The First Amendment to the US Constitution offers some powerful protections: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom to create petitions about anything under the sun on change.org. I value each of those rights, and enjoy their exercise on a regular basis.
(It’s pretty much the most exercise I get.)
There seems to be a bit of public misunderstanding on the “freedom of speech” front, so I thought we’d take a short quiz. In which of the following scenarios was someone’s freedom of speech actually violated?
- A stand-up comedian makes a victim-blaming rape joke in his routine, and a feminist on Twitter calls him out.
- A stand-up comedian makes a victim-blaming rape joke in his routine, and is not re-hired by the club for any future gigs.
- A stand-up comedian makes a victim-blaming rape joke in his routine, and unhappy fans start a campaign mailing pig hearts to his home address.
- A woman who is a painful caricature of “traditional” southern values is revealed to be an unapologetic racist, and is fired from her (non-government) job.
Correct answers: NONE OF THE ABOVE. To be sure, there may be other issues here — perhaps misuse of the mails if the hearts are not properly packaged — but not freedom of speech.
To clarify: freedom of speech is about stopping the government from making laws that infringe on your desire to say whatever stupid shit you want, NOT about other people or private entities being unhappy about what you say. Last I checked, feminists were not a government agency*, and neither is the Food Network. You can get back on stage and make your rape “joke,” and you will not be forcibly removed from the club by armed thugs from the Federal Commission of Women on Twitter. Jezebel will not freeze your assets, or impinge on your right to vote.
Just wanted to clear that up.