15 things free speech debaters love to say (that are wrong)

Free speech is awesome. I just support it so I can be an asshole without criticism. Here are 14 more things free speech debaters (on the internet) love to say. By no means a comprehensive list.

1. It’s legal.

That’s not the point. The first amendment, while being relatively open compared to European countries and foreign dictatorships, is far from adhering entirely to the principle of free speech. It is true that by law, Facebook is allowed to censor what it wants as a private corporation. In principle however, Facebook ideally should minimize the stifling of conversation as it is host to a pluralistic environment used by billions as a platform for the exchanging of ideas.

A huge tyrannosaurus ate our lawyer/ Well, I suppose that proves they’re really not all bad”

2. It’s not censorship because its not the government

Censorship is the control of ideas, that’s the definition – look it up. Anyone can censor, self censor, threaten others… the government just happens to be the most obvious example.

3. But that speech is just evil! Because the depiction glorifies it!

Expressions are the reflection of reality – ideas, beliefs, events. The expression itself only serves to transmit data, what you do with the data depends entirely on what you believe. If an image of a murder weapon glorifies murder, it will only be because the person viewing the image finds the murder to be justified. The image itself is just a statement of fact, any conclusions depend on the interpretation from the viewer, and any fault – is also in part of the viewer, not the image. An image simply will not cause an already moral person to become an immoral person.

The second form of “glorifying evil” is in open fiction, such as movies and videogames. Now let me tell you why Grand Theft Auto doesn’t glorify grand theft auto, and why Rambo doesn’t glorify murdering Cambodians. For one, the events depicted are either impossible or very highly risky. Anyone who decides to steal a car after their character was shot 10 times by video-game cops is a terrible decision maker with no grasp of reality. Anyone who decides to join the army because of a videogame is a moron of the highest order. It’s fiction. The circumstances depicted do not match up with real life. And don’t say “but it will inspire x”, part of being adult is being aware of the various temptations and crimes without doing it. As much as the moralists think censorship is a solution, making people ignorant is a really, bad idea.

The third form of “glorifying evil” is speech containing opinion. An associated crime is “inciting unlawful acts”. It might be a friend telling you to go 1 mph over the speed limit to look badass or a white supremacist inviting you to “kill negros”. It might be a piece of religious text telling you that women are inferior to men, or a republican raging against muslims. Whatever it is, how you react to such an expression of opinion still depends on your susceptibility to fact and fiction, truth and lies, preconceived notions of right and wrong.

Speech reflects reality and holds little moral value by itself. People wanting to censor speech for “glorifying” should really consider the implications: what does it tell you about a society of people so volatile, that any speech at all is able to incite bigotry? In such a case, the crime is not information, but the nature of your people and culture. Healthy, moral people do not react to information with hatred or unnecessary drastic action. In such a case it is not censorship, but education that is needed to discern fact and fiction, be critical of statement’s truth and lies, and a solid basis for morality to use the information for good.

4. But – if you tolerate the intolerant, then you are intolerant!

It certainly is true that if you tolerate the discrimination against a particular demographic or person, then it is the equivalent of being intolerant of said demographic or person. That is called a hate crime. However in the context of censorship, we are talking about speech, and referring to opinions expressing intolerance, not intolerance itself. The difference is that words don’t kill people, people kill people. And except in the case of a completely fucked society, people generally don’t become complete bigots just because they heard a bigoted opinion. Reality is perfectly capable of allowing both the subject of the intolerant opinion and the intolerant opinion to coexist. So when the ACLU defended the KKK, they weren’t defending their right to lynch – just the right to speak their mind without government censorship.

5. Tolerating it is endorsing it

Tolerating is the act of allowing something to exist, or even function. It is the basis of a pluralistic society. I mean think about it, if tolerating were endorsing, then the internet would crash from the logical impossibility and hypocrisy of endorsing the contradictory notions of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Mormonism, Hindu, New Age and Anti-theism ideology simultaneously. Tolerating does not imply agreement of any kind, it merely recognizes that the speech doesn’t pose sufficient threat to be disallowed.

The idea that tolerating is endorsement is an incredible display of the “with us or against us” mob mentality that says “if you don’t censor it then it must mean you agree with it”. Suffice to say, this is extremely dangerous as it is totalitarianism.

6. You obviously do not care about the victims!

Obvious emotional fallacy. Censorship is not the only way to help a victim. Scratch that – censorship is not the best way to help the victim. Scratch that – censorship doesn’t even help the victim. There are select cases in which a victim may need to be protected from certain speech, such as in the case of people prone to panic attacks. But that censorship should be local. It is only for them. It is up to their caretakers, or themselves if possible – to protect themselves from speech and imagery that could scare them.

But that is the only case. And whatever necessary censorship should only occur on the receiving end. Eventually, if possible, they should be weaned off their hamster ball and rehabilitated to have a mental capacity capable of withstanding the real world without help from African American bars and high pitched noises.

For the rest of you fuckers without a medical condition, censorship helps you not one bit. This article was much inspired by the comments on Bill Maher’s facebook post where he shared a petition for facebook to take down a facebook group called “Real Women Wear Fur”. Well, I know for sure the animals don’t give a shit, they’re too busy being skinned and the actual storefronts most certainly were not on facebook. It wasn’t about protecting your own eyes either, as facebook has plenty of tools to hide unwanted posts. It wasn’t even about changing a popular notion, its not like the majority of the population really associate fur coats with femininity. When it comes down to it, it was a very petty petition attacking what was essentially a dumb ad campaign.

