Canonizing Free Speech

I begin with a few more words about civility, but to make a different point than my last post on the subject.

A few years back, an old acquaintance found me on Facebook and sent me a friend request. I accepted, whereupon he proceeded to launch a lengthy ideological diatribe as to why I was the most politically malevolent and nigh-unto-treasonous human being who has ever lived, and why both me and my family deserved to be boiled in used motor oil. I tried to respond with a shrug and a kind word, but he took that as an invitation to double down and insult me even further.

So I defriended him.

Within minutes, I received a missive in my inbox telling me that I had violated his First Amendment rights to free speech, and I ought to be ashamed of myself. And, candidly, I was ashamed of myself, but only because I wasn’t savvy enough to block him completely instead of merely defriending him.

But even after I blocked him, I received another message from someone I didn’t know, who told me how angry this guy was that I had so little respect for the Constitution and its free-speech protections that I wasn’t willing to give him a forum on my Facebook page to bash both me and my family senseless.

An observation:

Far too many people are too stupid to understand that the right to free speech does not include any right to a forum in which to speak. All it means is that the government can’t arrest you for stupid things that you say.

That’s it.

So if you want to go outside and say stupid things on a public street corner, sure, knock yourself out. But if you’re on television, and you say things your sponsors don’t like, please bear in mind that they have no constitutional responsibility to keep signing your paychecks. Did Roseanne Barr have an unassailable First Amendment right to tweet racist garbage? Sure. Does that extend to an ironclad legal right to have ABC keep producing her sitcom? Dream on. Speech always has consequences. All the First Amendment guarantees is that government suppression is not one of them.

Similarly, if you want to barge into my home, my blog, or my Facebook page and start spewing bile at the rate of thirty-three gallons per second, don’t be surprised if I show you the real and/or virtual door. When you’re on my turf, the First Amendment provides no legal or constitutional impediment to my giving you the boot.

Of course, you have a right to sound off below, but you don’t have a right to have anyone support your position. But take a chance and speak out in one of the camps below.