Toughen Up: Freedom of Speech Is Absolute, There Are No Thought Crimes

WARNING: This essay contains materials that will offend just about anyone in one way or another. Yet free thought and speech – even when challenging, or even offensive and in bad-taste – are the underpinning of liberty. Only through the fearless sifting and winnowing of ideas can we usher in an era of peace, justice, equity and sustainability based upon the identification of truthful action. All political ideologies, democratic liberties, the human family’s well-being, and the ability to identify solutions to looming global catastrophes are ill-served by efforts to stifle freedom of thought and expression. I have written at length that there is no god. That both authoritarian fascism and progressive elitism threaten our liberties. That it is a self-evident fact that we are all one human family. And that in an era of environmental collapse and abrupt climate change, ecology is the meaning of life. How can I hope that my unorthodox (yet I believe truthful) ideas are given fair consideration, if I don’t insist upon the right of self-expression by others that may be equally challenging? We need to stop  being perpetually aggrieved by every perceived slight, and listen to divergent viewpoints to end perma-war, feed the hungry, achieve full employment, and avoid global environmental collapse. Censorship is undemocratic and can only lead to tyranny.


Earth Meanders, Deep Ecology Essays by Dr. Glen Barry

Do The Right Thing and Protect Free Speech

Do The Right Thing and Protect Free Speech

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never break me.” – The Christian Recorder, 1862

“Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime IS death.” – George Orwell, 1984

“Mookie: You garlic breath, pizza slinging, spaghetti bending, Vic Damone, Perry Como, Luciano Pavarotti, Sole Mio, non-singing motherfucker.
Pino: You gold teeth, gold chain wearing, fried chicken and biscuit eating, monkey, ape, baboon, big thigh, fast running, high jumping, spear chucking, three-hundred-and-sixty-degree basketball dunking, titsun, spade, Moulan Yan. Take your fucking pizza-pizza and go the fuck back to Africa.
Stevie: You little slanty eyed, me-no-speaky-American, own-every-fruit-and-vegetable-stand-in-New-York, bullshit, Reverend Sun Myung Moon, Summer Olympics ’88, Korean kickboxing son-of-a-bitch.
Officer Long: You Goya bean eating, fifteen-in-a-car, thirty-in-an-apartment, pointed shoes, red wearing, Menudo, meda-meda Puerto Rican cocksucker. Yeah, you!
Sonny: It’s cheap, I got a good price for you, Mayor Koch, how-I’m-doing, chocolate egg cream drinking, bagel and lox, B’nai B’rith Jew asshole.” – Do The Right Thing, Spike Lee, 1989

“In a democracy, the only correct response to impolite political speech and imagery is to grin and bear it, choosing either to ignore or respond, while fighting with your life for the right of the offender to think and speak. Otherwise your free speech may be shutdown next, and there can be no lasting liberty or revealed truth.” – Dr. Glen Barry


As one with both progressive and libertarian tendencies, I am terrified to see the efforts to stifle free speech from across the political spectrum. Freedom of thought and speech is the bedrock of human advancement and an absolute global human right; that once lost, threatens a return to medieval ignorance.

No one is ever justified in telling another person what they can think or say, period.

One must differentiate between words and actions. And be particularly careful to not abridge the right of political satire and comedy (even when ill-conceived and poorly done) as a particularly adept way to facilitate thoughtful insights.

Words Such as "House Nigger" Should Not Be Said Lightly, Nor Should History Be Denied

Words Such as “House Nigger” Should Not Be Said Lightly, Nor Should History Be Denied (Image from movie Django Unchained)

It is unacceptable that one race can use the word Nigger and it is perfectly acceptable, yet others are pilloried for doing so. It is racist to say some races can utter these sounds and sentiments, while others cannot. If one believes in universal truths and a society free of bias, either uttering this offensive term is acceptable in limited instances by all; or no one should ever speak the word, and we accept that we live in a totalitarian society. It is historical fact that under unimaginably onerous slavery that some were imprisoned to work in houses – disparagingly referred to by some as “House Niggers” – and others were enslaved in the fields. We must not turn away from historical truth that shows the magnitude of evil-incarnate, and de-legitimatize any reference, however in-artful.

