shall we discuss the right to free speech?
April 12, 2013
not withstanding the very clear reality that you need some sort of state to recognize and grant you any right
let us talk about this right.
first. the right to free speech only restricts the ability of the state to limit speech. [1. of course, the jurisdiction i’m talking about here is canada… but more on this later]
This means that you do not have the right, as one individual to another, to say whatever the fuck you want. i can limit your speech all i want (as long as I don’t do it in some way that violates some other law, like punching you in the face).
second. as many people have pointed out: exercising your right to speak does not equal a right to be heard.
no one has to listen to the garbage coming out of your mouth.
third. there are actual limits to this right. hate speech is a clear one. if your speech can incite violence against a marginalized group, it isn’t allowed.
and people do get why hate speech laws are necessary, right? that because hate speech, at its core, is about violence, it ends up limiting the speech of the target groups. thus, some restrictions are needed on freedom of speech to guarantee freedom of speech.
fourth. as mentioned in the footnote, i’m speaking about canada here. this is an important point because rights only apply if a state recognizes it. and your ‘right’ is also, thus, defined by that same state. this is why the right to free speech in canada is not equivalent to the right of free speech in the united states, or any other jurisdiction. indeed: some jurisdictions simply do not recognize this right.
of course, some people will argue that it is an inherent right (normally the reasoning behind rights) to all human beings, thus, places that don’t recognize it should. or that no limits be placed on it.
the belief in inherent rights, doesn’t actually do anything unless sanctioned by a state. absolutely no one need to recognize your freedom to religion, something that christians proved with gusto before this became a recognized right by the state.
rights, contrary to what people appear to think, are neither inherent nor universal. they, like many other products of society, are social constructs, which is how they can be relative to the society/state that constructs them.
fifth. beyond the restrictions regarding hate speech, we actually accept – all the time – restrictions on our speech.
the easiest one to point out is just everyday customs and etiquette. while we could go around telling every single person we meet that we thing they are ugly, most of us don’t. because it would be rude and mean. but freedom of speech means that, yes, i’m freely able to pursue such a course of action, should i so desire.
another example is when we are employed. the whole social media thing recently came around with a spate of people getting fired for talking shit about their employers of facebook or whatever. and often, it can be a part of your contract that you cannot say whatever you wish. we accept this restriction on our speech for the dubious ‘honour’ of being employed.
this last point is important because it shows how ‘rights’ and ‘freedoms’ are unevenly applied based on privilege. white people have the privilege to call me a c*k in public. i cannot do the same – not that cracker is a slur – i’d get in trouble **really fast if i went around calling white people ‘cracker’ all day. if i were to go around my place of employment asking the cis women about their genitalia, i’d be fired. and, yet, this happens to trans women all the time.
and it is in this context that we often see privileged people crying about their right to free speech.
I write a post some white person perceives as limiting their speech. so they respond by, essentially, tell me that i should limit my speech and never write posts like that. [2. no, i’m not even going to touch the fact that the claim is false and normally is]
look. you aren’t talking about any recognized definition of free speech if you think that it only applies to you or people like you, if you think that it means people must listen to you, if you think it means be allowed to say whatever you want whenever you want.