OnPoint by Keith Ng


On Freedom of Speech

**WARNING: Strong speech freedom follows. Reader discretion is advised.**

I may not agree with what Paul Henry said, but I will defend to the death my right to say that he's a cunt for saying it.

And, I suppose, if pushed, I will write strongly-worded letters to the editor to defend his right to say it. VERY strongly-worded.

But seriously, let's not throw around ideas like freedom of speech without carefully considering what they actually mean.

Freedom of speech is being free to say what you want without interference; not from the police, not from lynch mobs, not from your neighbours. They don't get to arrest you, strip you of any of your other legal rights, beat you or gag you.

Calling someone a cunt for what they said does not interfere with their freedom of speech. It is, in fact, the opposite. It is active participation in the marketplace of ideas. Granted, neither what Paul Henry said nor "Paul Henry is a cunt" are particularly good or useful ideas. But hey, even the marketplace of ideas has a $2 Shop.

Nonetheless, this is precisely why democracies have freedom of speech - so that people can say whatever they want, and other people can say "No, you're a dick. Fuck off." This is the free and frank competition of ideas, regardless of how crap those ideas are.

Let's consider what freedom of speech is not.

It is not protection from consequences of speech. The state cannot and does not protect someone who says cunty things from being thought of as a cunt, nor from being called out as a cunt. Why? Because it would impinge on other people's freedom of thought and of expression.

It is not a guarantee of employment - especially when the substance of the employment *is* speech. Paul Henry is not a drycleaner. He gets paid to say things. To suggest that what he says should not affect his employment is nonsensical.

Jokes aside, I do believe in the right to free speech. I believe that the marketplace of ideas leads to a healthy democracy. I will defend the right to free speech. I will defend the right of individuals to say and write and sing and think whatever dumbass bullshit they want, free from violence or coercion from the state or from individuals.

Defending Paul Henry's opinions, reputation or employment, however, is not upholding any constitutional right, any democratic principle, any moral imperative, any sound reasoning or any practical purpose.

But hey, if you like the guy, sure, why not? It's a free country. You cunt.

Is the mic still on?

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