Free Speech, Brother
EPISODE 58: What "freedom of speech" really means to Dana White and the UFC.
Last week, in a genuinely gripping bit of press-conference theater, Dana White became the biggest “free speech” absolutist in American sports.
Everyone else — across Silicon Valley, comedy, academia, corporate America, government — continues to flail at the all-consuming problem of content moderation in 2024. But here now is Dana White, hailed as an anti-cancellation truth-teller, declaring something that no sports commissioner ever has:
That, in short, is his policy solution.
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The “whatever,” in this case, happened to be an objectively homophobic rant from a UFC fighter, Sean Strickland. But to White, it was mostly a springboard for an admittedly masterful judo move: a stump speech about how our entire country has gotten the problem of moderation — censorship — all wrong.
Because Dana White loves free speech, brother. And he would never tell another human being what to say.
Which is why our guest today is Ariel Helwani.
Ariel, the host of The MMA Hour, has covered mixed martial arts for almost 20 years, tracing its evolution from a sport that once struggled to get carried on pay-per-view to a mainstream, politically resonant, multibillion-dollar empire. Ariel was often the interviewer when — spoiler alert — the speech policy Dana White used to enforce was the exact opposite of what he champions today.
Now, to be fair: everyone is allowed to evolve their ideology. But the question I had is whether Dana White’s ideology is anything close to what he claims.
Because if “free speech” — as an actual absolutist would define it — is meant to protect not simply the stuff that makes you rich, but the stuff that makes you uncomfortable, Ariel is key to understanding what Mr. Free Speech really wants.
DKN/YOUTUBE SPOILER ALERT:
Please don’t get hit by a bus,