Free speech is a right that all humans should have, this is a basic, but crucial statement regarding life on Earth.
After experiencing people of all places along the spectrum practice their right to free speech, I have come to the conclusion that how we define freedom of speech is really based on your perspective of freedom in general.
Some people look at freedom like they do society, while we are free to live our lives, we do sacrifice a small portion of that freedom in order to reap the benefits of an organized society. One example of this is the sense of protection created by man made laws, which allows us to live within imaginary boundaries, but also ensures others do too!
When you look at a persons freedom of speech in this way, you can understand why some things that are seen as socially taboo or reckless and hateful towards a certain group can and must be adjusted in order to avoid the creation of more hate and actual violence. While this may seem like a valid position that ensures all people equality and safety, it lacks a few fundamental elements in its practical implementation.
Lately, People who abide by the notion of clean free speech, often forget the necessity of informed free speech. In an age of misinformation, disinformation and fake news, I believe we have entered an era, where people simply censor, before correcting the opinions and beliefs of others, which has caused nothing but further division and strife within society.
Take the recent election in the United States, which showcases perfectly what happens when a segment of the population becomes censored or labelled before any education or fact checking is utilized.
"The silent majority stand with Trump."
A slogan such as this one cannot be ignored lightly, but I believe came into creation through the fact that so many have been ignored and disengaged over time for their own opinions. When we cast people off as ignorant, racist or phobic because of their opinions and forget to inform them with facts in order to engage in discussion, we further create this silent majority that lives in a kind of cast off anger regarding their treatment.
Why should I stand by silently, when my country and way of life is being changed and I am being told to sit out and called all of these names?
You may be thinking that the above sentence is ridiculous, but in reality we have many people who feel this way pertaining to topics like immigration, social assistance and even campaigns that further reinforce diversity and equality. When these individuals bring their thoughts, feelings and questions to the table and someone looks at them like they are either stupid or racist, the division only becomes larger and more severe, which allows for populist thinking to flourish and damages our democracy.
Now, I am not saying that people cannot be blatantly racist, which is very true and those individuals need to be called out, even stupid people, since they still exist in some context. What I am arguing though is that we need to ensure that proper discussion is occurring with facts and arguments, before we sit down and just use the label of racist or white bigot to make any opposition disappear.
In the current political atmosphere, there exists a large emphasis on each radical end of the spectrum, specifically the Libertarian movements, which can exist on the far right and left. These individuals essentially look at the world with an Anarchistic viewpoint and wish for people to have ultimate freedom in their daily lives. This in turn can allow someone to say they believe that all speech is free speech, regardless of the content expressed.
While I am not a Libertarian, I believe a balance must be struck between Societal Free Speech and Anarchistic Free Speech, which is crucial to preserve our democracy and ensure everyone has a fair share. This means that while hate speech is still alive and well, it is still the free speech of someone else and as such represents an opinion they believe. Which is allowable, so long as everyone else has the equal right to object to that opinion and open up dialogue that demands facts to back said opinion up.
John Stuart Mill stated something similar to this in his example of the drunk man. While the drunk is allowed to wander the streets in such a manner, society can only socially hold him accountable as they allow him the freedom to continue. This freedom is restricted once the drunk man either hurts someone else or as a result of his drunkenness denies his family a basic living due to the money spent on drinking. Then, society stands in with an argument that requires action, since the drunk man has now gone above and beyond the allowable limits to his freedom. The drunk man is not simply cast off as drunk, but is rather tasked to defend his argument and make amends when his defense fails.
Countering someone else in discussion can be really hard, especially when someone is both hard headed and stuck in their beliefs, but regardless of this it must be done. Nothing in life is easy or free and if you happen to find something that is, you better double check it or see who else is paying a price for you to have it.
I personally have a great way of countering hate inspired speech that stems from a persons fear. I usually incorporate various swear words to really liven up the conversation and ensure my facts stick to the individual in question. Lately, I have really utilized the word Ignorant, not as a discussion ending label, but as an empowering asset to my facts.
The latest example is a discussion I had with a Sandy Hook denier, someone who believes the mass shooting against school children was a hoax. I simply responded with the direct approach of: You ignorant fuck, numerous children died along with countless examples of people who either witnessed the acts or lost immediate family members as a result of it. To utilize the idea that someone would create such a hoax just to take away your right to shoot yourself with an automatic rifle that you don't need, just makes you seem like an ignorant cunt. Stop being an ignorant cunt and look at the undeniable facts!
Was this discussion harsh in its wording? Of course it was, but sometimes you have to be harsh in order to ensure a discussion is had. In the example above, our discussion later included facts regarding gun violence in both Canada and the United States and more use of the word ignorant.
The big difference between my own encounters and what happens in society at large however, is that when the discussion involves facts and both parties remain at the table, positive action is possible. When you label someone right after the fact for their opinion that targets someone else, you remove both parties from an equal playing field and allow a division like the one we are witnessing. This allows people to parade around with their own labels and decry that the media is fake, the snowflakes calling them racists are fake, which in turn allows misinformation and disinformation to seep its way into the minds of millions and thus spreads fake news.
Hate speech, while it is ugly and often routed in total fear, is still someones opinion and right. So long as there is an opposing side that ensures the truth prevails via arguments backed by facts, our democracy will be allowed to thrive and people will have a sense of continued freedom attached to their speech.
-The Political Road Map