Free Speech

12/10/19

Free speech is great. Everyone loves free speech. It’s lovely not being imprisoned for speaking your mind. Ironically however, free speech can be used to shut down speech. There are some people who don’t like being respectful in their speech and want to use harmful words without anyone calling them out on it. When someone does say, “hey, don’t use that word it’s hurtful” the person then accuses the other person of shutting down their free speech. The person is only being lightly chastised, for their uncivil language, they are not being imprisoned. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences. In a civil society we have cultural rules about acceptable language in order to get along harmoniously. When someone violates those cultural rules they are reprimanded by society being disgusted by them. That is not limiting someone free speech: it is the person feeling the consequences of their speech. This obsession about acceptable speech has become more prominent as the right wing has become resurgent.

People who advocate for free speech without consequences usually have a grudge that is not societally acceptable and wish to be as vocal as they like about it. They see any rejection of their right to be hurtful to others as an infringement of their right to free speech. This shuts down any confrontation as the person trying to impose societal norms is seen as impinging on the other person’s fundamental rights. This has manifested most recently in arguments about deplatforming public speakers at universities. Getting deplatformed gives the controversial speaker a win as they get to make a big song and dance about being denied their right to speak. This is better than delivering a speech to them as they can drag out the story and monster those that want the misogynist or racist not to speak. This win for them has an additional benefit of being an incident that others can point to, to demonstrate how free speech is being limited. There has been actual research conducted that demonstrates that the younger generation are more in favour of free speech than any generation before them. There is also research that shows that more liberal professors report being censored than right wing professors.

The Free Speech advocates claim to be classical liberals and just want a chance to debate. They are often fans of John Stuart Mill, though much like creationists they cherry pick his work to support their ideas and ignore the parts that don’t fit their ideology. Prominent Free Speech advocates are Jordan Peterson (see previous fact), Sam Harris and Tommy Robinson. They refute any critique of their islamaphobia or misogyny as limiting their speech.

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