Free Speech And Just Society

Free speech is between the citizen and the state. The only thing it means is that the state will not arrest you for expressing your opinions peacefully. This means, you can say stupid things, and not get arrested, you can say hateful things, and not get arrested. 

Unless you are in a position to arrest people, you are not really debating free speech. You are debating social mores. There is no free speech debate on Twitter. Twitter does not have the power to arrest you. 

Inciting violence is a criminal act. Donald Trump committed a crime. Why is he not in jail yet? Where is Robert DeNiro when you need him? That is why the police come after you when you threaten violence against someone. You are not going to plead free speech. You did not hit somebody, you only spoke, but you should be in trouble for just speaking. 

What about hate speech? Racist, sexist, homophobic speech? You can not be arrested for it unless it also leads to your inciting violence or threatening people. 

What we find ourselves discussing is not free speech but social mores. Somebody said something racist, should you still invite him for dinner? Put it another way, somebody said something enlightened about race relations, are you now obligated to invite her for dinner at your house? No. It really is that simple. That is how you cancel racist, sexist, homophobic speech. You are not obligated to put up with it. You have a right to block such people on a social media platform. 

The debate narrows down to public spaces. We treat work environments as public spaces. That is how it is illegal to discriminate based on race, gender, and identity. Racist, sexist jokes create toxic work environments for workers of certain backgrounds. That is why disciplinary actions are taken. 

If Twitter is the ultimate public town square, if anybody is allowed to say anything they want, then you are saying it is okay to use Twitter to incite violence, to threaten or harass someone, to negate people just for their historically marginalized backgrounds, and to create toxicity all around. That “tolerance” is not free speech. It is an erosion of society. It is a breakdown. 

The exact definition of free speech is uncomplicated. You can freely speak, and nobody will come to arrest you for doing that. It is sad that for a big chunk of humanity that is not true. If Twitter were to set a goal of taking free speech to all corners of the planet, it would be a straightforward proposition and a noble goal. I hope the new ownership of Twitter thinks about that free speech. Who gives a f___ about Donald Trump?    

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