This is a repost from the old blog, originally posted 14 April 2007. I’ll be doing this from time to time. One thing I will add to this post is that there is a huge difference between someone exercising control over something that they own and someone trying to exercise control over something that was never theirs to begin with. As for the latter, I condemn it in all of it’s forms.
Every single time, without fail, when someone calls someone else out on their racist, misogynistic, homophobic or otherwise hateful and disrespectful speech or imagery, the free speech card gets played. Itâ€™s tired. So tired. The most recent examples of this nonsense that Iâ€™ve seen can be found at Feministe and at Fetch Me My Axe. What boggles the mind is that these people apparently have no idea what the concept of free speech in the U.S., as guaranteed by the First Amendment, actually means.
Congress shall make no law 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.
I wonâ€™t go into all of the history of Supreme Court cases concerning the First Amendment, but it should be noted that the courts now understand the First Amendment to not only apply to Congress, but to the entire Federal government and the States as well.
One thing should be clear from the get-go: The First Amendment applies to the government and not to private organizations and individuals. Letâ€™s look at this a tad more closely.
Yâ€™see, the government canâ€™t tell the New York Times what they can and cannot print; however, the New York Times can tell itâ€™s writers what they will and will not print. The First Amendment does not apply to private organizations or individuals. In blogger terms, when your comment gets deleted from a blog, your Constitutional rights have not been denied. You are free to go somewhere else (like your own blog) and say whatever the hell you want. You can say that youâ€™ve been censored (and in the case of bloggers Iâ€™d still say youâ€™re wrong), but your freedom of speech rights have not been violated. Look at it this way. Youâ€™re free to piss on a rug in your own house all you want; or if someone else doesnâ€™t mind you pissing on their rug, by all means, go for it; but if I donâ€™t want you pissing on my rug in my house, I donâ€™t have to let you do it and Iâ€™m not oppressing you by kicking you the hell out of my house.1
And when someone calls you out for hateful speech, they are not acting as thought police. To make such an argument is disingenuous nonsense. The only way one can effectively be a member of any thought police is to have the power of the state behind you. Even when the President condemns what youâ€™ve said or written, there is nothing there other than the condemnation (perhaps a more powerful condemnation since itâ€™s coming from a person with a lot of power, but still only a condemnation).
So letâ€™s just make this as clear as possible. You are not free to say whatever you want wherever you want. Individuals have every right to control the discourse that occurs within their own spaces. You also have the right to find an appropriate space to say whatever you want. If someone says something that I find offensive, I have every right to call them on it (and said person also has every right to prevent me from saying so in their space); and Iâ€™m not oppressing you by keeping your bullshit off of my blog, nor am I oppressing you by pointing out that youâ€™re a sexist, racist asshole.
- Thatâ€™s probably a bad analogy since Iâ€™m pretty sure if you try to piss on a rug in the White House youâ€™ll get kicked out too, but you get my drift I hope. [↩]