Thursday, December 26, 2013

Freedom to Offend

In the last week there's been quite a pother (: about freedom of speech.

Let's start with the basics. Those we know as the founding fathers came from a political situation where freedom of speech relied on who was in power at the moment. If you were a royalist and the royalists were in power you could say pretty much anything you wanted. If you weren't, you'd better keep your mouth shut or you might end up in prison or dead. The same thing went for religious and moral questions--if you disagreed with those in power, it was important to keep your mouth shut.

Because of this, they wrote freedom of speech into the US constitution. Not freedom if you agree with those in power, not freedom to speak as long as no one will be offended, but freedom for everyone at all times. If someone chooses to say something that offends me, that's their right. I have the right to say something that offends someone else because if you start drawing lines of offense, where does it end?

If we start saying this is allowed speech but that is not, we're walking a very shaky line.

Let's just say (to select an example not at random) that speaking in derogatory terms of homosexuality becomes unacceptable as a form of free speech. You must then extend that same protection to all groups, correct? Christians? Gun owners? Muslims? Business owners? No more bashing the stupid flat earther morons!

Oh, it doesn't apply to those groups? Because one group is in a position of social power, they are protected while others aren't? You see where I'm going with this?

Who defines offense?

I was told once that lies are not protected, but what he referred to as lies were truth to me. I consider myself a conservative, and much of what I believe is derided by those at the opposite end of the political spectrum. Does that mean they should not speak? If I speak and they consider what I say to be lies (or offensive), do they have the right to shut me up because of superior social or political power?

This is where the Founding Fathers were coming from, this is what they hoped to prevent in their new democratic republic.

It snuck in anyway.

If you curtail someone's right to speak, regardless of whether you feel their speech is offensive, then you risk your own right to speak if the wheel turns.

When someone deliberately asks you a question which they know many of their readers will find offensive, and it's either lie or be hung, then will you change your mind about freedom of speech? What about when the courts uphold the right to silence you?

Think about it.

1 comment:

Empty Nest Insider said...

There is much to debate here, and it is difficult to throw all of these issues into one basket. Hope you have a festive holiday season!