Freedom of Speech =/= Speech Free from Consequences

Freedom of Speech =/= Speech Free from Consequences February 5, 2013

Seriously, I’m really getting tired of people griping about how their FREEDOM OF SPEECH is being violated because people don’t like what they’re saying and say as much. Look, you are perfectly free to call a gay person a pervert. Really! But that does not mean I can’t call you out for that, or that I have to be buddy buddy with you, or that I have to endorse your hate. Heck no. And you know what? You are perfectly free to call a woman you don’t like a c***. Really! But if you do that, be ready for some serious backlash, because believe it or not, being hateful and sexist has consequences.

The weird thing is that this is one area where what I read about evangelicals and the Christian Right coincides with what I read in certain parts of the atheist blogosphere. Yes, just like Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A thought he should be able to oppose marriage equality without facing consequences, because, you know, freedom of speech, there are also atheists out there who appear to think they should be able to use sexist slurs without facing consequences, because, you know, freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech means that the government does not censor speech. It doesn’t mean that when you say hateful things everyone around you is required to nod and smile. I mean really, the Westboro Baptists say terrible horrible things, but the government doesn’t stop them, because they have freedom of speech. Essentially everyone in this country abhors them, and many people speak out against their hate. And you know what? That does not violate their freedom of speech! Free speech does not mean being able to say anything you want to without being labeled a bigot.

Freedom of speech =/= speech free from consequences.

This isn’t that complicated. Really.

Oh, and people making comment policies, or banning people from commenting on their blogs? That doesn’t violate anyone’s freedom of speech either, because it’s not the government that is making those rules. It’s people making decisions about their own blogs. Believe it or not, no one has the right to comment on other people’s blogs. The same is true of conferences and work places. An independent entity making rules for running things on its own turf is not a violation of a person’s freedom of speech.

So you are perfectly free to call gay people perverts or women c***s. But don’t think your freedom of speech means you can do that without people condemning you for it, or without people choosing not to associate with you because of it, or, well, without consequences. Because it doesn’t.

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