public property. In accordance with the constitution, that's protected speech and their right; freedom of speech, as Robert Wuhl once said, is as American as apple pie.

So, that's the key here in this situation, the NYYS is a more or less private entity and the piece Tarm wrote was pulled because it was offensive to some. I don't blame them for wanting to pull something that could potentially damage their prestigious reputation. Oh and this was gonna be played by kids who didn't have it explained what and or why they were playing it? Yeah, no. Your ideas are a little too complex for kids to understand and rather scummy of you to have them unknowingly play this shit.

All in all, the NYYS made the right choice, I think. I also believe Tarm is a ninny for thinking he has to "self-censor" in order to get to Carnegie Hall, no, self-censoring is done if you feel your piece whatever it may indeed be too controversial to share or because your thinking of your audience or you're trying to expand your audience. At least an apology would be nice.


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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by Wondering on Sat Mar 07, 2015 8:55 pm

As an aside, that fire-in-a-crowded theater thing was coined by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in a unanimous Supreme Court ruling that supported government censorship of wartime citizen dissent during WWI and the jailing of the dissenter.

That ruling has been almost entirely counteracted in subsequent cases. It's...not the best example to support ideas of what speech is limited as we understand it today.

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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by JP McBride on Sat Mar 07, 2015 9:11 pm

reboot wrote:
JP McBride wrote:
reboot wrote:So JP would you prefer a world where everyone was required to host/listen to/read everything and no one was allowed to criticize anything?

Could you guys tone down the straw manning a bit? Censorship isn't universally wrong, and when it's wrong, the magnitude of the wrong isn't a constant.

What I don't do is euphamistically dance around the term when it's usage is called for. I think what the NYYS did was censorship, and from the limited evidence I've seen, I think they were wrong to do it.

Not a straw man, that was sarcasm.

I want to know if and when you think it is appropriate to for people/places/organizations to say, "Nope. Sorry. Your work/speech cannot happen in our space."

EDIT: To answer my own question, I think it is fine as long as the organization/person does it only when the work/speech conflicts with their mission or values. Governments, on the other hand, should only restrict in narrowly defined safety scenarios (e.g. lady luck's "Fire!" example, death and bomb threats)

When Comedy Central bleeps out swear words, do you consider that censorship?

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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by Guest on Sat Mar 07, 2015 9:32 pm

Wondering wrote:As an aside, that fire-in-a-crowded theater thing was coined by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in a unanimous Supreme Court ruling that supported government censorship of wartime citizen dissent during WWI and the jailing of the dissenter.

That ruling has been almost entirely counteracted in subsequent cases. It's...not the best example to support ideas of what speech is limited as we understand it today.

Okay, that's fair enough. But as I understood, I thought the phrase "shouting fire in a theatre" was synonymous with inciting panic. Razz As far as I know, inciting panic amongst the public is a big no-no unless someone is indeed in trouble.

Would shouting "bomb" on a plane be a better idea used to support what speech is limited? Razz

JP McBride wrote:
When Comedy Central bleeps out swear words, do you consider that censorship?

That's different.

That's a Federal broadcast regulation (did you not read my post a few posts up?), it's illegal to drop heavy profanities and/or obscenities between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. because those are PUBLIC airways that enter people's private residencies. Comedy Central has the right to exist, but does NOT have the right to drop profanity in a home where that sort of thing is not allowed, they have a brand to protect and rules to follow in order to continue existing.

EDIT: Here we go! http://www.fcc.gov/guides/obscenity-indecency-and-profanity

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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by JP McBride on Sat Mar 07, 2015 9:40 pm

The Mikey wrote:
JP McBride wrote:
When Comedy Central bleeps out swear words, do you consider that censorship?

That's different.

That's a Federal broadcast regulation (did you not read my post a few posts up?), it's illegal to drop heavy profanities and/or obscenities between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. because those are PUBLIC airways that enter people's private residencies. Comedy Central has the right to exist, but does NOT have the right to drop profanity in a home where that sort of thing is not allowed, they have a brand to protect and rules to follow in order to continue existing.

EDIT: Here we go! http://www.fcc.gov/guides/obscenity-indecency-and-profanity

When did I say anything that would contradict any of that?

