Why the “myth” of free speech is anything but…

First, I must give a nod to Ken at Popehat for bringing this to my attention.

Before I comment on the idiocy at hand, I have to pull my head free of my desk.  Banging your head in to your desk in an attempt to alleviate stupidity-induced pain is a wonderful thing.  But, when the stupidity is so strong that it causes your forehead to become almost permanently fused with particle board and the thin veneer that passes for wood at Ikea, then you have reached the level of epic stupidity.

When Dan Cathy, President of Chick-fil-A, confirmed the company’s anti-gay stance, the company came under fire by many gay rights organizations, and others, who thought his stance was homophobic, intolerant, and unnecessarily proselytized from his corporate podium.

In the backlash against Chick-fil-A and Dan Cathy, many people have decided to boycott the fast food chicken purveyors.  I am among them.  Due to the nature of the stance that the company is taking, coupled with the donations they have made to anti-gay organizations, I cannot purchase anything from them in good conscience.

However, there are others who are defending Chick-fil-A and their right to speak their mind, spread their belief, and “Witness to the Lord” (excuse me, can I get a “Hallelujah” up in here?)  Sorry, thought I was feeling the spirit of the Lord there for a moment.  Turned out it was gas.

But, to the point, I can’t say I disagree with those who feel that Mr. Cathy has the right to shout his Christian views from the proverbial mountaintop.  That is his right, and I would defend that right to the death.  Though, having the right to speak your mind does not mean that it is a good idea.  As the old saying goes, “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”  Part of our right to free speech is the right to not engage in said speech.  We can keep our damned mouths shut!  Sadly, Mr. Cathy chose not to do this.

Also inherent in the right to free speech is the inherent permission that speaking out grants to your audience.  When you speak your mind, you are telling your audience that they are free to respond.  Sharing your beliefs means you face the potential that others may mock, scorn, and deride you.  A simple “I love Jesus/Allah/Buddha” could be met with anything from a “me too” to a “fuck you, you religious douchenozzle!”  Both are perfectly acceptable forms of free speech.

To get to the epic, head-pounding, Ikea destroying stupidity mentioned earlier, I give you John Rocker at WND.  Mr. Rocker, in his infinite wisdom, has decided to take on the issue of the Chick-fil-A PR debacle.  He feels, and why I can’t imagine, that the backlash against Chick-fil-A is somehow stifling their freedom of speech.

Mr. Rocker seems to be of the opinion that any speech that criticizes the speech of others is oppressive.  He states:

Over recent years, it seems the term “free speech” has become more of an oxymoron than an absolute in our society. Technically, as our Founding Fathers intended, we are all given the undeniable right to voice our thoughts and opinions freely without fear of scorn and/or ridicule derived from non-agreement. (…..)

(….)Over the past decades, media, in their infinite wisdom, have declared themselves judge, jury and executioner regarding what is acceptable and not so in the realm of exchanging ideas, thoughts and opinions. They also seem to be the ones who have created the “rule book” we all must follow – which over the years has gotten extremely complex with a tremendous array of double standards and finite logic regarding those to whom true freedom of speech actually applies.

There is without a doubt an unwritten but staunchly understood “pecking order” when considering who has the right to freely voice thought without the fear of public scorn and who must tread very lightly on certain obvious topics of socially sensitive subject matter.

On that, Mr. Rocker, I have only two words for you: Horse Shit!  The entire notion that free speech is an oxymoron because you can’t shout idiocy and bigotry from the rooftops free of scorn and ridicule has got to be one of the stupidest notions I have ever read, and I’ve read a lot.  I was a college instructor for several years, teaching many of those in the State Department of Corrections.  When I say that convicted murderers, rapists, child molesters, and drug dealers have sounded less idiotic than you, that is saying something.

He seems to be of the notion that speech is only free when it is applied to his own political ideology.  Though, that really isn’t anything new.  The Dixie Chicks “We are embarrassed Bush is from Texas” fiasco proves that liberals can be just as idiotic when crying “oppression” because people use their freedoms to call out stupidity.  Idiocy, hypocrisy, and a complete and total lack of understanding of the Constitution is not the sole bastion of either the right or the left.  Both sides are guilty of being moronic douchebags when the mood strikes, and when the situation would benefit them.  However, Mr. “I’m an idiot” Rocker seems to think that speech is oppressed when more speech is used to denounce the first speech, and this time it is coming from the right.  Those dirty liberals, how dare they not bow down and kiss your religious feet like you are Jesus Christ.

I get it.  I really do.  People, of all walks of life, don’t like being called out on stupidity.  Hell, I know I don’t.  But, of course, we all must face up to the fact that, as human beings, we are fallible and likely to make stupid mistakes.  Mr Rocker is making one doozy of a mistake here, that’s for sure.  He laments further,

Undoubtedly, the conservative, heterosexual, white male gets and most likely will continue to get the proverbial short end of the stick when it comes to speaking freely. Those who fall into this unfortunate category had better watch their backsides with both eyes when discussing any topic with a script of politically correct verbiage that must be followed.

Oh, let me weep for your privilege.  It must be so hard to be a heterosexual, Christian (I assume), white male in our society.  I just can’t imagine the torment you face on daily basis Mr. Rocker, never knowing if you are going to be the victim of racism, homophobia, sexism, or religious persecution.  Really, it must be devastating to never see people like you reflected in the media, in elected office, in the corporate world.  It has to be absolutely horrific living a life so isolated from others who understand you.  I weep for you, I truly do. [/sarcasm]

Is he fucking serious here?  Playing the “poor, oppressed minority” card only works if you ARE a poor, oppressed minority.  Being a heterosexual, likely Christian, conservative white male?  You can’t get more “majority” than that.  Mr. Rocker, I only have one question for you: Is it hard to see with your head shoved so far up your own ass?

