Freedom of Speech Versus Freedom to Speak

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

Freedom of Speech is under attack like never before.

Actually, that’s not quite true.

Censorship is at epidemic levels. Reject social dogma and you will be relegated to a smaller and smaller space.

This is most certainly true.

Congress shall make no law[1]Sometimes I think it would be nice if it stopped right here. Congress shall make no law. The End respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America

Clarifications

We need to clarify terms. There’s a difference between Freedom of Speech and your freedom to speak. Freedom to speak is our fundamental right because God designed us with a mouth and vocal chords. Freedom of Speech is your freedom to speak recognized and codified by the first amendment of the United States Constitution.

You always have the freedom to speak on whatever topic you choose. Your first amendment right protects you from retribution, silencing, censorship, or any punitive action by the government.

The are limitations on this right. You don’t have the right to be heard, or impugn someone’s character. Most importantly, you do not have the right to call others to violent action, especially if they follow through. You’ll also have to face the consequences of your words, bad or good, no matter if they are false or true.

Social Media

In the early days, the internet was a simple and powerful tool giving a voice to the voiceless. It had the power to bring the world together in a way never before possible. The wide acceptance of social media unleashed the freedom to speak in a way Guttenberg[2]Johannes Guttenberg invented the printing press in the mid 1400’s revolutionizing the printing industry. Manuscripts were hand copied prior to Guttenberg. After Guttenberg, a book the size of … Continue reading could only dream.

Believe it, or not, as late 2017, social media was used by millions to get around the gatekeepers and be heard by millions more. Everyone and their dog could share their opinions on any topic. The government and the media could no longer pick and choose which voices would be heard over others.

Cancel Culture vs Freedom of Speech

As typically happens, humanity finds a way to make a good thing bad. Even in the days of the bulletin boards[3]Remember CompuServe and AOL? of the 1990’s, we started to see strangers attack strangers behind the anonymity of a computer screen. In the early 21st century, social media made the same promise of connection, but soon friend attacked friend; family attacked family. Ideological groups formed and the age of Cancel Culture kicked into high gear.

Cancel culture isn’t new[4]Weaponizing the media to attack individuals, or groups, isn’t new. Back in 1995, Pizza Hut was bullied into dropping Rush Limbaugh from their “eat the crust first” campaign. A year earlier, … Continue reading but, like Godzilla, every time it comes back it’s bigger, angrier, and more destructive. Social media has been weaponized by various mobs to attack, silence and destroy anyone holding opposing ideology. There is no longer room for discussion, or debate. If you disagree, you will be shutdown and marginalized.

The worst part is social media companies are designed to promote addictive behavior. It’s how they keep our eyes glued to the never ending scroll. Is there anything more addictive then having your anger recognized and justified?[5]Here’s what modern psychology says about anger addiction: Anger’s Allure: Are You Addicted to Anger? | Psychology Today and here’s some advice from Scripture Proverbs 29:11 ESV … Continue reading

Some claim being cancelled is an attack on Freedom of Speech. Others claim it’s not “cancellation”, its facing the consequences of your words. These two statements are emblematic of the declining status of debate in modern culture because both of them are only vaguely accurate.

Censorship vs Freedom To Speak

To be denied a voice on a social media platform is not an attack on your Freedom of Speech because you have the right to create your own platform. It is, however, a form of censorship.

To be “cancelled” is to face the consequences of your words, but it’s also a massive warning sign of how intolerant and weak our society has become.

We live in a “one strike and your out” culture. Say the wrong thing[6]Gina Carano’s contract with Lucasfilm was dropped after Ms. Carano made a statement about the political climate in the US being similar to the political climate in Nazi Germany. The post was … Continue reading, be seen with the wrong person[7]Ellen DeGeneres’ faced backlash after being seen with George W. Bush Ellen DeGeneres Is “At the End of Her Rope” Amid Rumors She’s Mean (cosmopolitan.com) , Vince Vaughn faced … Continue reading, make the wrong joke[8]Roseanne tweeted a tasteless joke and it’s difficult to find a news report on it without the words “racist tweet” in the headline. Roseanna’s new show was cancelled hours … Continue reading and it’s over. No explanations. No appeals.

