The Utility of Free Speech

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As we all know, freedom of speech is under attack.  Mark Lloyd proposes to replace privately owned media with a government approved and moderated PBS.  Cass Sustein and Henry Waxman have both floated the idea of regulating Internet content.  Speech codes on campus restrict the free flows of ideas on college campuses.  The ACLU threatens to sue kids that pray at graduation ceremonies.  People are threatened if they pray in public.  Conversely, the left is able to engage in whatever outrageous activity they choose, and even do what they accuse the right of doing.  The double standard is sometimes astounding.

Following Marxist concepts like “tolerant repression,” the left seeks to limit or eliminate dissent. We understand that this is part of their effort to obtain power by silencing all opposition, or making said opposition ineffective, and unable to reach the people.  Their allies in the media do not cover stories critical of the left, or distorts them into a one sided attack on the opposition.  The government ignores mass protests and accuses the protesters of “racism, terrorism,” and being paid by special interests.  What they cannot ban, or cover up, they will discredit.  They attempt to cloud genuine dissent with hate, all in order to attack the messenger, and to ignore the message.

Our Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, this is certain.  And we know that in a Constitutional Republic, free speech is vital for debate and the free flow of ideas.  Without free speech, the Republic that so many bled and died for would take a short trip into tyranny. All these are true, but I would submit that there is an additional benefit for freedom of speech.

Every nation has fringe groups; racists, religious extremists of every type, anarchists, communist revolutionaries, national socialists, and probably a huge number of others.  It is tempting to deny these people a public forum, as they are repugnant to most all Democrats, Independents, and Republicans. But there are benefits to allowing them speak and function in the open:

  1. If they are public, we know who they are.  Putting a face to the hate allows us to confront it.
  2. If they speak openly, we can know what they believe, and what they want.  Knowing this allows us all to confront them.
  3. If they operate openly, we know what they are doing.  We can keep track of them, and monitor their activities.

If we ban free speech, even the speech that we find disgusting, we lose some things:

  1. We will have no idea who the extremists are, as they won’t go away, they’ll go underground.
  2. We will have no idea what they believe or plan to do.
  3. By banning their speech, the government will prove most of their beliefs about their ideas being a threat to power.
  4. Being banned makes them more attractive to “recruits.” They will have the “truth those in power don’t want you to know.”
  5. They become dangerous and more likely to take violent action.

Freedom of speech means that you might be offended by something that is said or written.  We have to take hate for what it is, and confront it, or just let if fail under the weight of it’s own stupidity.  We have to allow all of it, or face tyranny.  No party or group should have the ability to eliminate freedom of speech, or our Republic is doomed.

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  • Don

    Does that mean we have to watch a live Celebrity Death Match pitting Ack-mah-deni-jerk against Bin “Hidin” Laden?

    Wait, I WOULD watch that.

    But I wouldn’t watch the Behind The Music story of Nancy Pelosi.

    In all honesty Matt, that is a good article. You are absolutely right, keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

  • Thanks. I’ve used that argument for years. No one has ever countered it.

    BTW, I actually have the Celebrity Deathmatch PC game!

  • I think Obama’s role models are people like Hugo Chavez so free speech is definitely in trouble

  • Don

    @Forgotten…of course free speech is NOT in trouble!! (As long as you are saying things favorable to El Presidente…)

  • @ Forgotten Liberty, Apparently, Mark Lloyd has something of a man crush on Chavez, so that’s the plan. I think they might want to spring all of this diversity nonsense on all of us without warning, They’ve been working on it for a few months now.

    @ Don, just remember that Tolerance and diversity mean, “You’re free to agree with the left as much as you want!” Isn’t that kind of them?

  • Your posts have an effective eloquence, and as always, your logic and reason are conspicuously present in every paragraph. In fact, your first paragraph sets the tone for the rest of the article and finishes nicely.

    Having said that, stifling free speech is just another example of how the left wants to redesign our Republic.

  • @ Liberty Pen, you sound like my Comp 2 prof from college-minus the profanity and jokes about Wal Mart. Thanks!