John C. Wright, Catholic science fiction writer and blogger, dislikes monarchy. While much of his commentary about politics and culture are spot on, his disagreement with the monarchical tradition continues to surprise Catholic fans of the Social Kingship of Christ.
In July of 2017, Wright penned a blog post titled “Unanswered Equality Challenge.” For the most part, Wright expressed disappointment in the responses to his challenge. To this day, he remains against the institution of monarchy, extolling our Americanist democratic republic over that form of government.
My purpose with this series is to answer the “Unanswered Equality Challenge” in full, responding not only to his main challenge question, but also responding to many claims in his essay.
I speculate that this series is unlikely to convert Wright to be convinced of monarchy’s superiority. That being said, as a fan of Wright’s writing, I cannot help but feel duty-bound to use my talents to produce some kind of a public response to his claims. This I will now do.
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John C. Wright places a special reverence for the idea of the freedom of speech in his essay, “Unanswered Equality Challenge.” For him, there is a marriage between America’s glorious democratic republic, and free speech. Wright, like many Americans, assume that freedom of speech is a God-given natural right that all men are equally born with.
A poor man has the same natural right to own his hovel as the rich man his mansion, and your natural freedom of speech is not less or more if you speak folly or wisdom.
As said above, one’s right to own a cottage or a mansion is the same whether one owns a fine house or a humble one. The right to own property is like a sack: the property is what is inside the sack, be it great or small. If one man has the legal right to take property out of his neighbor’s sack and place it in his own, the sack does not exist. It does not delimit what one owns from what one does not. Likewise for civil rights, as the right to free speech, free press, freedom of assembly.
Wright believes a man has a right to speak folly and error. He believes everyone should have access to a free press. In this, Wright is wrong. He is mistaken to believe in the golden legend of free speech rights. He fails to realize that error has no rights.
John Locke’s Strange Doctrine
If we are to stick strictly with Americanist views on the right to free speech (Americanism is a heresy, by the way), then let us take a look at the words of John Locke, the Father of Liberalism.
The notions of John Locke are toxic. When we consider how Locke reorients natural law into a brand new doctrine of rights, we can conclude that absolutely nothing should prevent man from saying whatever he wants. When reading Two Treatises, we are to believe that man is born with “a title to perfect Freedom, and an uncontrolled enjoyment of all the Rights and Privileges of the Law of Nature.” For Locke, this is a state of perfect equality and freedom that is exposed constantly to the invasion of others. A state of war is thus inaugurated from the moment of our birth, and there is always “the right to the innocent party to destroy the other whenever he can, until the aggressor offers peace.”
For Locke, we are in perpetual battle, and due to his conception of natural law, we have a natural right to preserve our free speech by any means necessary. “Every man hath a right to punish the Offender, and be Executioner of the Law of Nature.” He admits that this is a strange sounding idea, and he calls this his “strange Doctrine.”
It can certainly be said that the Left in American society happily and completely embraces the “strange Doctrine” of John Locke. Without hesitation, they become the judge, jury, and executioner, doing whatever they can to uphold the Aleister Crowley axiom “Do what thou wilt.” In terms of speech, the Left would reword it: “Say what thou wilt.” And to preserve their natural right to expression–whether it’s pornography, vulgarity, blatant or tongue-in-cheek anti-Christian propaganda–the Left has enacted the Strange Doctrine, happily bludgeoning their enemies on the Right, and this has been going on for quite some time, as Christopher Ferrara explains in Liberty, The God That Failed:
“One of the abounding absurdities of our post-Christian civilization is that contemporary legal codes impose harsh civil and criminal penalties for false advertising that causes the loss of mere money or for political heresy in the form of “hate speech” that offends certain sensibilities, while guaranteeing the absolute “freedom” to spread religious and moral falsehoods that have disastrous temporal and eternal consequences.”
In American society, livelihoods are destroyed if “hate speech” is uttered. Here, in our “shining city upon the hill,” so-called “hate speech” is akin to the Black Speech of Mordor. It is outlawed and forbidden. If you dare to say anything against gay marriage, anything pro-white, anything pro-patriarchy, anything that smells of climate change denial, then prepare to become blackballed by society. Prepare for lawsuits. Prepare to be judged by that oh-so-fair sovereign will of the people.
