It seems like any time there is a controversy, those that belong to the far fringe of the political party that is not currently holding the keys to the White House always feels that their free speech is being intentionally taken away by some great conspiracy. When Bush was in the White House I remember some of my liberal friends pointing out every way Bush was destroying free speech, and now that Obama is in power we see the right pointing out every way they think they are losing the right to free speech.
But I sometimes wonder if we as a society are losing sight of the limitations of free speech.
Freedom of Speech does not mean that you can say whatever you want to whenever you want to however you want to where ever you want to and not face any consequences.
Libel and slander are still illegal. Saying “I think…” in front of your character assassination does not exempt you from defaming individuals or groups. Those laws have been in place as long as any of us have been alive – so it is still technically illegal to say certain things and always has been.
If you try to stand on your lawn at 3:00 am and loudly proclaim your views, you can still end up arrested for disturbing the peace. I have witnessed that happen – because I once called the police on some loud neighbors when I wanted to sleep. If you ring someone’s door bell and become a nuisance they can have you removed from their property. So it is also illegal to say things at certain places and has been since before any of use were born.
If you choose to be mean and judgmental and tell others they are unreasonable or lying or destroying society or hating God just because they don’t agree with your side, then those people can ask you to go away or stop posting on their Facebook wall or whatever it may be. They are not denying your right to free speech. They are exercising their right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” There is no law that forces them to listen to you if you are being mean. How you present your point matters.
Private companies have the right to terminate whoever they want to whenever they want to. Individuals can delete you off their Facebook wall if they want to. If either of those two or anything in between happens, you have only lost one avenue out of millions in today’s society for expressing yourself. No law in existence guarantees you the right to express yourself on every single avenue possible. Freedom of speech applies to the government cutting you off. Not individual companies or people on social networks.
And finally, there is no law the forces everyone in the whole world to put our hands over our mouths and say “your point is brilliant” every time you state something. People can disagree with your point. If you decide to swoop into a Facebook discussion with your fists swinging, don’t get all bent out of shape if they put up their dukes and swing back. If you came in accusing someone of being deceived or unreasonable, they are not trying to silence you by saying that you are being hateful and inappropriate. They are technically doing the exact same thing you are. They are not “silencing” you, you are facing consequences for poorly chosen words. If you choose to use insulting words, people are going to get emotional. Humans are emotional creatures and there is technically something wrong with a person that feels nothing when pointed words are exchanged. These are all consequences of using certain words, and if we can’t take responsibility for the effect of the words we choose, we should just shut up until we mature enough to learn to accept consequences.
All of this is to point out that what you say, when you say it, how you say it, where you say it, and the consequences of what you say all matters.
We live in a society where there have been laws and standards governing free speech for as long as we have been a society. Someone that is asking you to adhere to those laws and societal norms is not destroying your right to free speech or propagating a conspiracy to silence you. They are doing this thing called civilization. The real conspiracy that is destroying free speech is the one that is tricking people into believing that they can say whatever they want whenever they want however they want where ever they want and not face consequences.