Matt Forney
Spread the Word!

Leftist Witch Hunts, Social Justice Warriors and the Myth of Free Speech “Consequences”

If there’s one thing that the Zoe Quinn/Gamergate scandal has revealed, it’s the utter hollowness of the left’s refrain of “actions have consequences.” For the past couple years, leftists have defended their witch hunts against conservative/non-leftist figures with a number of Pharisaical refrains:

  • “The First Amendment protects you from GOVERNMENT censorship! If a private company wants to fire you because of something you said, they have every right to.”
  • “The right to free speech doesn’t protect you from the consequences of your actions.”
  • “You have the right to say whatever you want, and WE have the right to call you an asshole.”

This defense has been employed in every single lynch mob sent after a public figure, whether it was Pax Dickinson, Gavin McInnes or Donald Sterling. The left has even come up with a mocking term to describe people who argue against them: “freeze peach,” which may be the most juvenile, Orwellian terminology I’ve ever heard. It’s certainly a bit odd to see the left defending the right of free association all of a sudden when they’ve been working to dismantle it for the past fifty years with the Civil Rights Act, gay marriage, “anti-discrimination” laws and the like, but their logic makes sense on the surface… right?


The reality is that leftist witch hunts are just as illegitimate a form of speech suppression as government coercion is. The average Gawker reader is completely unaware that there is an entire body of philosophy debunking their arguments going all the way back to the Enlightenment. In his seminal book On Liberty, John Stuart Mill specifically denounced the kind of decentralized harassment that social justice warriors engage in:

The time, it is to be hoped, is gone by, when any defence would be necessary of the “liberty of the press” as one of the securities against corrupt or tyrannical government. No argument, we may suppose, can now be needed, against permitting a legislature or an executive, not identified in interest with the people, to prescribe opinions to them, and determine what doctrines or what arguments they shall be allowed to hear. This aspect of the question, besides, has been so often and so triumphantly enforced by preceding writers, that it needs not be specially insisted on in this place. Though the law of England, on the subject of the press, is as servile to this day as it was in the time of the Tudors, there is little danger of its being actually put in force against political discussion, except during some temporary panic, when fear of insurrection drives ministers and judges from their propriety; 1 and, speaking generally, it is not, in constitutional countries, to be apprehended, that the government, whether completely responsible to the people or not, will often attempt to control the expression of opinion, except when in doing so it makes itself the organ of the general intolerance of the public. Let us suppose, therefore, that the government is entirely at one with the people, and never thinks of exerting any power of coercion unless in agreement with what it conceives to be their voice. But I deny the right of the people to exercise such coercion, either by themselves or by their government. The power itself is illegitimate. The best government has no more title to it than the worst. It is as noxious, or more noxious, when exerted in accordance with public opinion, than when in opposition to it. If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. Were an opinion a personal possession of no value except to the owner; if to be obstructed in the enjoyment of it were simply a private injury, it would make some difference whether the injury was inflicted only on a few persons or on many. But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

In other words, Mill acknowledged that government censorship was not the only threat to freedom of speech, or even necessarily the largest threat. When people are afraid to speak their minds because of repercussions in their private lives, free speech is as dead as it would be if the First Amendment were repealed. Liberty is not created by the edict of a government or by a clause in a constitution, but through the very actions and beliefs of a people.

A society that shuts down opinions through private harassment and gang-stalking is no more free than a totalitarian dictatorship.

Not only that, Mill saw that free speech suppression on the part of governments was more dangerous when the people are on the government’s side. The First Amendment and other free speech laws do not exist to protect polite or popular speech. Someone who voices an opinion that is held by the majority is in no danger of being arrested or persecuted, whether he lives in the U.S. or communist China. Freedom of speech exists to protect impolite speech, speech that the majority may find distasteful or abhorrent. Majority opinions do not need special protections; minority ones do.

A society that persecutes minority opinions is one that has regressed to mob rule.

There’s also the myth that the “offensive” comments made by Dickinson, McInnes and the like are actually found to be offensive. The reality of the Internet is that few of the “crises” that explode here have an effect in the real world. Most people are apathetic, even when it comes to opinions they disagree with, and they can’t be bothered to agitate for the firing of someone they dislike. I’m a living testament to this: I’ve had countless feminists and leftists threaten me with violence or death, and despite my pictures being widely available online, no one has even so much as recognized me in public.

The witch hunts led by Gawker Media and their ilk are not, as they claim, a genuine outpouring of the majority’s disgust or revulsion. They are led and orchestrated by a tiny minority of leftists who dominate Twitter and just happen to have the media on their side. With the Gamergate scandal, we have seen numerous media outlets outright admit that they are pushing a left-wing, anti-male, anti-white agenda. The “consequences” that McInnes, Dickinson and the others have suffered for their opinions are completely fabricated and phony, created by a mob that seeks to crush all speech it finds objectionable.

More to the point, the left only supports this freedom of association when it benefits them.

We can see this in all the cases of Christian-run bakers who are targeted for Two Minutes Hate sessions for refusing to serve gay customers. We can see this with the Hobby Lobby case and the left’s Know Nothing bigotry two years ago when Catholic institutions resisted a government edict to provide birth control to their employees. We can see this when a decade ago, the left threw conniption fits over Clear Channel blacklisting the Dixie Chicks from their radio stations because of their anti-war opinions. There were no snarky comments back then about how Clear Channel, as a private corporation, has the right to air whatever they want on their stations, or about how the First Amendment doesn’t prevent us from saying that the Dixie Chicks are a bunch of cunts.

Indeed, the left accused Clear Channel of “squash[ing] dissent.”

This isn’t about freedom of speech. The left, now that they perceive themselves to be in charge, are using any mechanism they can to crush their opposition. The American left can’t use hate speech laws to fight “racism” or “homophobia” like the Canadian, British and Australian left have, so they’ve done an end-run around the Constitution by using witch hunts to enforce extra-legal “justice.” The fact that John Stuart Mill shredded their justification for doing so 150 years ago doesn’t matter, because it was never about principles, only about power.

And as Gamergate has shown, they will do anything short of murder to keep that power.

Read Next: Zoe Quinn, Phil Fish and the Great Social Justice Swindle