OPINION: The Right to Speech and Its Greatest Enemy: You

By Frank Brosell
April 11th, 2018

Your right to speech. What is it good for? Absolutely everything.

There is a reason we are not calling it Free Speech, because it is not, nor has it ever been free and without restriction.  It is simply the right to speech.

The right to speech is not about safe speech. The right to speech is for political speech. It is not just the speech to have passing conversation. The right to speech is not the right to have scripted, commercialized speech (that speech is at the discretion of your employer). The right to speech is not talking about the weather. The right to speech is about the edgy, the sacred and the profane. It is the crucible that debates and resolves our issues as a Nation.

The right to speech is not about screaming obscenities. The right to speech is for political speech. It is not the right to scream incoherently in the face of another in a manner that is socially unacceptable. That is called assault. The right to speech should be uncomfortable, but it should never be incoherent or irresponsive. The point of the right to speech is to continue the dialogue. That dialogue improves the Nation.

The right to speech teaches us to fight with our words rather than our fists. The right to speech teaches us to sharpen our minds and our wit rather than sharpening a blade. The right to speech teaches us to admire and value intellectual discourse above immature acts of barbarism. What a wonderful world that would be. What amazing developments await us, if we would openly and without reservation, embrace this gift called the right to speech.

The right to speech is the most critical aspect of our democracy, our government, but most importantly our culture. Yet we are failing the right to speech.

How are we failing the right to speech?

We fail it when we allow, permit, and excuse or condone anyone to be economically or socially impacted by their right to speech.

Whenever you celebrate anyone losing their job, losing their platform, being silenced or even being physically attacked, you become an enemy of the right to speech.

And don’t hide behind the excuse that “people have to accept the consequences of their right to speech”. That is an excuse. It is a slippery slope that will lead to censorship and a lack of civil discourse in our country. It is similar to saying “women know that if they dress provocatively, they could be raped”. This may be true, but this does not mean women should be raped, nor should we ever celebrate or excuse it when it happens.

But you do celebrate it when someone who thinks differently than you loses their livelihood, gets fired from their job, gets publicly humiliated or shamed, or is blacklisted from a media platform. This is not to say you can not disagree, but when the only objection to one’s speech is the name-calling that has become common place in our media, or worse, to remove their power to speak from the public for “wrong think”, if you celebrate any of this you are a destroyer of the right to speech.

It is evil, childish and small-minded. And everyday depending on the crisis, half the country agrees that this should be the accepted norm. It’s never the same half from one day to the next, it’s always some right-wing agenda versus some left-wing agenda…but only one thing is absolutely certain. We are all wrong.

Think about it. Think about every time you blocked someone from social media because their ideas made you uncomfortable. Think about every time you flagged a post because it felt oppressive. Think about every time you gleefully watched as someone whose views you despise is fired. Those moments are the ones that make you an enemy of the right to speech. If you believe in the idea of Hate Speech, you are an enemy of the right to speech. I don’t think anyone is immune or innocent in this phenomenon.

If you have a problem with someone’s ideas, counter those ideas with your own. It’s why we have the right to speech. Do not become an economic terrorist just because someone spoke their minds and it hurt your feelings. If you feel oppressed by someone’s words, you are an enemy of the right to speech.

The primary indication of whether or not we have a the right to speech problem, is the fear we have to use it. So long as that fear exists, there is a problem with our relationship to the right to speech.

This is another area in which most of us are failing The right to speech, and it is when we self-censor our thoughts and opinions, because we are afraid of having to deal with some inconvenience for stating our opinion. You then become the enemy of the right to speech. Not because they made the threat to take your job, but because you chose to believe them. You chose to let them silence your voice. Little do you know that most of your friends feel the same way as you, but were too afraid to say it for themselves. How embarrassing. When we fail to speak our mind, not only do we fail to stand up for ourselves, we fail to stand up for our friends. If you do not even believe we can fight back against senseless accusations, I am here to tell you that can and you should.

The damage we have caused can be corrected. It can still be fought and reversed. And to be honest, I don’t think telling people to be their “best and open selves” is going to cut it anymore. We need to find a balancing structure that will correct our cultural abuses against the right to speech.

We need to stop rewarding the outrage culture that suffocates unpopular thought. We need more protections for the right to speech as the cultural foundation of our society.

A possible solution is to require business owners to report on those who report their employees. No anonymous tips or fake accounts. Make the complainant put down their phone number and address with a valid ID.  See, what you must understand about people who want to censor you, is that they are cowards. They know you could return in kind to them what they are doing to you. Therefore, they don’t want to be put in the public eye. They don’t want to be made an example of either. What they don’t want you to know is that they live in the same glass house as you do. They don’t want you to feel like you have any power or control. The right to speech is that power. The next time someone threatens you or your livelihood, take a screenshot and turn the turd into a meme. It’s what they deserve. Because it’s not like they wanted to argue with facts and ideas. They wanted to destroy the right to speech and you shouldn’t let them.

That’s one ways to protect the right to speech. It’s just one way of keeping us all accountable and responsible for our right to speech and our actions.

The right to speech should mean that much to every American. And it should mean at least that much to any online business seeking to make profits in the American market place.

We need to put an end to the doxxing, the flagging, the tattling, the reporting, running to Big Brother on Social Media, and we need to not just stop doing it ourselves. We need to publicly humiliate those who do, and shame them with our own words and our own ideas.

There is this myth among some of us that “flagging and reporting” is like David’s stone slaying some Media Goliath…you’re not slaying Goliath. You are killing the words of a fellow citizen.

You are killing the right to speech.