The paradox of free speech

As a culture we’re approaching a point (with increasing speed) where more speech is actually leading to a worsening of society. There is little delineating anymore between thought and speech. Nothing is off limits, nothing is left better off unsaid. Self-censorship is at an all time low. Unfortunately the florid prose of centuries past has given way to a coarsening of what comes out of our mouths. If there are no guardians at the gates, what’s the point of having gates at all?

More speech leads to louder speech and louder speech leads to only the most simplistic, worst things being heard. In fact, that’s how free speech brings about its self destruction – through the zenith of its proliferation.

More darkly, the more that speech is allowed the more that people want to censor. “You can’t say that”, “you hurt my feelings”, “your speech creates a climate of [insert unsavory thing here]”. Speech is racist now, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, agoraphobic.

Phobia.

Fear.

What is there to fear in speech besides someone else being correct?

Why should that be feared?

By allowing speech to be free we’re not understanding *its* limitations, but ours. More things appear to be taboo the more that things are uncovered. We’re less comfortable with more uncharted territory. A “naughty word” used to be representative of sex. Now naughty words are no longer sexual, there’s “hate” speech. There are certain words that “represent hate”.

Which is patently ridiculous. Words represent nothing but a series of letters and a clinical definition. Intent, tone, context, audience – THOSE can be hateful, prurient. A change in tone can turn a cold statement into a pickup line. A sharpness of voice can change an academic description of terminology into a racist slur meant to cause injury.

Text culture places more undue burden on speech. It takes the emotions out of words, the tone, and leaves it to our imagination, which is usually a horrible place to go. It’s made us understand more about what was said (it’s right in front of us) but pay less attention (we don’t have to impolitely ask to repeat, it’s right in front of us). It’s made us robotic, turning previously face-to-face human interaction into robotic, quick phrases.

Which explains why emojis are so popular. People want to impart *feeling*. There’s a reason why hieroglyphics, cave paintings, oral histories, and ritual re-enactment were one of the earliest forms of communication – we have to “monkey see, monkey do” with each other to know what the f*ck is going on.

The more we communicate, the better we are in the long term. The more we talk, the bigger our brains get. The less limitations we have as humans.

Freedom of speech means no limitations.

Without it, how could I be saying what I’m saying now?

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