In the end, the page stayed up for the very good reason that it didn’t violate Facebook’s TOS all that much. The campaign achieved nothing, saved no animals, except for trying to undermine freedom of speech and sparking internet rage. The idea that I was against animal rights since I opposed censorship of a fur group was a false dichotomy: I opposed censorship because the cost was too great compared to the reward, and I expected better from Bill Maher and his fans. The false dichotomy of us vs them, censorship vs animal cruelty, was just more of the previously mentioned mob mentality.

7. How would you feel if you were [the oppressed]?

This is a point that comes up often in identity politics where the oppressed claim an entitlement to censorship – because they were wronged therefore they are entitled to sensitivity.

Now, here’s the thing. Being oppressed is not an argument for doing the wrong things. For example, violence against Muslims are happening all over the western world due to bigoted idiots responding to terrorism. Mosques are desecrated. People are threatened. You are scared. I know.

But. That doesn’t automatically make you right to try to ban speakers from campus. No matter how oppressed, you still need arguments to substantiate your demands, you can’t just weasel reverse-ad-hominem your way into shutting up criticism of your religion.

Sensitivity is a courtesy that most people will be willing to give, but it is not a right. Some things need to be said, and it is the speaker’s decision. And if you’re a bitch about it, all the more reason for the speaker to speak up.

8. “But you don’t know what its like to be a Transgendered Black Lesbian Dragonkin!”

Variations incl. “Until you grow 4 nipples, shut the fuck up”.

This line is most commonly used to discredit the a person’s right to opinion by asserting that “because you ain’t me, thus you do not know anything about the issue at hand”.

It’s essentially a special snowflake argument. Everyone’s a special snowflake. We share experiences vicariously through expression. Some of it gets lost in translation, but we usually get the gist.

9. Because criticism of Islam causes anti-Muslim sentiment, therefore criticism of Islam endangers Muslim lives

Islam is an ideology that many people follow to varying degrees and interpretations. It must be criticized due to the repeatedly realized potential for extremes. But I am not the one associating Islam with all Muslims. I recognize that some Muslims are only as fanatical as fundie Christians (therefore safe for USA), while others are either better, or worse.

Many criticisms of Islam are valid and factual. Telling people to stop criticizing Islam because bigots might use the criticism to attack Muslims is the equivalent of telling statisticians to stop their work on statistics because the information regarding the employment statistics of Mexicans might affect employer’s perception of Mexicans. Hey, if a racist employer doesn’t understand how statistics work, its not the statistician’s fault. It’s not the statistician’s responsibility to teach correlation and causation to every smuck who wants to use the statistics for nefarious means.

If xenophobes want to warp criticism of Islam as an excuse to demonize all Muslims, its their fault for ignoring/deliberately misinterpreting the argument (and unlike the religion of Islam, the authors of anti-Islam arguments are generally alive and bitchin so you can’t equivocate misintepretation of Islam (which has a somewhat subjective meaning) as the same thing as misintepretation of anti-Islam (which has objective meaning)). In such a case, it is not speech that causes harm, but the ignorance/malice of bigots that cause harm.

10. “People have a right to feel safe”

No, people have a right to be safe. Its just because our society is crime ridden and dysfunctional that we spread this “feel safe” bullshit so much. If you are safe and you know you are safe then you will feel safe, otherwise you should go to a psychiatrist. If you are unsafe, then arbitrarily trying to feel safe is just silly, no? People have a right to be safe, and I have a right to speak my mind even if it makes you feel unsafe.

11. Here’s an argument against [speaker/opinion], therefore they should be censored.

The point isn’t whether they are right or wrong, good or bad people. The point is that they should be allowed to express their heterophobic opinion regardless.

But have you seen a straight couple being denied cake? It’s horrific. Ergo-

Still not the point.

12. Freedom of speech isn’t freedom from consequence

Censorship-mongers love to throw out this line, never-mind that it is incomplete and repair of this line would obliterate their argument. Sure, having freedom of speech shouldn’t mean the masses should love you no matter what you say. It also shouldn’t protect you from criticism, or even discrimination from your boss based on yesteryear’s drunk facebook posts. However. While freedom of speech isn’t freedom from all consequences, freedom of speech IS freedom from the specific consequence of censorship.

Think of it this way: If you say that “I hate chinks” and people love chinks where you live, then you can reasonably expect your neighbors to have a poorer opinion of you, or even criticize and debate you for your chink beliefs. However, the one consequence that free speech should protect you from is your neighbors preventing you from saying anything anti-chink, and allowing anyone who wishes to hear your opinion on chinks to hear it.

13. You are a hypocrite because you’re just trying to censor my speech (by criticizing my ideas)

Censorship mongers are so pathetic. So desperate to paint my criticism of their censorship efforts as a “pot calling a kettle black” situation, but its not.

When you call for censorship, your focus is on the speech. Your focus is on the *expression of* ideas.

When I argue against censorship, I am not just arguing for you to stop demanding censorship. My focus is to change your mind about censorship being a good idea. My focus is not the expression of ideas, but on the idea itself.

Expressions are just symptoms of ideas. Censorship is the elimination of expression by force, arguments are the change of ideas through persuasion. That is the critical difference between censorship and arguments, like if we each thought the other had cancer and tried to cure it, I would put you through chemo, while you would just bring a razor and go “tada”.

14. “But free speech always comes with limits”

The less limits, the better.

A tyrant will claim to support freedom, and then invent a list of ways through which to subvert it”


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