As an early #BlackLivesMatter supporter married to a dark complexioned woman, I assure you I am keenly aware that black people have been persecuted terribly, and systematic oppression continues to this day. Yet so have other ethnicities and religions. Speaking freely about race including in a purposefully shocking satirical manner – such as in my favorite movie scene of racial tirades from Do the Right Thing that mocks bigotry (quoted above), or recently by serial-offensive comedian Bill Maher – helps to promote free thinking, and at the margin ensures that the most egregious forms of racial violence do not happen again. There has been no comparable censorship of terms regarding the Jewish holocaust and other historical travesties, nor should there be.

My point is simple: use of such a repugnant and emotionally charged word should be rare, only in limited appropriate situations and contexts (i.e. satire or discussing history), and the user be prepared for the consequences; but it should not be forbidden on the basis of race. Freedom of Speech means freedom to speak. And liberty’s prohibition on thought crimes is absolute.

Frankly I like seeing fake images of Donald Trump being beheaded. I understand it as imagery meant to signify the horror of his immoral and narcissistic rule, which threatens human decency and our very survival. Such expression does not constitute a threat of actual beheading. If someone were to try to do that ACTION, an actual crime of volition would have been committed. Thought crimes harm no one and exist only as ideas which have the potential to enlighten.

UnPresident Trump's Actions Are Far Worse Than Satire

UnPresident Trump’s Actions Are Far Worse Than Any Harm Caused by Democratic Political Satire

The picture of Kathy Griffin holding a fake human head pales in comparison to the fascist, charlatan, authoritarian, pussy-grabbing terror being unleashed by a narcissistic madman who couldn’t even win the popular vote; yet rules with imperial fervor. UnPresident Trump routinely attacks other in obscene manners outside of what has been contemporary political norms. Billions may suffer and die as this sociopath unleashes nuclear war and climate change ruin upon Earth. I think that is what Kathy was getting at in her satire, and it is protected political speech in any true democracy.

Even bigoted self-aggrandizers like Milo Yiannopoulos and Anne Coulter have the right to say whatever they wish, and to be ignored.

Many of my thoughts and words offend others. Frankly, I think Islam is a violent and vile medieval religion bereft of truth and with little to offer to post-modern humanity. Yet as an atheist, I think exactly the same of Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and any other illogical faith that uses myth and violence to dominate our lives based upon self-serving lies regarding what non-existent ghosts in the sky want us to do. This is God Pollution.

I’ve taken some hard knocks speaking truth regarding the powerful in Wisconsin. Congressman Mark Pocan should not get away with bragging of raping children. Nor should politicians like Governor Scott Walker be able to victimize others for a lifetime with impunity as a means to gain power.

If I don’t acknowledge the right of others to speak whatever they wish, how can I legitimately expect people to respond to my own challenging notions of truth? Censorship however carried out is for the weak and inarticulate, and can only lead to unchallenged falsehoods and tyranny.

There are no thought crimes. If you don’t like what someone says? Don’t listen. Or argue back persuasively your viewpoint. But don’t try to stifle free thought and expression. Otherwise suppression of your voice is equally justified. And what constitutes acceptable speech will be arbitrarily determined by transient social mores and whomever is in power at the time.

Both political correctness and rising authoritarianism are equally responsible for getting us to this current point of perpetually aggrieved sensibilities, an inability to address numerous looming catastrophes, and the very real potential for political violence.

The political middle where most truths are to be found has grown slender and disturbingly irrelevant.

Faced with abrupt climate change and biosphere collapse, in a world of grotesque injustice and perma-war, only the fearless sifting and winnowing of ideas can save the human family. We live in a world of tremendous diversity, and only by embracing our differences while learning from each other can we hope to survive as a species.

