Speech is free at first, but you have to pay hidden fees later


Popehat has a great post about a subject that comes up all the time now: freedom of speech and the so-called censorship of public condemnation. Here’s a quote:

Speech has consequences. It ought to.

In America, we have an elaborate set of laws strictly limiting the government’s ability to inflict those consequences. That is right and fit; the First Amendment prevents the government from punishing us for most speech.

Private consequences are something else. Speech is designed to invoke private and social consequences, whether the speech is “venti mocha no whip, please,” or “I love you,” or “fuck off.”1 The private and social consequences of your speech — whether they come from a barista, or your spouse, or people online, or people at whom you shout on the street — represent the free speech and freedom of association of others.

Yes, this, very much. Everyone is fine when speech has consequences that they approve of. Tell a nasty joke that makes your friends laugh, hey, that’s a nice consequence. Tell one that pisses a bunch of people off, to the point that they call you an asshole?

Well, there are certain people who think that’s completely out of bounds.

There’s a culture tug of war going on, in which one side wants to call out racist and sexist statements, and the other wants to call out all criticism of racist and sexist statements. I happen to be on the side of the former but people need to work this out and it’s going to take time.

Still, trying to frame criticism as censorship is ludicrous. Keep the link handy for the next time your Facebook comments turn toward the ridiculous.

(Trigger warning: the blog post at the other end of that link has examples of criticized speech–specifically the Pax Dickinson dudebro bullshit that created a stir recently, so people who can’t handle racist rape jokes or other asshole behavior shouldn’t click.)