The Cost of Freedom

A few months ago some people I follow on Twitter started acting like idiots.

I generally don’t follow idiots, which means that I probably knew or respected these people on some level at some time. But it’s really hard for me to respect them any more. What did they do that had me so up in arms? They were campaigning to get a book banned.

I’m not going to tell you what book, because I don’t want to have that conversation. So imagine an idea you hold in utter contempt, or a type of written literature you consider harmful to the world, without a speck of value. Imagine something degrading, that goes against your beliefs. Imagine a book promoting it. Really, just think of the most evil thing you can and then multiply it by six!

The idiots on twitter were going around giving it one star reviews, reviling it in public, and sending angry letters to Amazon demanding that it be taken down. They pointed out that the book was recommending illegal activity (for their country) and decrying this otherwise noble and likeable book seller for permitting such material to be viewed on their website! Given their way I am quite sure they would happily lynch the authors and burn every copy of the book, sending an inquisition into the home of anyone found possessing it. And they would do all this without any idea of the price they would have to pay for their actions.

These are the same people who like to celebrate banned book day and talk about how terrible it is that anyone would want to suppress information.

“But the banned books we celebrate are in accord with modern, forward thinking!” They say. “This book, this is an abomination! It will hurt people!”

Allow me to change gears for a few minutes.

Last November I attended a Q&A session with Timothy Zahn. (I got to meet him later, and he signed a book for me. Delightful man.) He won my admiration forever when he admitted that he didn’t like what JJ Abrams did with Star Trek. (And he got a round of applause. There is hope for humanity.) Somehow the conversation got around to technology, and he told us that many of the advances made on the internet happened because of pornography. All the breakthroughs to increase video download speed, and create more efficient web sites and better search engines were just so that people could “get it faster.”

Raise your hand if you think pornography should be banned.

Put your hands down. Reread the paragraph about technological advances being a result of the pornography business.

If you think it’s not true (I have no sources) then think about it hypothetically.

Are you still in favour of banning porn?

So let’s get back to the evilx6 book that people were ripping Amazon for not taking down. Let’s talk about what would happen if Amazon conceded to their demands and complied with their request. Or let’s just think about what would happen if Amazon complied with any party who threatened, cajoled, or bribed them into removing books.

Suddenly we have censorship. Suddenly no one can publish a book without it being reviewed by a board of censors and determining that it doesn’t contain any harmful content. Suddenly books are being banned left and right and we don’t even notice. If you open that door an inch, if you start censoring even the most harmful of books then you create a foothold for the kind of censorship everyone loathes and despises.

Amazon ignored the idiots on Twitter. I believe they will continue to do so, because they know the score. In order to have a free economy, in order to allow everyone to have freedom of speech, you have to let people talk trash. In order to not limit the freedom of all you cannot limit the freedom of any. If you want to be free to praise the virtues of the LGBT community then you need to be free to trash it as well. In order to preserve our freedom we must allow the freedom of evil.

Take a moment to indulge in that fantasy of burning that book you hate so much. Imagine the author brought to justice, and given what he deserves. Now switch places with that person and witness the world you’ve created.

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