The right to speak your mind must be extended equally to anti-science climate deniers as to experts who have trained and acquired knowledge for a lifetime. To racists filled with hate, as well as to peaceful prophets of love. Free thinking and speech are granted as a human right equally to right-wing fascists as well as left-wing elitists. All have the right to think and say as they wish (while being held accountable for the veracity of their words, but not censored including self-censorship), including graphic art and satire meant to shock in a manner intended to bring about thoughtful reflection upon important matters.

We have a responsibility as a society to create an educated citizenry who can logically and rationally examine competing claims in order to arrive at judgments of fact and ultimately achieve knowledge. Individually it is up to all engaged citizenry to forcefully push back in the public arena against pseudo-science, fake news, and other nonsense. Yet while remaining open to new ideas.

In a democracy, the only correct response to impolite political speech and imagery is to grin and bear it, choosing either to ignore or respond, while fighting with your life for the right of the offender to think and speak. Otherwise your free speech may be shutdown next, and there can be no lasting liberty or revealed truth.

And through the discussions, often rabid and desultory, an educated citizenry can converge upon the truth. There may be missteps along the way, but only through fearless exchange of ideas do we have a chance at enlightenment and righteous action.

It is a well-recognized matter of law that speech which purposefully incites imminent violence is an exception to absolute free speech. This should not necessarily mean it is never justified, just that those espousing such thoughts have to be willing to accept legal responsibility for doing so.

So stop being such pansies. Toughen up. Get out of your comfort zone. Don’t let political correctness or authoritarianism stifle your own self-awakening and free thought. Confront yourself with the speech and ideas to which you have not been exposed and thus go beyond the limited worldview into which you were born and have been indoctrinated.

If anything in this essay made you uncomfortable, good, that was the intent. Break out of rigid orthodoxy and join in the global discussion. Toughen up, stop being weak and whiny, as you hone your own message. Seek truth and purity of thought and expose ideas of others that are neither.

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8 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Whose “truth” ????

  2. Megan Elizabeth Goetz says:

    what do you know
    Dr. Glen Barry is white + therefore has the white privilege to not understand that RACISM IS SYSTEMATIC OPPRESSION
    it’s so obvious in the beginning of this essay that his privilege is getting in the way. I don’t care that you’re a data scientist, political ecologist that wrote this deep ecology essay that I was unfortunately, disappointingly e-mailed this morning via EcoInternet — your credibility does not dismiss or overcompensate for your white privilege.
    He literally said things like: “It is unacceptable that one race can use the word Nigger and it is perfectly acceptable, yet others are pilloried for doing so. It is racist to say some races can utter these sounds and sentiments, while others cannot.”
    I thought he had some good arguments at the beginning of his essay, but as soon as he said that — he lost his credibility. If you label racism as something that doesn’t fall within the actual denotation of racism + it’s systematic oppression, then you’ve already got some falsity + lack of credibility in your essay dude. Doesn’t matter that you’re big-timing it in New York.

    • Dr. Glen Barry says:

      Hi Megan,
      It is OK to be white and speak of race. To suggest otherwise is racist. And it is also OK to be successful after years of hard work coming from a humble background. Neither should have any consequence on my right to speak and write freely, or upon a free-thinking person’s consideration of my ideas. I am well aware of the history of systematic oppression which profoundly saddens me (particularly the mistreatment of indigenous people which I have witnessed for years living in villages in my wife’s country of Papua New Guinea) and of which I have written extensively and campaigned exhaustively (i.e. here ). I don’t think you read the entire essay, or that your mind is open to other opinions. You hide behind knee-jerk claims of white privilege based upon race rather than rational discussion on ideas. That is precisely the problem this essay highlights – politically correct and/or authoritarian responses that seek to shutdown the self expression of others with whom they disagree — not based upon logical dialogue, but rather upon de-legitimizing the right of others’ self-expression. To deny others’ right to speak because of their identity is tyranny. Race should not be the basis of anything and we need to constantly root out systematic oppression to ensure this is the case. But not through new social mores that some people can use some words and others cannot. To me that seems like a new type of racism.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Glen,
    Hearing you

  4. Anonymous says:

    Megan, Let’s not over exercise “psuedo-intellectual” privilege …

  5. Feste says:

    Hi Glen.

