Most people think that the 1st Amendment guarantees free speech. But the philosopher John Stuart Mill argued that free speech requires more than just the absence of legal strictures. The “tyranny of opinion” of the majority has the same effect as censorship enforced by law. When everyone lives “under the eye of a hostile and dreaded censorship” by their fellow citizens, there will be no free inquiry. If Congress “make[s] no law … abridging the freedom of speech,” yet challenging popular opinion gets you fired from your job and made into a pariah, the legal freedom is largely symbolic. Some people may speak their mind and suffer the consequences, but there won’t be free speech.
Mill extolled freedom of speech as a necessary condition for discovering the truth, and he took it for granted that truth is a valuable thing to have. But what about people who don’t want to discover the truth? For them, free speech is the enemy.
…The leading popular science magazine, Scientific American, also just published an editorial on sex and gender. It asserts: “arguments about innate biological differences between the sexes have persisted long past the time they should have been put to rest.” It then quotes an article from 122 years ago that discusses the question of whether riding bicycles is bad for women’s health. The lesson for the editors of Scientific American seems to be that to even investigate the possibility of innate sex differences is as ridiculous as investigating whether women should ride bicycles. The implication is that anyone studying sex differences is as benighted and outdated as the troglodyte who wrote that article in 1895. But science is based on evidence, not guilt by circuitous and fanciful association.
Did Google have a right to fire James Damore because he challenged a tenet of political correctness? Most conservatives think that private companies should be allowed to fire people for whatever reason they like. But companies themselves are under legal compulsion to enforce political correctness. What looks like private censorship is actually a form of government censorship by indirect means. Google might not have evolved such a liberal, politically correct culture—or fired Damore—if it didn’t have to protect itself from hostile-work-environment lawsuits or falling afoul of anti-discrimination laws.