In my previous post, I laid out what I consider to be the strongest argument against freedom of speech. Now I will cover what I believe to be the flaw in that argument.
In that argument’s analogy, ideological propaganda produced by think tanks is equated with pathogens produced by bioweapon labs. But this comparison misses something. Multiple pathogens will all weaken a host more than just one of them would, but multiple ideologies will contradict and weaken each other, influencing people less. This gives freedom of speech an advantage that “freedom to distribute pathogens” lacks.
When freedom of speech is eliminated, it is generally done so by one group that chooses to allow its own speech but bans that of other groups it opposes. Thus, one set of think tanks continues to distribute their ideology, but the others are no longer able to do so. This allows the favored ideology to have a greater impact on people than the spread of all ideologies would’ve. If one bioweapon lab banned all the others from distributing their pathogens, it would be an improvement; this does not hold true for think tanks and ideologies.
This doesn’t imply that freedom of speech and the marketplace of ideas automatically lead to the truth, but it does suggest that they are components of a system that does. Without freedom of speech, it’s much easier to entrench false ideas within society. Creating a marketplace of ideas at least puts some pressure on ideas to be truthful. However, some additional mechanism is necessary to ensure that more truthful ideas are believed and spread more. Otherwise, the marketplace of ideas, which directly optimizes for ideas that are believed and spread, ceases to indirectly optimize for truth.
I don’t know what such a mechanism would look like, but developing one seems like it could become more important as the power of propaganda increases. In the meantime, defending freedom of speech ought to help. It won’t solve the problem, but at the very least it should slow down the rate at which the situation deteriorates.