Free Speech is always under fire. Mostly what you see is this notion of controlling speech from all sides because they don’t like what is being presented or said so they want it shut down. The real problem is that there is only one way to prove that you truly and genuinely believe in free speech – when you are willing to fight to the death for someone’s right to say something that is personally offensive TO YOU. The whole point of any guarantee of free speech is the assumption that at time someone I going to say or present some idea that will be offensive and it needs to be allowed. The Right to Free Speech is about protecting that which offends.
When everyone loves what is said, there is little need to protect speech. Nobody starts screaming for the person to shut up. It’s when someone starts yelling for someone to shut up that we need to pay attention as to whether we believe in free speech. There are many enemies of free speech but the chief among them is our own desires to shut down viewpoints that oppose our own.
In recent days there have been many challenges from a free speech standpoint. In Baltimore there were some folks who were walking on American flags and the flag burners are always present. The responses to this have been legion and I can respect that some patriotic folks dislike this but like it or not they have the right to do it. You can dislike and speak against it, but you can’t stop it if you genuinely believe in free speech there is a part of you that has to say that. Don’t get me wrong, there is a delicious irony and hypocrisy to those in this country that hate it, who at the same time then calling forth their rights guaranteed by this country for them to express that hatred. John Wayne said in a movie once that the Constitution assume the good character of those under it and unfortunately not everyone has good character or something like that and he is right.
On the flip side there is the ever preset threat of political correctness. The folks who want certain words banned from the narrative of speech. Free speech is the right to be offensive with what you say so political correctness cuts at the heart of free speech because of this. Free Speech means that you have the right to say things contrary to popular opinion, that are bigoted, that are stupid and ignorant. If you respect free speech then you respect that people have the right to say things that are bigoted, ignorant and stupid but also you have to completely respect opinions contrary to your own. If you don’t or think their should be a law against people saying things against you then you don’t believe in free speech.
In truth this goes for all rights. The proof you believe in rights is when you uphold the rights of your enemy. Anyone can uphold the rights of people who agree with you, it takes far more character to uphold the rights of those that oppose you. Now that also means that you can you your rights to speak and act against but it does not mean you have the right to shut down the rights of others. If you believe in free speech, you fight for the right to speak of those that disagree with you.