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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by nearly_takuan on Sat Mar 07, 2015 9:50 pm

JP McBride wrote:
reboot wrote:I want to know if and when you think it is appropriate to for people/places/organizations to say, "Nope. Sorry. Your work/speech cannot happen in our space."

EDIT: To answer my own question, I think it is fine as long as the organization/person does it only when the work/speech conflicts with their mission or values. Governments, on the other hand, should only restrict in narrowly defined safety scenarios (e.g. lady luck's "Fire!" example, death and bomb threats)

When Comedy Central bleeps out swear words, do you consider that censorship?

This is starting to look like a motte-and-bailey tactic, now with a kafkatrap thrown in for good measure. (Lest this claim begin to resemble a motte-and-bailey itself, I will also come forward as saying that I believe both tactics are categorically dishonest and therefore at best poor form.)

If reboot responds that she does not consider it censorship, you will call our attention to the fact that the word for "bleep out swear words" is censor, and so her position must have been incorrect all along, because she was using the wrong word.

If reboot responds that she does consider it censorship, you will claim that this proves your point: censorship in certain contexts is legal and widely accepted, therefore the legality of censorship is irrelevant in this conversation.

Except that if we go back to where this discussion started, it seems patently obvious that when Tarm said, "apparently, you have to self-censor", he was using the word in a different sense than you have defined it: he was attaching ethical weight to the statement, implying that "having to self-censor" is somehow a bad thing. It also seems fairly obvious to me that when Prajna reacted negatively to it, she was using the word in the same sense. It is perhaps unfortunate that we do not all have the capacity to learn to speak or write Ithkuil; in the mean time, we will have to make allowances for people giving different connotations/denotations to words based on the context of their use, and adapt our choice of rhetoric to suit.
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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by nearly_takuan on Sat Mar 07, 2015 9:58 pm

Wanna add that things like the protected anti-abortion and homophobic protests on public property are kinda abuses of technicalities; the reason free speech is so thoroughly protected when it's done from public property is so that people can stage protests (i.e. "petition and assemble") around government buildings (which are public property) and thus participate in Democracy™. For the same reason, in the same spirit, and as part of the same Amendment, news organizations and pundits have the special privilege of being able to say whatever the hell they want to about our government, true or false; in so doing they provide checks and balances against government corruption, and us citizens are supposed to intelligently evaluate how trustworthy a news outlet is (thus providing checks and balances against false claims).
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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by Guest on Sat Mar 07, 2015 10:03 pm

JP McBride wrote:
When did I say anything that would contradict any of that?

It sure seemed like you were implying to contradict that stuff. Razz

Unless I misunderstood, in which case, I apologize. Grin

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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by Wondering on Sat Mar 07, 2015 10:10 pm

The Mikey wrote:
Wondering wrote:As an aside, that fire-in-a-crowded theater thing was coined by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in a unanimous Supreme Court ruling that supported government censorship of wartime citizen dissent during WWI and the jailing of the dissenter.

That ruling has been almost entirely counteracted in subsequent cases. It's...not the best example to support ideas of what speech is limited as we understand it today.

Okay, that's fair enough. But as I understood, I thought the phrase "shouting fire in a theatre" was synonymous with inciting panic. Razz As far as I know, inciting panic amongst the public is a big no-no unless someone is indeed in trouble.

Would shouting "bomb" on a plane be a better idea used to support what speech is limited? Razz

It's a big no-no, but I'm not sure it's actually illegal.

The Mikey wrote:
JP McBride wrote:
When Comedy Central bleeps out swear words, do you consider that censorship?

That's different.

That's a Federal broadcast regulation (did you not read my post a few posts up?), it's illegal to drop heavy profanities and/or obscenities between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. because those are PUBLIC airways that enter people's private residencies. Comedy Central has the right to exist, but does NOT have the right to drop profanity in a home where that sort of thing is not allowed, they have a brand to protect and rules to follow in order to continue existing.

EDIT: Here we go! http://www.fcc.gov/guides/obscenity-indecency-and-profanity

Mikey, that law applies to broadcast TV and radio, not cable or satellite TV/radio. If it did, the Playboy channel would be illegal. And it's why Howard Stern went to Sirius: no regulations.
FCC rules prohibit indecent speech on broadcast radio and television between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., when there is reasonable risk that children may be in the audience.

