Freedom of Speech Means Freedom to Offend

Reginald Firehammer

A Journal for Western Man-- Issue XXXIX-- August 11, 2005

What is the most dangerous epidemic in the world today? Is it SARS, bird flu, AIDS, or some other lurking devastating infection? No! It is none of these. It is something much worse, much more insidious, much more destructive and ultimately deadly.

Disgusting Social Disease

What if there were a disease that caused those who have it to believe they were healthier than those not infected? What if there were a disease that caused those who did not have it to be ashamed of their good health? What kind of disease could cause such bizarre symptoms?

A social disease. We don't mean what used to be called, "euphemistically," social diseases, but are now called STDs. We don't mean, "kissing disease," (infectious mononucleosis) either. We mean that disease which has been only recently identified, possibly for the very first time in history, right here, right now. That disease is CPTS.

CPTS, otherwise known clinically as, Chronic Politically Thin-skinned Syndrome, is no joke. It is more infectious than any pox and more devastating than ebola, causing the life fluids of civilization itself to leak from every orifice.

Pathology of CPTS

Whatever you think of Ayn Rand, her diagnosis of the ideas that infect and destroy societies was uncanny. In the following she has described the progress and symptoms of CPTS exactly.

There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil. The man who is wrong still retains some respect for truth, if only by accepting the responsibility of choice. But the man in the middle is the knave who blanks out the truth in order to pretend that no choice or values exist, who is willing to sit out the course of any battle, willing to cash in on the blood of the innocent or to crawl on his belly to the guilty, who dispenses justice by condemning both the robber and the robbed to jail, who solves conflicts by ordering the thinker and the fool to meet each other halfway....

When men reduce their virtues to the approximate, then evil acquires the force of an absolute, when loyalty to an unyielding purpose is dropped by the virtuous, it's picked up the scoundrels—and you get the indecent spectacle of a cringing, bargaining, traitorous good and a self-righteously uncompromising evil." [Emphasis added.]

Which is exactly what we have today.

Freedoms Compromised are No Freedoms

With the possible exception of property, there is nothing more sacred than one's freedom of speech. Freedom of speech means the freedom to say with words, spoken or written, anything one chooses to say. It is not freedom to say only what offends no one, it is not freedom to say only what agrees with some authority's official line; it means freedom to say anything, even if everyone else in the whole world is offended by it and even if it contradicts every official doctrine of every authority that ever existed.

Speech, whether actually spoken, or only written, is the expression or recording of one's thinking. Any restriction of speech is a restriction on thought; an attempt to throttle the fundamental requirement of a human being's existence, the ability and necessity to think. Do you suppose that thinking cannot be controlled? Do you believe, since no one can know what you are thinking, you are always free to think anything you choose?

But thinking is not an end in itself, it is a means, the only means human beings have for determining their behavior, for determining the correct action to take in any immediate situation or for a lifetime. When one is thinking about what choices to make, they will, if they are not fools, dismiss thoughts of what they know are impossible choices. They will not think very much about doing what they know can never be done.

Any restriction on what one may or may not say means there is no point in thinking those things one would otherwise desire to speak, if that speech were not prohibited. Why think it if it can never be said? When speech is restricted, people know they cannot freely speak whatever comes into their minds, and part of their thinking must be devoted to that care necessary to avoid saying what has been prohibited.

There is no freedom to think where there is no freedom say what one thinks, where one must always be on guard to not accidentally utter some forbidden words, to express some prohibited concept, to say what it has been deemed evil to speak.

The evil that prohibits free speech is greater than the evil that would violate one's physical property, even greater than the evil that would violate one's person. The evil that prohibits free speech reaches into the very consciousness, terrorizing one's thinking and destroying one's mind. The terrorists who threaten our property are pikers compared to those terrorists who threaten our souls. When freedom of speech is curtailed, any others that remain, will soon be lost as well.

The Terrible Evil of Words

And how is it decided what one may or may not say? Is there some principle, some rule one can learn to apply to all their thoughts to avoid forbidden speech? There is not. It is entirely arbitrary.

Do you suppose there is some great crisis that requires these restrictions on our freedom? There is none. Is it because we are at war or threatened with invasion that requires these extraordinary curtailments of our freedom of speech? It is not. While there is never a justification for limiting freedom of speech, at least a crisis or war would be plausible excuses.

So, to what is this most precious of all our freedoms being sacrificed? It is being sacrificed to some people's sensibilities, certain special groups of people who-- it has been deemed-- must never have their feelings hurt, who are never to hear a discouraging word, and whose skies must not be cloudy all day.

The Two Hs

There are two kinds of speech which are now restricted or prohibited. They are easy to remember, because they both begin with "h," harassment and hate. Anything you say that might be considered harassment by members of one of the select groups is prohibited. Anything you say that might be considered hateful by members of one of the select groups is also prohibited, and in some cases, is considered a crime.

You may consult any business employee handbook, or Freedom of Speech vs.Workplace Harassment Law — A Growing Conflict by Prof. Eugene Volokh, UCLA Law School, to discover anything anyone says can be interpreted as "harassment." As a minimum, anything that can be construed by someone as, "sexual or suggestive remarks, making fun of someone, imitating someone's accent, offensive jokes, repeated questions about personal life, insults, threats, or offensive language," is "harassment."

