The recent creation of the Disinformation Governance Board should prompt us to again consider this basic and essential human right. Was this prompted by Musk’s terrorizing the world by buying Twitter? Was it caused by more and more people calling the Ukrainians, Europeans, UK and US bald-faced liars about the war and the causes of the war in Ukraine? Or are we simply seeing planning done in advance and now being launched because these things provide better opportunities to ram them down people’s throats?
In the past, it was often the “conservatives” who attacked free speech, but in recent years the coordinated attacks seem to be coming from the “liberals” – the social justice warriors and their ilk. Free speech is “a white man’s obsession” and harmful to people of color. People must be attacked and punished – cancelled – for saying anything that the powers-that-be, the activists, the nannies don’t like.
Make no mistake: Free speech IS a human right. Given by the Creator. (Together with the responsibility for using it properly.) As a correspondent pointed out, the First Amendment was never the exclusive definition of free speech. YES, the First Amendment protects free speech from being limited BY GOVERNMENT. But government is just one threat to freedom of speech. Free speech can be and is undermined by private individuals, organizations, and corporations as well as government agencies. Indeed, politicians today openly use private entities to attack free expression openly and so sidestep Constitutional (and moral) restrictions and protections.
Although many libertarians disagree with me, I believe that private entities have no more business – no more right – to limit free speech than any government agency. Especially if it is neighbors or customers. Or strangers. Yes, maybe an employer can explicitly prohibit certain speech by its employees: at least when actually working (on duty). Or if the employee could be credibly assumed to be speaking for the entity.
In the past, we see that people who fought for free speech understood this. It is a fundamental reason the Founding Fathers ensured that juries could decide both the law and the facts – especially in cases of libel and slander. Of course, there was a downside to that: those who used free speech to help bring down the old, tyrannical regime kept criticizing the new, assumed-republican or democratic regime.
Benjamin Franklin stated in a letter on July 9, 1722: “Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such thing as Wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without Freedom of Speech.” He was far from alone among the Founding Fathers in believing (and practicing) free speech as a defining value of their new order and nations.
There is more, of course, than just the God-given right to speak freely. It is the need to USE that freedom well.
Proper speech allows one to speak fluently, write clearly and communicate effectively. These are skills that employers demands for a certain level of skills to achieve. These are also skills that public employers (i.e., the electorate) should demand of office-seekers AND bureaucrats. The more free speech is done away with (through managing disinformation), the less comprehensible the remaining, controlled speech becomes.
This requires education and experience, as well as protection. It does NOT prevent challenge or criticism. Indeed, those are essential to exercising free speech, and aids responsibility for what you say. This is itself a key part of freedom of speech. Denying the liberty to speak about anything makes all speech deteriorate.
The proper language only gives grace to those who hear. The Bible says that the mouth is a good barometer of what is in the heart. They do not “speak their mind,” but speak to build, not destroy. Restricted speech ultimately destroys language and society. 1st Peter 3:10 tells us that “whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.” – See also James 3:2-12. The apostle Paul shows that our words must add flavor (salt) to a conversation to make it pleasant for others to hear. Our words should be tasty and delightful to people who may hear them. EVEN if they disagree with us. Our words can also be used as a preservative—to build and to strengthen relationships. It is not just lies and vicious attacks that has no place in the mind and mouth of free people: it is language that is offensive because of how it is said, not what is said. Unlike politicians and bureaucrats who use language to obfuscate, to hid truth, to condemn and curse and embarrass and denigrate and demean, we must use speech to edify: to build up and encourage. To show gratitude and grace, to provide reason and common sense.
When we are contending against those working to steal away our liberties, we must not become like them, thus defeating ourselves. Let our words that give favor to those who hear. ♦