A third-party op-ed made it to the surface at the Times of Israel, written by a woman named Dinah Goldstein.* Meet Dinah:
The op-ed was quite special, as the Advice Goddess, Amy Alkon, noted:
What Idiot Thinks We’re Safer And Better Off Having No Idea What Other People Think?
Somebody said this at a recent dinner for FIRE that I went to. And they’re right. As I put the same idea, “Why would anyone think we’re safer if ugly views are shoved underground? They’re still there. We just can’t see or debate them.”
Amy includes a quote from the op-ed, though in fairness, pretty much any quote from the op-ed would have done the trick:
Freedom of speech is something that always has to be balanced against other peoples’ human rights. America needs to take a human rights-based approach to freedom of speech, balancing freedom of speech against human dignity, civility, and respect, and the US needs to outlaw all ideas which have no place in a modern democracy with basic human rights.
My personal favorite quote is:
Hate speech is not just speech, but is, in fact, a form of violence which can be even more harmful and damaging than physical attacks.
Although this one is a close second:
Freedom of speech should never be a license to insult, offend, disrespect, oppose human rights, undermine progress, or incite hatred. Racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, climate change denial, vaccine denial, anti-feminism, cultural appropriation, xenophobia, ableism, anti-multiculturalism, transphobia, and all other forms of bigotry are not “thoughts” or “opinions.”
“Dinah Silverstein” doesn’t exist. A reverse image search links to Nancy Goldstein, someone who is actually an activist and columnist.
Uh oh. And indeed, that appears to be correct.
The op-ed, as the quotes above reflect, was little more than a baseless screed, making bald assertion after bald assertion of the evils of free speech, with a bit of Gertruding thrown in because reasons.
Like any intelligent and sensible person, I have always been a dedicated champion of freedom of speech, especially when it’s speech that many people do not want to hear. To quote Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” In fact, during my time in Australia working for the Human Rights Law Centre and Amnesty International Australia, I was repeatedly called a “free speech extremist” and a “free speech fundamentalist.” Freedom of speech is absolutely vital. It is the cornerstone of any democratic society, and it must be uheld [sic] to the maximum possible extent. But, like all rights, it comes with many responsibilities and it must be used constructively.
Whether or not this is a misattribution to Voltaire isn’t the point, you nerds. What is the point is that calls for criminalization of whatever speech this writer hates is bolstered by her self-professed bona fides as a “free speech fundamentalist,” so we know we can trust her because she believes free speech “must be upheld to the maximum possible extent.”
And what is that maximum?
Your rights end where the rights of others begin.
Except there is no Dinah Silverstein. But, as a Google search shows, that hasn’t stopped others from talking about Dinah Silverstein and this op-ed. Nor has it informed the readers of the Times of Israel that they’ve been duped.
Repetition and dissemination are valuable tools for spreading baseless assertions around. When people see and hear an assertion enough, it begins to sink in, to become credible as if it must be real because they keep hearing people say it. And not just any people, but people credible enough to get an op-ed in the Times of Israel. So it must be true, or at least true enough to form the basis of a credible opinion.
It may not be accepted in its totality, but by establishing a foothold through repetition in credible sources, it attains credibility, which at minimum establishes it as a sufficiently credible position to form a basis for compromise. And isn’t compromise a good thing? Can’t we all just get along?
Except Dinah Silverstein is a lie. Whether you want to call it a pseudonym or sock puppet, as Nancy Goldstein creates a secondary phony persona to promote her social justice agenda by giving it the appearance of greater support, or just to avoid the consequences of posting such a monumentally stupid op-ed, what it is not is true.
A fundamental truth is exposed by Peter Steiner’s comic from the New Yorker, circa 1993.
Which brings us back to Amy’s question, “What Idiot Thinks We’re Safer And Better Off Having No Idea What Other People Think?” The answer appears to be Nancy Goldstein. Except this mutt thinks the rest of us are the idiots, which is why she hides behind the name Dinah Silverstein when trying to spread her social justice agenda. Because on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.
* The original Times of Israel op-ed has mysteriously disappeared. shocking. But in anticipation of such an event, I made a copy.
Update: Turk raised the possibility that this op-ed was a parody, a spoof to see if whoever wrote it could get the Times of Israel to bite, and that the spoofer stole Nancy Goldstein’s pic. This is certainly a possibility that hadn’t occurred to me when I wrote the post.
As Nancy Goldstein has not, as yet, denied any connection to Dinah Silverstein and the op-ed, and no one else has taken credit a spoof, the question remains up in the air. But it may be that this has nothing more to do with Nancy Goldstein than a stolen picture and the Times of Israel being happy to post it alongside the name Dinah Silverstein. Just sayin’.