Thursday, March 20, 2014

Environmentalist Professor Attacks Free Speech

Lawrence Torcello recently penned a controversial article for, titled "Is misinformation about the climate criminally negligent?" He argues yes, and I was curious to see how he would justify what seemed like a attack on freedom of speech. Here it goes:
"We have good reason to consider the funding of climate denial to be criminally and morally negligent. The charge of criminal and moral negligence ought to extend to all activities of the climate deniers who receive funding as part of a sustained campaign to undermine the public’s understanding of scientific consensus.  
Criminal negligence is normally understood to result from failures to avoid reasonably foreseeable harms, or the threat of harms to public safety, consequent of certain activities. Those funding climate denial campaigns can reasonably predict the public’s diminished ability to respond to climate change as a result of their behaviour. Indeed, public uncertainty regarding climate science, and the resulting failure to respond to climate change, is the intentional aim of politically and financially motivated denialists."
In other words, Torcello wants to criminalize certain speech that he believes is influencing people to make bad choices. This is a complete rejection of free speech: the same charge can be levied against a million other ideas, some of which are undoubtedly causing much greater harm.

Perhaps ironically, Torcello denies that he is discarding free speech:
My argument probably raises an understandable, if misguided, concern regarding free speech. We must make the critical distinction between the protected voicing of one’s unpopular beliefs, and the funding of a strategically organised campaign to undermine the public’s ability to develop and voice informed opinions. Protecting the latter as a form of free speech stretches the definition of free speech to a degree that undermines the very concept.
"Beliefs" and "opinions" are synonyms, so it's impossible to see a distinction here. His same arguments can be used against all other "unpopular", "uniformed", or "controversial" speech; what he advocates, then, undermines and abolishes the very concept of free speech.

Fortunately, Torcello is not going to get anywhere with his bizarre attack on free speech, which will probably do nothing but give fodder to the very people he wants to shut up. If we are going to start criminalizing speech, how about we start with Torcello and his statist allies. I jest; free speech extends even to those foolish enough to call for its end.

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