I written quite a bit over the years about freedom of Speech. It’s not, as many believe, the idea that you may say whatever you want, whenever you want, without consequences. It’s really about delivering an idea or ideas. In this country, as long as the speech doesn’t threaten someone, attempt to cause others physical harm, then it’s allowed under U.S. law. There is no such thing as a hate speech. The speech you may hear you may believe offends your sensibilities and is therefore “hate”, but unless that speech directly incites people to commit violent acts against others? It’s perfectly legal. It may be noxious, but no one goes to prison here for being a bigot.
I think that, unlike many other countries in the West, is good. I’m not required by any law to listen to anything I don’t want to hear. You’re not required to read my words, here. Everything is a choice that we individually male on at least a daily basis. I read a very good primer today in Aero by, you guessed it, Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay. How any times do any of us have to basically say the same thing before people get the idea of free speech?
Look at it this way: On this blog, I write whatever I want to say. I have comments open here, meaning that I don’t moderate comments so that a reader may react any way they wish to whatever I’ve posted. But, my readers don’t have a right to post comments here, Readers are here by my discretion. I could easily turn off all comments but then I’m sure I’d have a lot less traffic if I did that. My free speech rights end at your ears, and vice versa. That doesn’t mean anyone may speak their mind, it’s just as Helen and James point out, and I have other times on this blog, no one has to listen.
The only reason you’re reading this right now is that, to an extent, you have an interest in what I’m saying. You may comment – or not – no one forces you one way or the other. When you comment here, rules apply. When you come into my home, rules apply. When you tweet to your followers on Twitter, those same types of rules apply. YOu have no right to speak to me and on Twitter, I can mute, or block you. I can unfollow you so that I am not offended by what you say. that doesn’t prevent you from speaking, it’s just that Ive taken a pass on what you have to say.
It’s different, of course, if the government decides what is acceptable speech or not. Try criticizing Islam in Great Britain. They actually have police that will come to your home, possibly arrest you, for making any substantial criticism.
What most of us believe is a universal right, is not so everywhere.
We also, all of us, have a responsibility to use our speech responsibly. But, at least here in America, it’s almost impossible to accomplish. Think before you speak may be a good way to approach any conversation, but there’s no guarantee anyone actually does that.
All we can do is to make the attempt and we’re only responsible for ourselves. Let’s try that first.