You have the right to remain silent
August 20, 2017 § 31 Comments
Free speech doesn’t mean absolutely free speech. Absolutely free speech is an obvious straw man, positing no middle ground between manifestly insane absolute rights and nice tame rights within due limits. Everyone who is committed to free speech agrees that there should be some limits on speech. We just don’t want to live under an inquisitional speech restricting tyranny.
So free speech, at least as understood by reasonable liberals, is restricted speech: speech circumscribed within limits. The terms “free” and “restricted” are interchangeable. For reasonable non-ideological liberals, free means the same thing as restricted.
Limits on speech which should be in place are called “limits on free speech”. (Everyone agrees that there needs to be limits on free speech).
Limits on speech which should not be in place are called “political correctness” (with an ironic inflection).
Now even though the terms “free” and “restricted” are interchangeable, the term “free” must be used when describing free speech. It is unfair and ridiculous to propose that we stop calling free speech “free speech”. It is not advisable to use the term restricted speech to refer to free speech, even though they are really the same thing. Using the term “free” focuses attention the the fact that some speech is permissible and allowed, while minimizing the fact that some speech is impermissible and punished.
If someone points out that by free speech we mean restricted speech, the best course is to scoff and point out again that of course every sane person believes that there are limits on free speech (which we shall continue to call “free speech”). The term “free” attaches the configuration of speech empowerments and restrictions that we prefer to the liberal slogan “freedom”. Everyone supports freedom! People who don’t support reasonable freedoms – as well adjusted people understand them – are bad people, nazis or worse.
Freedom, of course, means crushing dissent from the configuration of empowerments and restrictions our society considers good – or that our team is convinced society ought to consider good – under the boot of emancipation.