Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Censorship: Ideal Theory vs Non-Ideal Theory

Something I've noticed: People who favor any kind of social or government censorship, broadly construed here to include, e.g., deplatforming people or firing reporters from private newspapers, usually make ideal theoretic arguments. They say, if people actually violate these rules, they should be silenced or removed.

People who oppose these things usually make non-ideal theoretic arguments. They say, in the real world, if people are empowered and embolden to act on these abstract principles, they will frequently misapply them, abuse them, and/or pretend to apply them when they are actually acting in their self-interest. The results will be bad and it would be better to simply be far more tolerant.

What happens when someone gets censored or fired improperly? The pro-censorship people say something like, Ah, but that's not a counterexample to my view, because my view says that they shouldn't have been fired. The anti-censorship people say, Yep, this is precisely the problem I am worried about. "

In this particular respect, both are right.