By Nicholas Grossman
Here’s the critique: You say you value free speech and oppose social penalties for bad speech, but your actions show that you don’t. You value free speech for you and people who agree with you and oppose social penalties for expressing things you agree with. You’re open to disagreement on some topics, sure, but when it comes to things that are important to you, social penalties for speech you identify as bad are not just acceptable, but good, something to be proud of, something to broadcast on a public forum so others know that you did it, encouraging them to do it too.
That critique often comes with an accusation of bad faith — that the signatories don’t care about free speech, they’re just trying to protect their power — which I think is unfair. Some, at least, genuinely care about how cancel culture hurts people with less visibility and influence. But the hypocrisy charge sticks, and free speech defenders play into it by miscasting their argument as a high level defense of the principles that undergird a free society rather than what they’re actually doing: debating the parameters of socially-acceptable speech regarding race and gender.