The Left claims that we are all equal and have a right to free speech, but then, once they establish this idea that all men have an equal right to free speech, they move the goalposts. Living by the principles of Locke’s Strange Doctrine, they attack all enemies who offend them, battering their foes with the law itself, until their antagonists are a bloody pulp.
Thus, as Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn states in Liberty or Equality, we begin to witness that
“the driving motor of the egalitarian and identitarian trends is envy, jealousy, and fear. “Nature” (i.e., the absence of human intervention) is anything but egalitarian; if we want to establish a complete plain we have to blast the mountains away and fill the valleys; equality thus presupposes the continuous intervention of force which, as a principle, is opposed to freedom. Liberty and equality are in essence contradictory.”
The truth of this statement was witnessed at the rallies of Donald Trump when he was a candidate for the president. We can see this fact when we recall the many violent leftist attacks against republican students at college campuses. We can remember how the Left overcame a right-wing rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, demonizing it before it ever took off the ground, and shutting down the entire operation with the power of the heckler’s vote and violence. If the Left feels strongly enough about it, they will never let the Right speak publicly. And if the Right ever dares to oppose the Left’s “freedom of speech,” say, to protest a satanic black mass on public property, they will be mocked and ridiculed by the Left for not being equal and fair. It is a double standard that is increasing in intensity year after year.
These facts are true now, just as it was true in the days when Thomas Jefferson and George Washington agreed that only those who swore loyalty oaths to America would be allowed to enjoy the rights of citizenship. Let us not forget the days when Tories were tarred and feathered. Let us not forget the days when abolitionists would gladly tell southern blacks to “rise up and kill their masters,” while southerners–caught between either a massive slave revolt and economic ruin, and agitating war-hungry northerners–dare not even speak for themselves in certain circles. Let us not forget how the Know Nothing Party was free to persecute Catholics openly, killing them in the streets, while Irish and German Catholics dare not to evangelize. And let us certainly not forget the priests and Catholics of early Puritan America who faced imprisonment and hanging for revealing their faith.
In America, freedom of speech does not take its proper place in the hierarchy of values. Freedom of speech does not have a right relationship between right and responsibility. Freedom of speech has a disordered place in our society. Freedom of speech goes against the Ten Commandments. Freedom of speech deceives everyone and convinces us that we have a right to lie.
Freedom Of Speech Does Not Exist
To take it further, the entire idea of free speech is a farce. It is a lie. It is not real.
To hold any meaning, speech must be set against some kind of a background of what is excluded. Speech is painted onto a canvas of what is silenced. Speech alone is not objectively valuable. Speech can only be produced within a paradigm of what we perceive to be good, and any bad speech must dissipate if there’s a conflict.
When one person speaks to another, they are trying to convince another person of something. In order to urge this idea–whatever it is–this idea is to the exclusion of other ideas. Speech has a rationale. It serves a purpose, and morality must direct it.
There is always something excluded with speech. And whenever we exclude something, it is to the detriment of someone we disagree with. This is the case for John Milton, who in his work Areopagitica explains “that when I speak of toleration and free expression I don’t mean Catholics. Them we extirpate.” John Milton’s work was one of the cornerstones of America’s philosophy of freedom. And yet, here we see him disallowing the free speech of Catholics. Stanley Fish, author of There’s No Such Thing As Free Speechexplains in an interview (emphasis mine):
“When Milton names Catholic discourse as the exception to his toleration he does so because in his view Catholic speech is subversive of everything speech, in general, is supposed to do–keep the conversation going, continue the search for Truth. In short, if speech is really to be free in the sense that he desires, Catholics cannot be allowed freely to produce it. This might seem paradoxical, but in fact, it is Milton’s recognition of a general condition: free speech cannot be permitted to flourish. The “free speech zone” emerges against the background of what has been excluded. Everyone begins by assuming what shouldn’t be said; otherwise there would be no point in saying anything.”