    Elsewhere I’ve pointed out the evolutionarily adaptive cognitive limit spelled out by Robin Dunbar and others: Humans manage to live in village groups of up to about 150 (Dunbar’s Number). This limit tends to be rather hard because of hundreds of thousands of years (perhaps) of experience with local habitat carrying capacity. Beyond that, as you knnow i New Guinea, violent fragmentation and dispersal occurs. This worked well so long as there was somewhere to disperse, even if it required weaving unobtrusively through occupied habitats.
    that “submissive” dispersal is also a clearly evolved behavior.
    Intimate persistent groups of nomadic hunter-gatherers have clustered around 15-30, and strongly reflect familial hierarchy. Because closely bonded relatives needed to disperse when numbers exceed carrying capacity, it better reflected the adolescent dispersal we see in so many species.

    Bonds were better retained, because the recognition of relationship was greater than the competition for nutrients.
    Although it seems obvious, female roles are separate from males; this has been significant in selecting for dimorphic behaviors and further, dimorphic brains and differing perceptions of stress and community cohesion – for the variation in niches in our species can be great.

    With your background, you can understand the concept of social niches, and how every individual is evolved to seek successful contribution and reciprocity, changing social niche through time. This, of course, means that adult development continues in a brain throughout life, and responses to others must change adaptively.

    So I hope I have suggested an ecosystem-like complexity , even within small populations of humans.

    Experience, memory, and myriad combinations of stress cause us to search for expressions and behaviors that converge on stress reduction.

    Language. Signals. Words. These select for individual and group persistence, continuity, viability.

    Free speech requires continued participation. One cannot merely drive by, shooting violent terminal ideas; or as I saw develop within a University over the recent few years, demand exclusion of a group or individual, or that one or another be gagged.

    As you know, the vaunted human forebrain is the last cortical associational area to develop, not achieving a mature fullness until about age 25, and not strongly active until 21 years. this does mean that although students operate without some of our most Machiavellian capacity for strategy, they do still seek that stress reduction which both cognitive coherence and the body in all its functions require for growth.

    Students, then, are still in the stage where they cannot have the social staminna to tolerate; they still reflect the need that parents notice for imposed structure.
    It’s true that we possess the ability to become completely functioing humans quite a bit earlier; that capacity very likely develops right along with puberty.
    (I really can’t bring in hormonal suppression in this conversation,except to note that it is socially mediated, and causes differential maturation, as well as including epigenetic marking that may permanently prevent some development. I mention it because it is the mechanism of stress, and modern society has exploded in capacity to introduce stress)

    But I hope I’ve touched on a few reasons why many adults and many subadults can developmentally freeze and explosively demand relief from social stress.

    In a massive, highly connected metapopulation, we’re going to get what appears to be chaos, but persistent engagement of the most powerful memes (symbols) is as you’ve implied, absolutely necessary.
    We are built with the necessity to withdraw and consolidate information. This is done through sleep and dreams. It is also done through private social withdrawal and contemplation – and more basically, withdrawal of attention, while the neurons explore new connections, and even within the short periods of sleep and turning of attentions innvolved in recreation and contemplation, synaptic connections can be reduced.
    Unrelieved stress causes a more widespread and chaotic reduction.

    I’m getting into complexity here, as humans have long sought exogenous chemical blunting andenhancement; this throws minds into disarray. College age and adults using these chemicals (of which alcohol may be the most common) can both blunt and permanently methylate against future coherence.

    So, our culture has not successfully dealt with that necessity to engage until cognitive stress is resolved. And we appear to have exceeded our capacity to do so. I think it was John B calhoun over 60 years ago, who studied irresolvable stress in lab rodents. He didn’t have access to the mechanisms by which stress was produced or alleviated.
    He did note what he called behavioral sinks, in which many aberrant behaviors arose, adaptations including exclusively communal feeding, obsessive grooming (self-stress reduction), subgroup hostility, and many more.

