Stretching the boundaries of free speech

In my house, I allow a lot of opinions to be expressed. I’m very safe from most of the problems of the world, but I don’t turn a blind eye to them. I agree with Christopher Hitchens who bases his philosophy on the wisdom of the ages, that the few dissenting voices should be amplified, not suppressed.

I don’t agree with every application of that when the Hitch invokes that rule or judges others. We’ve been testing that here at CFI over the last couple of days. There is a benchmark, called the DAU/MAU, and we’ve been higher recently. But it’s not a simple “higher is gooder” metric.

Garrison Keillor, a man who had all the trappings of a quiet conservative but could weave liberal values into a story, once had a character in his imaginary town who spoke out against the US involvement in WWII. He made valid points. The character didn’t make friends. Keillor could distance himself from the comments because it was the words of a fictional character.

I’m doing a little distancing here myself. Here’s the meat:

Making comments on anything topic is allowed, but not all speech is acceptable. When making comments about people dying, no matter where you are, you should be aware of who might hear you. You should be ready to hear them speak from their perspective, like a mother who has buried her children. You should be able to include that in whatever point you are making, whether it’s a broad stroke or a specific incident. You should demonstrate that you have heard others.

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I fully agree.

The absolute limits to free speech are when you insult or defame some one,

Defamation is difficult to prosecute, to prove intent, and is expensive. The “Court of Public Opinion” often rules the day.

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Some people insult too easily and can be insulted by almost anything, including another presence.

A good example of speech that shouldn’t be suppressed, but should be corraled, is Creationism. If we keep it out of schools entirely, those who are claiming it should be there have their own stage and can claim there is a reason why they are not letting children study it and debate it. If we include it in curricula, the training and oversight of the teachers would be difficult to manage. If presented in the wrong way, it can appear to be equal to scientific facts.

We have had this sort of presentation of facts here recently. Facts about something a superpower did 40 years ago are true, and can even be relevant to the present, but if they are presented without acknowledgment of the intervening decades, then they are not the “proof” that they are being claimed to be. This is the same as using something Darwin didn’t understand or got wrong, to claim that evolution is “just a theory” and therefore an alternative is just as worthy of consideration.