Some animals have developed amazing ranges of expressions which allow them to project how they think and feel, but humans are the only animals to have developed something quite so absolutely descriptive as speech. It’s not universal though; I can understand those who communicate in English, German and French but human animals which communicate in Farsi do it beyond my range of understanding. Despite how non-universal human speech is, there is still nothing in the universe so descriptive as human speech. We export understanding of our thoughts, our feelings, our actual existence, a million times better than any other animal.
This is why the concept of free speech matters. Before I go on I regrettably need to define that term.
Free speech means the ability to say anything. Free speech is to use that human animal expression mechanism free of any caveats. Free speech is not the ability to use speech which is inoffensive, it is not liberty to express speech which fits within any particular social, religious or even legal norm. Free speech is not responsible speech, or morally correct speech, or the speech which makes you feel good and like there is consensus and love and inclusion. Free speech is absolute.
Free speech might vilify. It may be lies. IT MAY BE PAGES OF LIES. It may hatefully describe other humans and it might do so without any justification; on the basis of race, and religion, and gender, or sexuality. It may have an agenda. It might be bile-laden vitriol dropped from a great height on people who don’t deserve it. Free speech can be one of the most horrible things that you’ve ever encountered. It can be partisan, and sneaky, and hateful, and illegal, and wrong.
But it’s free.
The thing about free speech is that despite those bad things, it’s STILL that human-unique ability to express one’s thoughts, beliefs and feelings in articulate sounds. The minute you say “but” to anything regarding free speech you are putting caveats on someone’s thoughts and essence.
It’s easy to support free speech when those thoughts and beliefs are the same as yours, or pleasant, or morally right. The real test - and the value of free speech if it has any at all - is when the speech is not pleasant. The test is when it’s wrong. The point where you know that you are on the side of freedom is when you support the right of somebody to vilify race, religion, gender, political persuasion and the facts. You may rightfully support the consequences of that speech; legal consequences around damaging character, or causing physical injury, or gaining advantage, but you support the expression of belief via articulate noises.
So given all that, here’s how you know you don’t support freedom;
- When you say “free speech doesn’t mean you can say anything” when that is exactly what it means
- When you say “free speech except for hate media”
- When you say “free speech but for when the French/Israel/basketball players/women/gays/Aboriginals/journalists/cows are vilified”
- When you say “free speech unless it crosses the line”
- When you say “free speech up until the limit, because even free speech has limits”
- When you support the establishment of a body to regulate speech
- When you support the establishment of a license to speak, or support a political party that does, knowing that a license is permission and exists only to provide the option to revoke it
When your position is anything other than “I may not agree, they may even be wrong, but I support the right of that other human to translate their beliefs, feelings and essence into a conveyable format, because if I don’t I’m just making excuses for putting caveats on their worth as a human.”
I support actual freedom of speech. Do you? I won’t restrict your answer, but I will point out that a single word will do.
I believe in free speech.