I’ve always been a fierce advocate of Free Speech. I believe that people should be allowed to say what ever they want, on any subject, without fear of retribution of any kind. in fact, for those that don’t live in the country that I do, it’s part of our founding document, our Constitution, expressed in the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to that document. It’s curious, and notable that the very first amendment guarantees that Congress shall make no law… with respect to our freedom to speak as we like. Of course, there are exceptions in that promoting violence against another is illegal, and should be, but beyond that simple restriction, we may speak our minds. No one is given the right to not be offended.
Mostly, we take that right seriously. In recent years though, with the rise of social media, it has become less so. People believe that the right to speech is only exists in that they may not be challenged in their beliefs. Of course, we all have the ability within these platforms to choose who we allow to follow us, or whom we follow. Sometimes we end up making the wrong decision but then at’s easily remedied with the click of a button. No one is forced to see any content they may find offensive. That’s fine. It’s no different than ignoring someone on a soapbox in a public square screaming that the world is about to end. They may say what they wish, but no one has to stop and listen.
People say crass and what seems to be uninformed things all the time whether in person or online. Just look at any politician of any party or ideology as proof. Stupid is not owned by anyone in particular. Something we get to do online is choose those with whom we interact. Of course, we’re susceptible to those same people taking our posts and sharing them with a wider audience and that’s sometimes where people may run into those that may not be amenable to what is being discussed. Some people believe it’s their duty to inject their opinion into an online dialogue and usually do so without completely understanding the context of what is being discussed.
Some of these may just be trolls, a person just attempting to cause conflict where none exist. In other situations, the person may be genuinely interested in participating, adding content that may be valuable to any discussion.Still others though, may have no purpose whatsoever, other than inserting an unwanted opinion that has no bearing on what is being discussed. It is usually in the form of someone believing they are correcting someone else’s thoughts or opinions. These people actually think that interjecting their opinion is for the greater good and that others in the conversation will defer to what they have. to say. With this, these people display their narcissistic tendencies.
Narcissus, from Greek mythology, was a young man of great beauty that became so enamored with himself that he eventually died when he was unable to look away from his own reflection. So, today we describe people as narcissists as those who have an over abundance of self-esteem and self-involvement to the detriment of those around them. They believe themselves to be unassailable because they have always been treated in that way. So, that person’s opinion, or thoughts may not be disagreed with in any way.
We’ve raised, and educated, at least one entire generation believing that their worldview should be that perfect reflection of themselves and anyone that comes between them and that reflection are imperfect and deserve nothing but derision and condemnation for daring to interrupt that perfect image they have of themselves. This is what is witnessed mainly on social media today and what society (we) have created. They’ve been taught to believe in their own superiority over others and have been programmed via our educational system to accept opinion over fact. They can never be directly challenged and when they are, is why we witness them becoming an online mob to silence an opinion, or facts, that are inconvenient for them.
Their tactics are always the same: attack someone online for their beliefs and make baseless accusations towards someone they don’t actually know impugning the other persons integrity and go so far as to threaten them with professional or financial consequences if there is no agreement. This usually involves doxxing their opponent. Instead of engaging in honest discussion or debate, it’s always disparagement and threats.
In their limited world there is no right to free speech. It’s why recent polls of millennials have been disturbing in that some 44% of them do not believe in freedom of speech and that some speech should be restricted. We witness the result of this online everyday.
Of course the easiest response to them is no response, but that doesn’t solve the problem of those that believe in restricting thought and speech. The best we can do is to not be intimidated and let these know that the restrictions they want today will be the rules they have to live by and that the next time they stare into the mirror, the face that they see may not be their own.