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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by Enail on Sat Mar 07, 2015 10:24 pm

Side note: Yay, someone else has heard of Ithkuil!  Shiny/thrilled
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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by Wondering on Sat Mar 07, 2015 10:27 pm

nearly_takuan wrote:Wanna add that things like the protected anti-abortion and homophobic protests on public property are kinda abuses of technicalities; the reason free speech is so thoroughly protected when it's done from public property is so that people can stage protests (i.e. "petition and assemble") around government buildings (which are public property) and thus participate in Democracy™.

I'm going to disagree with you on that. This is a feature, not a bug, of the First Amendment. Protecting speech we don't like is exactly the point. Because someone is always going to dislike what you have to say, and if that person is in a government position, you run the risk of being fined or jailed because they didn't like your speech. If your free speech laws aren't protecting reprehensible speech, they're not working correctly, IMO.

The part about petitioning the government for redress of grievances is a different clause than the blanket part about prohibiting free speech:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

We've also had our free speech rights greatly expanded since the Bill of Rights was written. Now free speech also includes freedom of expres​sion(beyond speech) and freedom of association. And it's free expression of private individuals and organizations to boycott or deny a venue for speech they don't want.

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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by Guest on Sat Mar 07, 2015 10:49 pm

Wondering wrote:
Mikey, that law applies to broadcast TV and radio, not cable or satellite TV/radio. If it did, the Playboy channel would be illegal. And it's why Howard Stern went to Sirius: no regulations.

FCC rules prohibit indecent speech on broadcast radio and television between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., when there is reasonable risk that children may be in the audience.

Then that's where it gets a little murky and I'm mixing up my regulations.

Sirius I know for sure has no regulations. But I think cable still falls under some regulations to a degree, they can get away with more things than regular old broadcast TV, sure. However, they can't say "fuck" unbleeped on E!, Comedy Central, A&E, etc., until after 10 pm either. I remember I saw the South Park movie when I was 10 years old at 1 am and it was completely uncensored, every single profanity in it's unbleeped glory. Related: I also remember that Cinemax would air soft-core porn at around the same time. Razz From my understanding, the only reason Playboy TV can get away with what they show is because they're not standard channels, and you only pay for them in blocks (at least on DirecTV), nor are the premium movie channels like HBO, Cinemax, Starz and Showtime because those require and additional subscription.

-shrug-

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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by JP McBride on Sat Mar 07, 2015 11:22 pm

nearly_takuan wrote:This is starting to look like a motte-and-bailey tactic, now with a kafkatrap thrown in for good measure. (Lest this claim begin to resemble a motte-and-bailey itself, I will also come forward as saying that I believe both tactics are categorically dishonest and therefore at best poor form.)

If reboot responds that she does not consider it censorship, you will call our attention to the fact that the word for "bleep out swear words" is censor, and so her position must have been incorrect all along, because she was using the wrong word.

If reboot responds that she does consider it censorship, you will claim that this proves your point: censorship in certain contexts is legal and widely accepted, therefore the legality of censorship is irrelevant in this conversation.

Except that if we go back to where this discussion started, it seems patently obvious that when Tarm said, "apparently, you have to self-censor", he was using the word in a different sense than you have defined it: he was attaching ethical weight to the statement, implying that "having to self-censor" is somehow a bad thing. It also seems fairly obvious to me that when Prajna reacted negatively to it, she was using the word in the same sense. It is perhaps unfortunate that we do not all have the capacity to learn to speak or write Ithkuil; in the mean time, we will have to make allowances for people giving different connotations/denotations to words based on the context of their use, and adapt our choice of rhetoric to suit.

I know this is completely against the whole spirit of the internet, but if you're finding it increasingly difficult to formulate an argument against me, you may, at some point, want to consider the possibility that I might be correct.

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Re: Free Speech and Censorship

Post by nearly_takuan on Sat Mar 07, 2015 11:32 pm

I'm only finding it difficult to figure out what exactly your argument consists of, besides a moral position (which I'm sincerely interested in hearing more about) and a semantic disagreement that has nothing to do with it.
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