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5 Reasons Free Speech is Critical to America’s Continued Survival
Why Elon Musk taking over Twitter is so important.
There’s a reason why the Founding Fathers mentioned free speech right up front, in the First Amendment:
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.
It’s not a small thing, a minor part of our success, or a “take it or leave it” kind of thing. Free speech is a core American value. In fact, it’s as American as mom, apple pie, and baseball. In fact, it’s pretty clearly even more American than baseball which is probably struggling to outpoint Soccer on the patriotism scale these days. It’s sad that free speech needs defending in America, but since it does, I’m happy to be one of the people defending it. Here are the reasons why:
1) Free speech is the only reliable way we hash out which ideas are correct: Since Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter has finally come to pass, there have been people on the Left bemoaning the fact that it may mean “free speech” is coming back to Twitter. What they will tell you they mean by this is something akin to, “We don’t want misinformation, racism, and harmful speech” to spread. What they really mean by this is that they want to be the ones to DEFINE “misinformation, racism, and harmful speech” in a way that helps them and handicaps their political enemies in the war of ideas.
Take for example this statement, “You can choose to change your gender.” Many liberals consider disagreeing with that statement to be harmful speech and misinformation. On the other hand, a similar number of conservatives consider that statement to be both harmful speech and misinformation. This is a genuine debate in society right now and it’s one that liberals are highly likely to eventually lose. So, their goal is to simply prevent the other side from being able to present their ideas at all.
What this misses is that at one time or another, every type of deviant behavior imaginable from human sacrifice to slavery to abortion to public gang rape as a punishment to institutionalized pedophilia to genocide has been embraced and considered a good thing by large societies. In a free society, bad ideas like that tend to either continue on, create a violent reaction that can lead to the overthrow of the government, or go away because of free speech. Don’t underestimate the value of free speech. It is a big part of the glue that holds our society together and time and time again it has shown itself to be better than all the alternatives.
Via Elon Musk:
2) Science can’t function without free speech: When people aren’t free to speak their minds, science becomes just another form of propaganda. See COVID “science” and global warming “science” for great examples of this. Both are shot through with garbage “science,” real scientists who got a lot of things right treated as heretics, and bold proclamations that turned out to be cataclysmically, humiliatingly wrong. There’s no other way it could have played out given the close-mindedness and the embrace of censorship around those scientific issues.
That’s because real science is all about coming up with hypotheses and proving them true or false through experimentation. Some scientific theories, like for example, the idea that the earth was the center of the universe, lingered for two thousand years before they were definitively disproved. That doesn’t mean that we can’t ever “know” something about science, but it does mean science requires an open mind, a desire to follow the evidence wherever it goes, and a genuine willingness to test alternative viewpoints. In other words, without freedom of speech, science turns into unreliable junk science.
3) Good decision-making is impossible without it: Having good information is a critical part of good decision making and it’s impossible to have good information without freedom of speech. The number of dictators, corporations, and political parties that have failed because people were censored, pressured or threatened into keeping their mouths shut rather than pointing out the elephant in the room is legion.
Smart people understand that if everyone in the room is coming to the same conclusion on something controversial, there’s a possibility that everyone is missing some important information. That’s why to the degree that “diversity” has any value at all, it’s valuable because it exposes people to different ways of thinking and looking at the world. Without being able to have freewheeling conversations that include disagreement, criticism, and alternate views, good decisions are impossible.
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4) Free speech makes people mentally stronger: It’s no coincidence that at the same time colleges have embraced ridiculous concepts like “safe spaces,” “microaggressions,” and “words are violence,” that students have increasingly gotten reputations for being soft, weak, pathetic little “snowflakes.” I’ve been doing different forms of martial arts for a long time and when you get started, it’s a little frightening to get hit. However, after it happens enough times and you get black eyes, bloody noses, and a sore jaw, you realize, “Gee, that wasn’t fun, but I’m still standing.” After that, you start to lose your fear of getting punched in the face. Free speech works in much the same way.
To be a mentally healthy, well-rounded person, you NEED to be introduced to ideas you disagree with and hear a few insults. As someone who has gotten thousands of pieces of hate mail over the years, has been the target of multiple Twitter mobs, and has gotten dozens and dozens of death threats and “quasi-death threats” (“someone should slit your throat”), I can honestly tell you that even an extremely nasty insult from someone I don’t know doesn’t even move the needle anymore.
99% of people on the net are not going to have to deal with the level of abuse I have over the years, but they don’t need to do that either. However, EVERYONE should be able to hear ideas they don’t agree with without going into a tizzy or hearing an insult or two online without spending all day obsessing over it. Free speech allows that to happen while censorship makes people weak.
5) Free speech ultimately prevents bad ideas from taking root: Granted, everyone in society isn’t smart enough to steer clear of toxic ideas like communism, conspiracies, white supremacy, and wokeism, but censoring these ideas doesn’t make them go away, although it may seem to in the short term. On the contrary, censorship moves these ideas to deep, dark corners of the Internet where small groups of true believers can portray themselves as edgy heroes banned for telling the truth. Then, they can spew propaganda to naïve people that stumble into their web without anyone being there to counter it.
Take something as dumb as the “flat-earth theory,” which educated Greeks found laughably, obviously wrong even two thousand years ago. The only way people can buy into that is if they absolutely refuse to listen to reason or alternately, are fed nothing but flat-earth nonsense without having anyone there to explain the truth. A certain percentage of people are going to buy into every bad and dumb idea on earth, but even sane and rational people still need good information to make good decisions.
Also, it’s worth noting, people who don’t have free speech are going to be naturally pushed towards getting their message out in other ways like violence or breaking the law. That’s why free speech, like state’s rights and voting for our representatives, is yet another way to make it possible for a nation of more than 300+ million people with widely divergent views to live with each other. It’s not fair to demand that everyone share your views, but it’s absolutely fair to say that you should have a right to express them in the public square.