That same speech directed at any of the following special groups is considered, "hate speech.": Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, Arab, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Islamic (Moslem), gay (male), lesbian, handicapped, persons with AIDS, physically disabled, mentally disabled, female, or male. [From The
Massachusetts "Governor's Task Force on Hate Crimes
]

In the actual list, "other," is included several times, but that seems a bit redundant with the inclusion of the last two, female and male. Who does that leave out, exactly, and what does it leave out? There is virtually nothing one can say to anyone that by some interpretation cannot be considered harassment or hate speech.

The Privileged

Harassing, bullying, offensive, and hateful speech are reprehensible and ubiquitous because the world is full of hateful, ignorant, boorish, and careless people. It has always been so. Freedom of speech must nevertheless protect even the ignorant and boorish, or there is no freedom of speech.

But freedom of speech is no more, because there is a new class of human beings. This class of beings is unlike any before in history. In the past it was always assumed words, however hateful, however crude, however insulting or demeaning, were only words and whatever effect they had was determined, not by the speaker or writer, but the listener and reader. Words could be ignored. It is what every child learned, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me."

But this new class of beings are sensitive, their feelings are easily hurt, and words are what they fear above all things. They are the "thin-skinned," and it is for the sake of this class that freedom of speech has to be scrapped.

In fact, words cannot hurt me, or you, or anyone else. We may not like what someone else says, we may, in fact despise it, or even "hate" it. We may choose to become angered by someone else's words, or to allow them to hurt our feelings, and to resent them. No words, however, in themselves, can do anything to us we do not choose to allow them to do. No words can hurt us, but guns can.

Words or Guns

It might be nice to live in world where no one ever said anything mean or hateful, where we never had to listen to someone using crude or distasteful language, where no one ever expressed an idea that offended our moral sensibilities, intentionally used cruel or abusive language, or promoted ideas which, put into practice, would harm others.

The inverted idea of freedom that has stolen freedom of speech is the idea that everyone deserves to have that kind of world, a world free from speech which offends them. But there is no such thing as a freedom to have anything.

Freedom means freedom to do, not freedom to have. Freedom to do requires nothing of anyone else. The freedom to do imposes no demands on anyone else except of a negative kind, to say out of your way and to not interfere in your life. A freedom to have would require something of someone else. A so-called freedom to have means someone is required to supply whatever is demanded by that, "freedom," and if they will not provide it willingly, they can be forced to provide it.

And we are forced to provide it. If you use words that offend any of these privileged sensitives, you will be punished. Though you only use words, if they offend the CPTS, it will be your job that will be threatened, your property confiscated, or your person which may even be put in jail. For only using words, the full force of the law, backed up by law enforcement, (police & guns) of course, can be brought to bear against you.

When those who only use words are called evil, those who use guns will be called virtuous. And that is your choice. You cannot avoid offense in this world; you are going to offend and be offended. The choice is, the offense of words or the offense of guns.

So we have come to the exact place Ayn Rand described; those who use force to restrict free speech, penalizing individuals for exercising the most important of all freedoms, threatening their jobs, their property, punishing them with fines and imprisonment make self-righteous speeches about their humanitarianism and moral imperatives while those who ought to be defending free speech make pusillanimous apologies for imagined offences and for having opinions that are unpopular.

Recent Examples

The following articles were all presented to me in January of 2004. These are some of the more recent examples of the atrocious assault now being made on our freedom of speech in the name of the terminally thin-skinned.

"A little less freedom of speech," By Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe presents two such cases: an Airline sued for hate speech because a stewardess said, "Eenie meenie minie moe, pick a seat, we gotta go," and the punishment of students at the Omaha Westside High School after they "plastered the school on Monday" -- Martin Luther King Day -- "with posters advocating that a white student from South Africa receive the `Distinguished African American Student Award' next year."

This story provides so many perfect example of evil masquerading as morally superior and the "cringing, bargaining, traitorous good," I have provided two more links to it: "Students disciplined for posters on King Day," by Michaela Saunders, World-Herald, and "They say Trevor made a mockery of MLK Day," By David M. Huntwork, Radiofree West Hartford.

Go to jail for saying a word? In this story, "Say the N-Word, Go to Legal Hell," by Edgar J. Steele, saying the word, "nigger," (which evidently Mr. Steele was afraid to say), can get you put in jail for five years for using a "racial" epithet ..., but physically attacking and harming someone's wife bears no penalty at all.

As preview of what is coming, "Cowering under Islam's Sway," by Robin Shepherd in the Sydney Morning Herald explains how offending a protected group of the thin-skinned gets you fired from a 17-year job as the host of one of British television's most successful daily talk shows.

"In a column for the mass circulation Sunday Express, under the deliberately provocative headline, 'We owe Arabs nothing', he opined, in part, as follows:

"'Apart from oil - which was discovered, is produced and is paid for by the West - what do (Arab countries) contribute? They should go down on their knees and thank God for the munificence of the United States. What do they think we feel about them? That we admire them for the cold-blooded killings in Mombasa, Yemen, and elsewhere? That we admire them for being suicide bombers, limb-amputators, women repressors?'"

Is what he said true? It doesn't matter. The protected are offended; off with his head (or at least cut out his tongue).

For even more insight into where this repression of speech is going, see this article, "What have regulators got to do with it?" by Mark Steyn.

Reginald Firehammer is a filosofer and author of the book: The Hijacking of a Philosophy: Homosexuals vs. Ayn Rand's Objectivism. He is the author and host of The Autonomist, an online intellectual journal, as well as a contributor to The Rational Argumentator. In the future, he intends to produce a comprehensive treatise on ontology, consciousness, and ultimately filosofy itself. Mr. Firehammer can be contacted at regi@usabig.com.

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