Free Speech Means Will There Will Be Crazy Speech — And That’s Okay

Free Speech Means Will There Will Be Crazy Speech — And That’s Okay August 15, 2018

I love to listen to the Freakonomics podcast as Steven Duber uses compelling economics to help shed a light on many topics. His July 19th episode featured a fascinating interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

As you might know, Facebook is under a great deal of scrutiny. Conservatives have felt that the algorithms have increasingly silenced their voices, even forcing Congressional hearings about the matter. And recently, the company is starting to crack down on “Fake News.” The problem? Who determines the truth?

Absolute protection for those who are absolutely wrong

Zuckerberg’s views on freedom of speech were really interesting – and they caused me to rethink my opinion of him. When asked by Dubner about Holocaust Deniers and whether Facebook would remove their posts, Zuckerberg said he would not. Even as a Jew, he said that the unfettered free speech of their falsehood would lead a vigorous pursuit of the actual truth.

In other words, if we allow Free Speech, that means some garbage will be spewed and lies will be told. But that forces the truth to come to the surface, for good people to go on the offense to show what is right.

Zuckerberg, who runs a private company, can have any rule he wants. He doesn’t have to allow all opinions. He doesn’t have to allow any positions.  And while we are at it, Twitter, YouTube and most workplaces and universities can limit free speech. They are private and they can and should have their own rules.

During the interview, Zuckerberg also said the US has the most unique form of Free Speech anywhere in the world. That’s what allows for people to call a president anything they want and not fear a visit from the local police. They can Rant and Rave, and still live in freedom.

Photo by D. Rupert, Potomac MD

Freedom — It’s crazy genius

People look at America and shake their heads at our insanity, and yet at the same time they have to marvel at our ingenuity. It’s because of Freedom, which is at our core.

Think of the impact of these words:

“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.” — First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, adopted Dec. 15, 1791

It’s this wild freedom that has led to wonder and discovery, innovation and invention. It’s what made America great.

No single word resonates with people quite like freedom. Advertisers, politicians and preachers all know the weight that this word carries.

It’s no coincidence that the American imperative for freedom of thought, of conscience and speech, also reflects a Christian value.  Jesus said, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” and Paul reminded us that “where the the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” and “For freedom Christ has set us free.”

The Christian faith — and American Life — is best lived in freedom, choosing to make choices out of free will and open knowledge.

Oh Liberal, where are you? Conservatives?

The classic liberal, the one of days gone by, was known for their open-mindedness. They were diverse thinkers, giving everyone a right to an opinion. Freedom of expression and a competition of ideas were paramount.

Today the mobs of humiliators that swarm unpopular speech are making me think deep about the Freedoms that I’ve taken for granted. And in a way, I’m looking for the liberal of old and the conservative alike to stand up and defend speech, even the crazy and unpopular kind.

Can all sides — right and left — once again rally around liberty?

Photo by L. Rupert, Texas
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