Friday, July 21, 2006

What exactly is free speech?

By Kanrei

Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech.”

That is all the Constitution has to say on the issue of “free speech”. The founding fathers seem to have left it up to each generation to define it. Does it mean that a person is free to say anything, free of consequences? Does it mean that a person is free to say anything as long as they are willing to deal with the consequences?

Well, “Free speech” certainly cannot mean that a person is free to say anything, free of consequences because there are many cases where there are consequences for things said. It is illegal, for example, to scream “fire” in a crowded place. It is illegal to say “bomb” in an airport. It is illegal to say “bong” in a headshop…um.

If there is even one place where free speech is legally limited, then there is not freedom given to all speech. It means that there are certain words and certain places where certain words are not free.

“But certainly profanity must be legal.”

Actually and technically, no. According to, “If any person profanely curses or swears...he shall be deemed guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.”

So, if the freedom to use certain words is limited, then what does “freedom of speech” mean? Speech is not necessarily the words one uses, it is the idea one conveys through the words. “Freedom of Speech” means that a person is free to express any idea they may have, no matter what that idea is.

The founding fathers were very big on protecting the right to make speeches and debating political philosophies. This was something that they could have been imprisoned for in the past. They wanted to protect a person's right to complain. They wanted to, as Larry Flynt once said "protect the thought you hate the most and not the thought you love the most." Where he and I part ways is that I do not believe all words are given equal protection, only the thoughts behind the words are. I believe the founding fathers believed in "Decent Society" and private lives.

Profanity, slander, libel, threats: all are illegal. This is not to limit one person's rights, but to protect another's.

A person is free to make speeches about the evils of Bush (and they do). A person is free to blame Jews for any and everything (and they do). A person is free to express any idea they choose to, but they are not free to use any word. “Freedom of Speech” is not “Freedom of Words”.

For example, you can make a speech about how much you hate black people. You can say anything on the subject you want, but the minute you start saying the "N" word, you are attacking another. "Freedom of Speech" is not freedom to assault another. And you can even use that "N" word in places, just not in every place. Understand?

It is understandable for people to misunderstand this concept. They misquote and misuse words all the time. It is the love of money, not money that is the root of all evil. "Play it again, Sam" is never said in Casablanca. Most people who will quote the Constitution have not seen it since middle school, so it is understandable. The only unforgivable part is their refusal to admit that they could be wrong.

Just thinking with my fingers.

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