Freedom of Speech

I have heretofore liked to think that I’m a big proponent of “I may not like what you have to say, but I’ll defend to my death your right to say it”. Recently I’ve been given cause to think more deeply about that sentiment. Do I defend to the death your right to make religious, ethnic, racial slurs? Do I defend to the death your right to argue with half facts and distortions? Do I actually think I’m fooling myself when I claim I’ll defend your right to say what you please, if it pleases you to call me a “fat cunt”? These are no random musings, but realities that have thrust themselves into my life over the past week. I feel like some poor dog whose nose has been thrust into its mistake, and now can’t get the smell out of its nostrils.

Does maturity bring with it further insights, or simply inflexibility? There was a time I would have simply turned my back on that which was distasteful. Now, more and more, it sticks in my craw. I’m not sure if it is a good or a bad thing that I am changing. I’m not even sure what views I will finally settle on making my own. But I no longer can truthfully say that I’d defend your right to always speak your mind.

For some reason cyberspace has become the equivalent of driving one’s car on the freeway. Once it was the driver who, secure in the glass-enclosed anonymity of his own car, would pick his nose with the finger in to the second knuckle, dislodge the remains of his morning’s repast from his back teeth, examine his finger after dragging the remains of some long dead beast out of his ear. He feels comfortable in flipping the bird to a fellow driver, when he would never dream of doing so to a fellow pedestrian or coworker. In extreme cases, he feels justified in brandishing a gun, or hurling epithets out an open window. It never seemed to matter that these displays were in full view of those stuck in traffic about him. On the open highway you have no name, and therefore you are not accountable for your actions.

Now it is the information highway that grants this false cloak of invisibility. Trolls feel free to lurk under bridges and club the unwary surfer who cruises by. Other trolls become more daring, and actively pursue their prey across public forums and e-mail routes. They have in common the paradoxical need to be seen and heard without being recognized. I find this behavior immature at its most benign, and unconscionable when practiced at its highest form.

I amend my beliefs to say that I defend your right to say what you believe in a forum appropriate to those views. I amend my beliefs to say that, if you wish to spout filth and intolerance, any place I make my home on the web is not an appropriate forum for your views. I amend my beliefs to say that, if you choose to argue with half truths and statistics with no backing, I have better things to do than read your treatises.

Freedom of Speech does not come free, nor does it mean you get to abdicate maturity and responsibility. It’s time some people learned that concept.

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  1. i absolutely *love* the new look.

    As far as your musings on freedom of speech…i personally feel that with freedom, comes responsibility. People have their freedoms, but they need to exercise responsibility when using them. The problem is that you can’t really legislate that sort of thing.

    i agree with you though. i think freedom of speech applies more with ideas and less with insults and ignorance. Does freedom of speech cover lies, cruelty, and abuse?

  2. It’s a great entry, and I hope I don’t cheapen it by choosing to say here how much I -love- your new look. For all I know, you’ve looked this way for days, but my dad’s computer doesn’t show the pretty things. It’s all white backgrounds and washed out images. On topic, I’m all about the ACLU, but I do believe speech has been rather broadly defined. Somebody yelling "Fuck" at you through his car window (aside from being stupid if he thinks it’s going to be intelligible) isn’t communicating speech, but producing the verbal equivalent of graffiti. Erm. Except that cheapens graffiti, which can be legitimate speech.

  3. I don’t think you’re wrong for not wanting people to insult you in your internet home and those of your friends.

    Aside from waiting for board admins to delete it, there’s not much you can do. I choose to ignore fanatical drivel with no basis in facts most of the time, although I slip occasionally and make the mistake of reading a post here and there. Nothing to do but get rid of the posts from trolls and not allow the inane ramblings of strangers annoy you, I guess.

    It’s hard enough as a guest of your boards not to get angry, but getting angry is what they want me to do, so it’s the best revenge to deny it to them.

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