Free Speech: It Has Limits Whether You Like It or Not

Cracked.com’s What Free Speech Doesn’t Give You The Right To Say:  No, free speech is not under attack; being an asshole is.

It’s mind-blowing that a serious (with amusing bits) article on free speech has appeared on this website.

The writer, Aaron Kheifets, makes two important points.

  1.  Free Speech doesn’t mean you get to say whatever you want.

The example everyone is familiar with is that you can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater (everyone will kick your ass for talking during Rogue One). But there are many more examples of things you have no legal right to spout off. You can’t incite people to violence, you can’t slander (in speech) or libel (in writing) someone, and you can’t say things that would make any reasonable person punch you in the face, because them’s fightin’ words (though telling someone you thought The Force Awakens was a good movie is still technically legal, for some reason).

Yet despite it being completely illegal in real life, people think they are allowed to threaten and harass people online. Leslie Jones received a mind-boggling number of inflammatory and threatening messages on Twitter, and zero people went to jail. Contrariwise, if someone (say, I don’t know, maybe a Cracked writer) organized people to make a bunch of prank phone calls to a radio DJ, they would for sure go to jail. Just ask Cracked writer and jail alum John Cheese.

So just to be clear (and I can’t believe this is a sentence that actually needs to be written), you aren’t allowed to intentionally inflict harm on someone, even by just using words, whether via in-person chat, phone, email, Facebook, Instagram, telegraph, Snapchat, Tinder, smoke signals, singing telegram, carrier pigeon, words scrawled on a gas station bathroom wall, or even Reddit.

 

2.  The world doesn’t owe you shit.

The second point people often forget is that nobody owes them shit. Some people seem to have an unbelievably difficult time understanding that “free speech” does not mean “the freedom to say whatever you want without any consequences.” If you say something fucked up in a public forum, people and businesses are exercising their free speech when they react to it. If a comedian makes rape jokes and people don’t like them, that isn’t the audience censoring the comic any more than someone not liking a meal is censoring the chef. Nobody has to support anyone else’s shit sandwiches.

 

Similarly, a bunch of companies, including anti-masturbation titan Kellogg’s, pulled their advertising dollars from the “alt-right” “news” outlet Breitbart. But rather than waging war on free speech, Kellogg’s is simply keeping their brand from becoming synonymous with shriveled dog crap. Breitbart, champions of the free market (meaning free for them, not for advertisers) and defenders of harassment everywhere, responded with cries of “Censorship!”

 

That guy who got banned for life from Delta airlines didn’t get banned because he supported Donald Trump; he got banned for aggressively harassing a plane-full of people about it.

 

It’s an excellent article about what the 1st Amendment grants you and what it does not.  People need to absorb these *facts* without trying to pick them apart or scream that they’re legally allowed to spew their racist garbage.  You are legally allowed.  Doesn’t mean you won’t suffer the consequences.

Now, given who may or may not be in the White House on January 20th (please let the electoral college revise their votes based on paper vote recounts–they vote on December 19th, which is normally a day when the general election is made official; but Clinton is winning the popular vote by 2 million votes and this election cycle was the lowest voting block in fifty years), this election cycle has *proven* that one third, at the very least, of the citizens of this country are racist/bigoted assholes.  Period.

Those think the world owes them the right to spew their bullshit without consequences are in for a rude awakening.  If Trump remains the president-elect, then they will believe they have that right.  They don’t.  And they will find out just how much they don’t over the next four years.  They wanted a reenactment of the civil war.  They’re about to get one, minus the numbers of the dead.

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