But this was only rage mobs. Rage mobs fighting rage mobs is a distraction, but easily avoided. Don’t be part of the rage mob. Now, corporations are getting involved and anyone can lose their livelihood at the keyboards of the rage mob.

The CEO’s of the largest social media and digital tech companies flexed their collective muscles and made censorship popular again. In the 20th century the Censors would determine what you could watch on TV, or listen to on the radio. In the 21st century, Social Media CEO’s are the Censors. It’s no longer the “seven words you can’t say on television”[9]George Carlin originally recorded “The Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television” back in 1979. He was speaking out against censorship. I wonder what he would say about today’s … Continue reading. It’s now the “ever changing list of ideas you aren’t allowed to communicate anywhere.”

This isn’t a violation of your Freedom of Speech, but it is censorship. And the rules of censorship are never applied evenly. Particular voices are shut down while other voices are made louder and often espousing the same rhetoric from a different point of view. Anyone who holds this kind of power can control the channels of communication and suddenly you are no longer hearing the truth, only propaganda.

Bill of Rights and God Given Rights

It’s important to recognize the founder’s intent with the Bill of Rights. Rights were not granted by the Constitution; they were recognized by the Constitution. Our rights come from God and they are inalienable, transcending kings and governments. Governments and corporations will try to silence your voice, but they cannot take away your right to speak.

When you are silenced, sidelined, or marginalized, do not go gently into your shelter. Instead, if your words are helpful, if you’re speaking up for those who can’t, if you’re spreading the gospel, then don’t give up speaking. Build your platform. It might be as simple as talking to everyone you know, but build the platform and speak.

Speak boldly.

It is your God-given right to do so.

I’m interested in your input – write a letter to the editor

References

References
1 Sometimes I think it would be nice if it stopped right here. Congress shall make no law. The End
2 Johannes Guttenberg invented the printing press in the mid 1400’s revolutionizing the printing industry. Manuscripts were hand copied prior to Guttenberg. After Guttenberg, a book the size of the Bible, could be printed in weeks, instead of years.
3 Remember CompuServe and AOL?
4 Weaponizing the media to attack individuals, or groups, isn’t new. Back in 1995, Pizza Hut was bullied into dropping Rush Limbaugh from their “eat the crust first” campaign. A year earlier, Donald Trump did the same commercial, but no one seemed to mind.
5 Here’s what modern psychology says about anger addiction: Anger’s Allure: Are You Addicted to Anger? | Psychology Today and here’s some advice from Scripture Proverbs 29:11 ESV – A fool gives full vent to his spirit, – Bible Gateway
6 Gina Carano’s contract with Lucasfilm was dropped after Ms. Carano made a statement about the political climate in the US being similar to the political climate in Nazi Germany. The post was thought provoking, but the rage mob insisted, without discussion or debate, it needed to be censored and Ms. Carano fired. Actress Gina Carano Removed From ‘The Mandalorian’ Following Instagram Post (theepochtimes.com)
7 Ellen DeGeneres’ faced backlash after being seen with George W. Bush Ellen DeGeneres Is “At the End of Her Rope” Amid Rumors She’s Mean (cosmopolitan.com) , Vince Vaughn faced backlash after talking to Donald Trump Vince Vaughn Defends Video of Him Shaking Hands with Trump: ‘I’ve Always Been Cordial’ to Politicians (msn.com)
8 Roseanne tweeted a tasteless joke and it’s difficult to find a news report on it without the words “racist tweet” in the headline. Roseanna’s new show was cancelled hours later and she was rejected by all of her former castmates. No discussion. No debate. No, “Hey, how are you?” from the people who allegedly loved her most. Just a hard kick in the ass and a complete shunning.
9 George Carlin originally recorded “The Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television” back in 1979. He was speaking out against censorship. I wonder what he would say about today’s censorship? For a modern take on the bit, see Steven Crowder. It’s at the beginning of this show https://youtu.be/jRgZ0rOHL6w. I should point out, both of these bits contain words some consider vulgar sometimes and others at different times, which is the point.
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