Commentary - Freedom and Freedom of Speech
When men were willing to die to secure freedom of speech, the only threat to that freedom were those people whose power depended on deceiving some large number of people. They naturally resisted free speech which could have expose them. The purposes of both those who sought free speech and those who resisted it, whether right or wrong, could at least be understood.
Today, those who are opposed to free speech are opposed to it, not because they are afraid some speech might endanger their political power, but because some thing that might be said might hurt their own or someone else's feelings.
The freedom to express our thoughts and opinions, which men fought and died to secure, is being lost, not to political rulers attempting to hold on to power by keeping the citizenry ignorant (although there is plenty of that), but to a bunch of screaming thin-skinned whiners who demand people be silenced, so they won't be insulted, have their self esteem hurt, or, heaven forbid, learn that someone hates them.
For the record, anyone who wants to limit anyone else's freedom of speech ought to be hated, deserves nothing but shame, and is an insult to everything that is moral or decent.
If you want a free society, it means some people will be offended and others will have their feelings hurt, especially those who do not want a free society.
It's really too bad if everyone doesn't love you, if some people say bad things about you or call you names, if some people don't think the world begins and ends with you, but that's the way it is. If you want to, you can probably persuade the men with the guns (the government) to use their force to prevent anyone who hates you from saying so, but you cannot stop them from hating you, and you can be sure they will not hate you any less when they have successfully shut them up. At least, when they are allowed to express their hate, you know who they are, and you can avoid them, if you wish. When you have silenced them, you will have no way of knowing who hates you and they will hate you more than ever. Personally I prefer knowing who hates me, but don't really care that they do.
(See the article "Freedom of Speech means Freedom to Offend")
What in the world do you think freedom of speech is? It is freedom to say anything. If we are only free to say what will offend no one and only what everyone else agrees with, there is no freedom of speech.
Freedom of speech means free to say or write anything I choose and to transmit that speech or writing by any means I choose. It also means free not say or write anything I choose and to not transmit anything said or written against my will.
Listen carefully to those who claim to be for free speech, but continually clamor for some kind of control of it. Notice also, the contradiction comes in both forms, speech they want curtailed and speech they demand be provided and listened to.
Almost every argument against free speech is a confusion of property rights. The argument that some speech must be curtailed because it is dangerous, is usually supported by the absurd example, "well, you can't yell fire in a crowded theatre." In the first place, you certainly can yell fire in a crowded theatre, especially if the theatre is on fire, or, if proper warning is given that it is going to be yelled, or if it fits into the dialogue of a play, or any number of other possible legitimate situations that exist.
A theatre, like many schools, libraries, and other places where people may be gathered, is private property. If the owner of the property decides he doesn't want something said on his property, that is no curtailment of speech. If you or anyone else choose to say what the owner of the property does not want spoken on his property, you have violated his right to determine what is done on his property.
Freedom of speech does not entitle you to violate someone else's property, it means, where no one else's freedom is limited, you are free to say anything you want, any time you want. On your own property, you may say or write anything you like, and any who choose to may listen to what you say or read what you write, but no one is required to do either. If you own a theatre, even when it is crowded, you may stand in it and yell, "fire," as loudly and as often as you please.
So long as individual property is protected, anyone ought to be able to say or write anything without any kind of restriction. Where there is true freedom of speech, however, some things that are said and written will be hated by some who see them as evil, (which they very well may be). Others will be insulted, some will be hurt, and others will be led astray by the things that are said and written, and there will always be some who think their lack of emotional and self-control are reason enough to use guns to stop some people from speaking and writing freely.
Evil men intentionally obfuscate the difference between the word "speech" and "expression." When a wild individual enters an office or schoolroom and begins shooting everyone in sight, that is expression. When a person reads the Declaration of Independence aloud to a crowd, that is speech. Those who will not understand the difference deserve to loose all freedom, which their views, if they prevail, guarantee.
The problem with confusing freedom of speech and press with freedom of expression is that it confuses what it is about speech that must be kept free, and packages it together with things that cannot be free in the same way, because they can interfere with someone else's freedom. Freedom of speech and the press never interfere with anyone else's freedom.
It is speech and writing used to communicate ideas that must not be restricted, not just sounds or marks on paper. It is freedom to say what will offend others, even what would actually hurt others if what is said were put into practice. Speech cannot hurt anyone. (Those who are "hurt" by what others say, hurt themselves.)
It is actions that hurt people. No idea, desire, or scheme can hurt anyone simply by being spoken or written. But some ideas, desires, and schemes, when "expressed" will hurt people. When a man describes how to rob a bank, no harm is done. If someone actually expresses the methods describes, real harm is done. If someone writes about their irrational desire to hurt people, no one is hurt, but when that irrational desire is expressed in practice, people are hurt.
A picture is not speech. A sculpture is not speech. A photograph is not speech.
The clamor for freedom of expression when someone refuses to display someone's work of art because they not only do not appreciate it, but find it revolting or repulsive is the result of the confusion between freedom of speech and freedom of expression, and is frequently a violation of the nature of private property. Speech is the use of language to convey ideas. Art might convey ideas or it might not, but that is not its chief aim in any case.
Nevertheless, there ought to be freedom of expression, whenever private property is not violated. However, in most cases, where freedom of expression is demanded, it is actually a demand for someone else to provide a place and funding for the promotion and display of the art, which is really nothing more than theft. Freedom of expression is not freedom to expropriate someone else's property or money for that expression.
If freedom of speech means anything, it means we not only may say anything we want to say but may not be compelled to say anything we do not want to say. This means, if I own a radio or television station, I do not have to broadcast any words I disagree with.
It also means I do not have to pledge allegiance to a flag, take an oath, or answer any questions asked by any agent of the government, (or write those answers, either). All such forced speech is as immoral is restricted speech. Of course, if the country a flag represented would never consider requiring its citizens or their children to recite anything and answer any of its questions, most of those citizens would eagerly, enthusiastically, and voluntarily pledge their allegiance to that kind of flag. This is unlikely, however, in a country that requires its citizens to fill out census and income tax forms.