(Pix credit: By Michael Linnenbach - first upload in de wikipedia on 09:58, 16. Feb 2005 by Michael Linnenbach, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=105418)
Americans have their foibles; especially those that emerge from out of the Academy. But this is not one of them. I am speaking of the eruption (again) of national discussion about the use of words and their presentation before audiences (willing or not)--the encouragement of free speech and the suppression of words and speakers in the name of the protection of the innocent from the violence of words.
As I have noted elsewhere, it is not words that are at the center of the controversy--it is the narratives to which these words may be deployed ("The University in the Age of the Learning Factory: Dueling narratives in the culture war around higher education,"). This becomes clearer when one stops for a moment indulging a hyper focus on the national discussion within a peculiar segment of American society and considers the issue in a different national and political context.
This short essay considers the current battles over the control of the narratives to which words are deploys, suppressed and managed--but from the context of Cuba, a nation where one might take state control of those battles for granted but within which even there, the state appears merely as one of several actors in the battle for control of the way orthodoxy is constructed and protected through the deployment of words. My purpose here is neither to take a position on the opinions of others (on every side of this issue here and elsewhere) but merely to note the difficulty of speaking to these issues outside of politics. Perhaps there is no "higher law" of free speech--there is merely the recognition that the ideology of speech is itself an expression of the orthodoxies that ideology is meant to protect.