Ok, I’m gonna try and keep this short, but we’ll see how that goes. There's a TL;DR at the bottom if you wanna skip all of this.
I’ve been seeing it a lot more frequently lately here in the US, and I think it’s time to discuss it at length:
Freedom of Speech
There seems to be a really ugly misconception behind what the First Amendment allows. And I say “ugly” because the phrase “freedom of speech” has been horribly misused and abused to defend racism, bigotry, sexism, misogyny, xenophobia, ableism, and a slew of other horrific shit. Let me just say, I used to think the same way. And I mean that by when I was taught in elementary school, middle school, and high school about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, I was grossly uninformed, and mostly due to my own ignorance. I heard “freedom of speech” all the time, so I thought that’s what it meant, and I took it at face value.
But lately I’ve looked a little closer. I’m a bit embarrassed that it’s taken me this long to truly understand what it means, so let’s look at it together, verbatim:
“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.”
Read that again. No, seriously. Read it again. Look at the first fucking word in this Amendment. Then read the next few words. It says “Congress shall make no law...” Let me put it more simply, if possible. The government cannot create a law that censors the American people. You are allowed to say or write whatever your little heart desires. Look at this post I’ve got here right now! The government cannot prohibit me from writing and sharing this text.
But what about the platform I’m sharing it on? SpaceHey is owned and run by a private entity. An and his fellow creators are not members of the US Government, creating laws and legislation for the American people. So if An sees something on his site that he doesn’t like, he is well within his right to remove it.
So let’s dig a little deeper. There was a bit of a shitshow on here the other day regarding the word “retarded”. I didn’t chime in on the matter simply because I knew that it would already have been taken care of by others who shared the same sentiment that I do: the word needs to be retired. It’s 2021, and that kind of speech really isn’t acceptable anymore. It’s pretty widely accepted at this point in time that that word shouldn’t be used in the context that it was used back in the early 2000s, or at all for that matter. It’s a slur at this point, and I’m 99% sure that most people probably agree with that.
Now, I understand that there are still people out there who still use that word in a derogatory manner. Whether or not you’re personally offended by it, it’s about being respectful of your fellow humans; common courtesy is what I’m going after. You can scream “freedom of speech” until you’re blue in the face. But here’s the thing: just because the government can’t censor you for the word(s) you use, doesn’t mean your peers aren’t going to call you out.
TL;DR: The Government can’t write a law prohibiting you from saying what you want to say, but your peers are well within their rights to call you out for your words or behavior.
Freedom of Speech ≠ Freedom from Consequences.