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The Michael Shermer Show

A series of conversations between Dr. Michael Shermer and leading scientists, philosophers, historians, scholars, writers and thinkers about the most important issues of our time.

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EPISODE # 172

Andrew Doyle — Free Speech: And Why It Matters

Free Speech: And Why it Matters  (book cover)

Towards the end of the twentieth century, those who advocated what became known as “Political Correctness” rightly identified the ways in which marginalized groups were often disparaged in everyday speech. Casual expressions of homophobia, racism and sexism went from being commonplace to being rejected by the vast majority of the public over the course of just two decades.

Since then, the victories of Political Correctness have formed the basis for a new intolerant mindset, one that seeks to move beyond simply reassessing the social contract of shared discourse to actively policing speech that is deemed offensive or controversial. Rather than confront bad ideas through discussion, it has now become common to intimidate one’s detractors into silence through “cancel culture”, a ritual of public humiliation and boycotting which can often lead to the target losing his or her means of income.

Free Speech is a defense of our right to express ourselves as we see fit and takes the form of a letter to those who are unpersuaded. Taking on board legitimate concerns about how speech can be harmful, Andrew Doyle argues that the alternative — an authoritarian world in which our freedoms are surrendered to those in power — has far worse consequences.

Andrew Doyle is a writer, satirist and political commentator. He regularly appears on television to discuss current affairs, is a panelist on the BBC’s Moral Maze, and was recently interviewed on The Joe Rogan Experience, the most downloaded podcast in the world. He has written for a number of publications, including the Telegraph, Sun, Daily Mail, Spectator, Standpoint, and Sunday Times. He is the creator of satirical character Titania McGrath, under whose name he has written two books — Woke: A Guide to Social Justice and My First Little Book of Intersectional Activism, both published by Little, Brown. Titania McGrath has over half a million followers on Twitter. He was formerly a Visiting Research Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast, and a lecturer at Oxford University where he completed his doctorate.

Shermer and Doyle discuss:

  • Titania McGrath,
  • “We need to check your thinking.”
  • hate speech as violence,
  • Liberal and Conservative attitudes toward free speech and how they shifted,
  • private vs. public speech, government censorship vs. cancel culture,
  • history of free speech from the Greeks to today,
  • social media companies: platforms or publishers?
  • enabling speech and why not inviting someone like Milo Yannapolis to speak is not censorship,
  • why claims like “you can’t say anything anymore” is self-refuting,
  • What about fraud, libel, perjury, blackmail, espionage?: “speech is to perjury what fire is to arson.”
  • Frank Zappa on CNN’s Crossfire vs. Conservatives,
  • comedy and satire.

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This episode is sponsored by:

The Great Courses Plus (sponsor)
Quotations

“He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” —Thomas Paine

“Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter.” —Milton

“Choose not to be harmed—and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed—and you haven’t been.” —Marcus Aurelius

Recent postings by Andrew Doyle as @TitaniaMcgrath on Twitter (read on the podcast)
Tweet by Titania McGrath
Tweet by Titania McGrath
Tweet by Titania McGrath
Tweet by Titania McGrath

This episode was released on April 13, 2021.

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