The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

Let’s talk about… free speech

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but there have been a few kerfuffles about free speech lately. There’s a slight chance it has something to do with a certain someone being banned from typing a few sentences on his phone, even though that someone still has the greatest global audience in the history of mankind. But we’re super objective observers here at Good Bad Asinine, so we’ll restrict ourselves to discussing “free speech” as a concept, independently of current events, and in a super objective manner.

The good news is that, as well as being super objective, we’re also super sensible. So we’ll do you a solid and mention the most obvious thing first.

1 – Free speech doesn’t mean you can say what you like, when you like, how you like.

This statement should be so uncontroversial, I feel kind of silly even pointing it out. But if there is anyone out there who thinks that such an obviously sensible sentiment represents an outrageous curtailment of your god-given rights, I would only ask one thing. And that is, to be granted permission to show up to your funeral, walk up to your kids, and scream “YOUR DEAD DAD’S BEARD WAS A LITTLE SUBSTANDARD AND ALSO HE WAS A PEDO AND HE’S GOING TO HELL”. Not that I need your permission, of course, since it’s my god-given right. Right?

I assume that pretty much everyone is of the opinion that I shouldn’t be allowed to do that. So let’s just stop being silly, and admit that not all speech should be “free”.

Which leads to me to the second most obvious thing.

2 – Nobody owes you their voice.

If we all agree that I don’t have a right to walk into someone’s funeral, disparage their beard, and call them a pedo, it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to suggest that I don’t have a right to make someone else say it for me. But that, apparently, is exactly what many free speech advocates seem to be asking for.

Sound ridiculous? Good. Because it is.

Think of it this way. If you think your rights are being violated because someone doesn’t feel like passing your message along, then the obvious, inevitable, and only solution is to make them. And I’m sorry if you find it inconvenient, but I really don’t want to be made to tell everyone that you think the Earth is flat or vaccines cause autism or COVID is a hoax or the US presidential election was stolen from you and you’d like a bunch of idiots to storm the Capitol. Not only do you have a mouth of your own that you can use, but my mouth has better things to do, even if most of those things are eating schnitzel.

In short, if you have something to say, say it. But don’t expect me or anyone else to repeat it.

3 – Nobody owes you their ears, either.

Even if you’re free to say what you like, when you like, how you like, and even if you’re free to make someone else say it too, by what standard of logic does that mean the rest of us have to listen?

It’s like saying that you’re not allowed to hang up the phone during a boring conversation. Or walk away while someone is explaining the rules of golf. Or stick your fingers in your ears and say “LA LA LA LAAAA” when someone chases after you to continue explaining the rules of golf. And I don’t know about you, but I, for one, am not about to give up my favourite rebuttal technique.

The bottom line is that if you have the right to make me listen, then I have the right to make you look at my naked dangly bits, and if you look away from my naked dangly bits, it would be an egregious violation of my fundamental human rights, and me and my naked dangly bits would be entitled to chuck a massive tanty.

Hopefully we can all agree that such a situation would be bad for everyone involved, and the only thing I’d be entitled to chuck is some clothes on. Even if I do bear a striking resemblance to Ryan Gosling from Date Night. And even if that resemblance is mostly from the neck down, but also a little bit from the neck up.

Which leads me to the third most obvious thing.

4 – I bear only a passing resemblance to Ryan Gosling from Date Night, on either side of his neck.

This statement is completely unrelated to the topic at hand, but must be stated in the interests of honest and transparent discourse.

Which leads me to the fourth most obvious thing.

5 – You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.

One of the most common refrains from the Noble Defenders of Free Speech is that everyone is entitled to their opinion. And on the face of it, they’re completely correct. You’re very much entitled to think that schnitzel is the best food ever created, or that a box of BBQ shapes is a perfectly acceptable dinner if you can’t find schnitzel, or that no TV show will ever come close to matching the brilliance of Renegade. I’m obviously entitled to statements like these, for a reason that is equally obvious.

They’re actually opinions.

You see, it turns out that there’s a bit of a difference between subjective, personal views that can be debated at dinner parties (preferably over a schnitzel, but BBQ Shapes at a pinch), and cold, hard, objective facts that can’t be debated at all.

The Earth is flat. Vaccines cause autism. COVID is a hoax. The US presidential election was stolen from you and you’d like a bunch of idiots to storm the Capitol. These aren’t opinions. They’re verifiable statements about reality.

And they’ve been verified. And they’re wrong.

Which leads me to the thrilling conclusion.

6 – This is not the right you are looking for.

So… that’s all well and good, but where does it leave us?

Well, apparently it leaves us in a world where people think their right to say whatever they like is more important than your right to be left in peace. Where their right to be wrong is more important than your right to know the truth. And, most tellingly, where it is very, very important that they have the right to walk into a funeral and scream a lie into grieving faces.

Because if you look around, the people shouting the most about free speech are always those least likely to be silenced, and the most likely to be wrong, and most likely to be downright mean. And what they’re actually asking for isn’t the right to free and open debate, but the right to be a massive jerk.

And I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that’s a right worth protecting.