In an ordered world, everything should not be said that can be said. There is not a place for all expression. Some expression should be prevented. Milton knew this, but he was mistaken in thinking that it is Catholicism that is wrong. Quite the opposite.
Judge Robert Bork argued that First Amendment free speech protection should not be extended to slander, pornography, vituperation, and other deviancy. Unfortunately, it is those expressions that are now extolled in our society. Now it is charity, modesty, and reasonability that are torn apart in the public square. The Left has reversed what could have been an ordered world, and the idea of “free speech” is set against a canvas of unspoken and forbidden Christianity:
The silence has to do with the shape of any discourse. As Hobbes brilliantly points out again and again in his Leviathan, thought of a sequential and rational kind can only proceed when some set of stipulated definitions has been put at the beginning and established. Unless you have definitions of your topic, of your subject, demarcations of the field that you are about to explore, you cannot proceed because you have no direction. Hobbes also points out that such stipulative definitions are necessarily exclusionary. They exclude other possibilities, other possible ways of defining the field from which you might then have proceeded; since speech and reasoning can only occur when something is already in place and since the something that is already in place will be in place of something else that could have been in place, that something else which isn’t there is the silent background against which the discourse resounds.
In a monarchy of Christendom, the silent background would be paganism, perversion, and most of the evils that we luxuriate in today. But for our liberal democracy, our “free speech” is set against the silent backdrop of forgotten Christianity.
The worship of free speech is a misunderstanding that Catholics ought not share with the secular world. Our true natural rights exist in order for us to perform our responsibilities for God. Speech exists to proclaim Truth and exclude lies. Error has no rights, and in a monarchy erroneous, heretical speech would rightly be quelled.
Concluding Thoughts…So Far…
Free speech is a myth. The keepers of America’s “golden legend” of free speech have been either dishonest with the public or dishonest with themselves about its authenticity. There is no such thing as “blanket free speech,” and the concept has been abused by the Left for generations.
No democracy, aristocracy, or even monarchy could ever truly proclaim or defend free speech for everyone. But in spite of this, the idea of free speech is utilized by corrupt elements of our society–in concert with malleable democratic laws–in order to demolish their opponents. There is no moral equity when it comes to this pretended natural right. There is only a tyranny of the majority.
Liberty is not, as Ferrara tells it, “a mere absence of restraint on human action in the pursuit of whatever one considers happiness.” Instead, Liberty is “the good life of virtue, the secure possession of truth in individual and social life, and freedom from the bondage of sin for the sake of external felicity.”
True liberty enables us to seek God without the burdens of wicked influences. Having an across-the-board playing field when it comes to free speech pits the populace against itself. There can be no true equality, and equality is different from liberty. True liberty under a Catholic monarch would afford everyone plenty of reasonable leeway for expression, and not to the detriment of society.
In the Christendom of old, commonwealths were bulwark of true liberty compared to the oppressive moral and spiritual decline of our present day.
“If human freedom is viewed under the aspect of the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty, here too Christendom was a haven of true liberty in comparison with political modernity and it’s attendant cultural and moral degeneracy. For it was none other than the philosophers, scientists, composers, musicians, and artists of the Christian centuries who gave the Western world deep insight into the nature of man, the university system, innumerable scientific discoveries, and indisputably the greatest works of art, architecture, music, and literature the world has ever seen. Who in this Age of Liberty has even remotely approached the philosophical depth of Saint Thomas, or the creative triumph of Michelangelo, Dante, Palestrina, or the mystery-imbued splendor of the architects of Notre-Dame de Chartes?”
Will the West ever experience a good and wholesome Renaissance? Will there ever be a rebirth of the values that shaped us? Only time will tell. But for as long as we continue to look back only so far as Locke and Milton, we will be forever chained to a post-Enlightenment era of modernism–an era in which we believe ourselves to be free, so long as we believe we have equal free speech.
They call for equality in freedom; and if they cannot obtain that, they [will] still call for equality in slavery. -Alexis de Tocqueville, from “Why Democratic Nations Show a More Ardent and Enduring Love of Equality Than of Liberty”