It occurred to me today that we treat liberty pretty much the same way we do money. We all want to get rich, but we sure as heck don’t want the other guy rolling in the bucks. In fact, we resent our rich neighbors and will often go out of our way to stymie their fortune seeking if possible.
Here in America, we all talk a lot about freedom and liberty. But when somebody starts exercising theirs in a manner that rubs us the wrong way, Katie bar the door – that stuff is dangerous and we must put a stop to it!
Recently, a church scraped together some cash and rented a billboard along a major road in Lexington, Ky. It expressed their opinion on homosexuality along with their views on abortion.
Yup. It was pretty offensive.
So, a local “fairness” group used tax records to track down the owner of the billboard. Turns out it was CSX Railroad, using CBS Advertising to lease out the advertising space. Well, with the advocacy group putting a little pressure on CSX, the company yanked the billboard.
Having successfully protected Lexington commuters’ sensitive eyes from the offending words, a spokesperson for the “fairness” organization made this logically incoherent statement.
“We aren’t opposed to free speech unless it’s hate speech.”
Look, you support freedom of speech or you don’t. By definition, working to scrub messages you find offensive out of existence falls into the “don’t” category.
Seriously, I’m still trying to wrap my head around exactly what’s “fair” about an organization promoting “fairness” telling some poor misguided rubes, “Sorry, you can’t express your opinion. It hurts my feelings.”
Freedom of speech only works when we protect the most vile, offensive and unpopular messages. Heck, those expressions NEED protecting. We really don’t need a right to speak freely in order to talk about butterflies, kittens and chocolate cake!
Philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote extensively about the importance of protecting all speech. He points out a person attempting to erase an idea takes upon himself the right to judge truth for all humanity.
They have no authority to decide the question for all mankind, and exclude every other person from the means of judging. To refuse a hearing to an opinion, because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty. All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility.
Furthermore, suppressing certain ideas diminishes the search for truth.
The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.
Liberty runs along a two-way street. You must give it to get it. Tolerance means tolerance even of the intolerant.