    Since I feel that such responses occurred long ago, whenever humans formed groups too large to sustain in any local habitat, the only adaptation I could seem to detect was purposeful individual social mixing to develop familiarity with others originally outgrouped.
    I realize that it is dangerous, but some active diminution of ingrouping is the basic prescription I can imagine.

    Stratified societies are intolerant; when uncategorizable strangers are introduced, internecine violence is reduced. Although subgroups attempt to attract acceptable nonaligned others, this behavior merely leads to more discord, more war.

    Students grow to adults, but only fall into the peacemaking age at postmenopause and andropause. How did other cultures differ? A few favored periodic isolation of individuals when stressed. This was/is a normative ritual.
    Another culture consistently engaged individuals through teaching individuals to seek specific rituals for
    having experienced loss;
    Participating in violence/war;
    Before fully participating in
    Continuing rituals for community harmony;
    individual healing.

    At present in this culture, organized religion is advertised as palliative, but, as you know, had long devolved into dogmatic in-/out-grouping. – just another subculture of exclusion, unless one of the elect.

    So, we need something else, at least so long as we persist in massive coalitions to protect against the incursion of other overlarge groups.

    Since ingrouping is essentially nonviable, Garrett Hardin’s “Ecolate” thinking, reflecting traditional ancient egalitarian ideas of the equivalent validity of all other organisms. Modern cultures, with disdain mistake this inclusionary thinking as “pantheism”, when in fact it has essentially been tied to sustaining the whole. In such a worldview, there is no stranger or abnormality in any individual. Each is an important part, essentially unknowable.

    So, I have not made any case for debate, but merely for inclusion. This is difficult for those who perceive themselves as threatened.

    I believe that I wrote you once concerning population overbloom. Humans have a number of occupations working to sustain and increase that overbloom.
    Calhoun did not quite stumble upon the obvious social responses causing relief, but did note several.
    Meanwhile there is a basic evolutionary response occurring in so many organisms: response to stress by increasing fertility.
    Actual war and high mortality are implicated: baby booms, the fact that the highest birthrates occur in the most stressed populations.

    My comments tend to be lengthy precisely due to the signals we see on the internet – Short epithet and tweeting-style comment, not being merely the norm, but almost exclusively content-free, lead me to believe that almost no one is responding with the holistic and agile evaluation I see in wolves, deer, insects.

    We got TROUBLE unless we absorb and respond in coherent inclusive ways. The fault right now, is NOT in speaking, but in driving by, letting out bursts of anger and divisiveness.

    Although it was astoundingly shocking to see college students lobbying for the exact opposite that college students acted against in the 1960s (!), the Evergreen State fiasco may yet lead to social health
    Previously polemic oppositional groups have suddenly become aligned, suggesting that some of the worst trends since those 1960s are actually self-correcting.

    Just keep talkin’, and make sure you add more than a twit.
    ” there is no darkness but ignorance.”

  6. wildthang says:

    Our society applies so much thought control that it can hardly be called an informed democracy at all. The fact is subliminal advertising and repetition of disinformation to promote wars and hatred and in marketing destroys capacity to think for ourselves.
    The same goes for society attempting to control a woman’s body when they are the ones at risk and motherhood should be conferred by their choice not as slavery by force.
    Thankfully we do at least have some fighting for these freedoms here and by the ACLU and freedom from religion as well as for religion in the AU(Americans United For Separation of Church And State)
    I am glad to see some sanity in this society of lynch mob mentality. Burning in effigy and burning books is not the same as murder or burning all of the books by decree. Repetitive character assassination of leaders and countries and gloating about it should be seen for what it is not simply repressed.

    • MM says:

      Scientific debate and a civil caring society requires that we speak from the heart, clearly and concisely.
      The rituals of any culture spring from this effort at care, broadest community, concision.
      Tolerance is, as the truly democratic traditional North American communities developed, speaking one’s deepest truths. Other members who experience lives lived in this way, whether four or more legged, winged, water-living, or even, perhaps especially, without mobility, as are these great ancient redwoods just outside this window, depend upon our integrity.

      A listening community is one that does not waste lives or the abiotic parts of the whole.

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