The Consequences of Free Speech in Society

What good is denouncing someone?  Does that stop them from speaking their mind?

I recently heard a segment on the mainstream news calling for people to “denounce” Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan for his recent comments comparing Jews to termites.

While such speech may be repugnant, I fail to see how “denouncing” him will do anything to change Mr. Farrakhan’s behavior.

Free speech is just that –the freedom to speak one’s mind.  With that freedom comes the understanding that some people will say things that others may find offensive.

We either live in a society that honors free speech or we don’t.  The reason we have a First Amendment right and why it was considered of paramount importance to the founders who drafted it, was to protect the rights of people to speak freely who may have unpopular opinions.  It was a way of leveling the playing field so that everyone had a chance to be heard, no matter the content of the speech.

Calling for anyone to be “denounced” for what they say is pointless in a society that values the freedom to speak freely.

It seems to me that denouncing someone does more to make the person calling for it feel better than it does anything to change the other person’s behavior.

It’s almost like by calling for someone to be denounced, you can feel like you did your job, letting society know that you don’t…tolerate free speech?

What message does that really send?

To be clear here, we are not talking about someone yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, or calling for the assassination of the President.  We are simply talking about people being able to say what they want, without fear of repercussion for simply having an opinion.

Perhaps rather than “denouncing” offensive speech, we should encourage “tolerance” of other people’s nasty opinions.

And sorry to break it to people, but “hate speech” is also lumped in that basket.

So if you find you don’t like what someone says, feel free to confront them.  Be prepared to defend your position, and expect they will defend theirs.  Engage in a debate of ideas!

Society will become more civil when we learn to allow others to speak freely, and not seek to silence or “denounce” others for merely speaking their mind.

We cross the line when we demand that those we don’t like be silenced.  If you don’t want someone silencing your opinions, don’t do it to others.

A good maxim to live by is taken from the Golden Rule:  Don’t do to someone else what you wouldn’t want done to you.

And with this frame of mind comes true tolerance.


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