Mr. Rocker, grow the fuck up.  You are either one of the most idiotic people whose writing I have encountered or a literary genius who is so far beyond my level of understanding that your artfully drafted satire sales over the head of the common man like me.  Personally, I can’t imagine the latter being remotely possible.  You, Mr. Rocker, need to learn one very important lesson:  Speech, and the freedom to use it as we wish, is a fundamental right in our country.  People have fought and died to protect that right.  The Founding Fathers were so concerned about oppression of speech that they made it the first right enumerated in the Constitution.  When people like you argue that speech is only free if it doesn’t receive scorn or derision in response, you are spitting in the face of the founders of this nation.  Not only that, you are digging them out of their graves and pissing on them.

To quote Ken at Popehat, “For God’s sake, man. Summon an ounce of self-respect.”



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8 responses to “Why the “myth” of free speech is anything but…

  1. Karl

    Hi – Just found your blog.

    Before I comment – let me first say that I am gay, very much out to everybody and activist and very much libertarian. I need to say it because once I comment it will probably sound like I am none of that … but trust me … I am

    What I don’t understand is … long before gays even started fighting for the right to marry , the majority of the christian church has always stood together against homosexuality. It wasn’t until the gay community start seeking its rights, that what the overall christian community had been preaching started being called hate speech. And now … because the gay community has grown strong in number, christians are all of a sudden are supposed to stop preaching what they have been preaching now for eons.

    I guess what I don’t understand is ….how does stopping one group from working to publicly express what they believe work to promote liberty for all? Its obvious that conservatives are against liberty, however if we are going to start working to shut them up, then that would mean we are against there individual rights as well. What would be the point of our constitution allowing
    for religious freedom. if those freedoms can’t be exercised.

    When I run across people who’s opinion I don’t agree with, I don’t tell them they need to shut up, I just don’t listen. I don’t get why they should’t speak, even though they have the right to. Just because somebody else disagrees. I don’t hear them saying that gays are guilty of hate speech when all we do is run them down.They don’t like it but they do expect it. They’re taught to expect it.

    Liberty is not just about seeing that one or two special groups have it, its about seeing that liberty is given to all.

    I know its not the opinion that most gays share …so I’ll probably be blasted.
    Thats cool though. It wont be the first time. If you can show me how I’m wrong. Go ahead I’m open.

    • Karl,

      I won’t blast you, as you were worried about. In fact, I can see exactly where you are coming from.

      However, I do see that there is a slight flaw in your logic. Telling someone to “shut up” is not an attempt to violate their rights, to violate their beliefs, or to say that they shouldn’t speak. Rather, telling a person or group why their beliefs are wrong, why they should exercise more restraint and caution in their speech, is simply a person exercising their own rights.

      Though I don’t expect you to agree, given your comment, I view silence in response to speech we find deplorable to be a tacit approval of said speech. When a person, a group, an organization speaks out against us as a community, why is it that gay people are expected to turn the other cheek? Isn’t that one of the Christian mandates? Does it seem correct, to you, that we should follow their mandate when they won’t follow it themselves?

      The answer to hateful speech (not “hate speech,” as defined by some laws around the country, just speech that is mean and hateful) is not silence. The answer is not tacit approval or acceptance. The answer is not an attitude of “Well, that is their viewpoint and they have the right to voice it.” The answer is to use our right to speak against them.

      As I said in the post, inherent in the right to free speech is the right of your audience to respond. I will not, personally, back down and allow a group of people to denigrate my very existence, the love between me and my partner. I will not sit back and give my tacit approval to their message with my silence.

      They have every right to speak, and I will defend that right of theirs every day. However, I have the right to speak out against them just as loudly. If you choose to exercise your freedom by staying silent, that is your choice and I will defend that just as strongly.

      Finally, on a different note, thank you for the comment. As a new blog, I am not checking in and updating as regularly as I will be in the future. But, I do look forward to updating more often, and I welcome any comments and thoughts you have.



      • Hey GL

        Thanks for getting back with me. I’m a new blogger as well as a very new libertarian. Just learned about the party in December of last year, so I’m not real grounded in all its language but the philosophy seemed to be so much a part of my regular logic that in only seemed logical for me to identify with that group.

        Regarding your response to my comment …I probably agree with with a huge portion of what you’re saying, so for the sake of time I’ll only comment on one part, a part I think you misunderstood me on.

        I am not suggesting AT ALL in ANY fashion that we should be silent, or back down at speaking up for what we believe in nor. That ain’t Karl at all. In fact thats the exact opposite of what I’m saying. I don’t have a problem at all with one group “telling” another to shut up. You’re 100% correct… that is their freedom of speech. Go ahead ..tell them. I’m not asking, WHY are we “telling” them to shut up, I’m asking “WHAT HAVE WE GOT that is good “reasoning” FOR them to shut up”? You can tell them to shut up all you want but it would seem to me if someone really wanted them to shut up or TO even exercise some restraint and caution when they’re speaking, a good common sense person asking, would at least be able to give them a good reason WHY they should .. other than just …shut up …or exercise caution when you speak. Why?? Because I SAID so?

        You have the right to say “shut up” …and you can tell them to “shut up” … but to me if somebody is going to say it, shouldn’t they have a good sound reason for saying it? OTHER THAN I have a right to say “shut up” if I want to. That sounds like something a kid would do. So … THEY should shut up because I have a right to say “shut up” ? The statement makes no sense.

        I definitely don’t believe in silence at any degree when it comes to these issues …but I believe we’ve got to come with a whole lot more then “shut up we don’t want to hear you” …or some nasty insult, if we want to be taken seriously. Thats not standing up for anything. When all we have is “shut up” it simply says to them ..’you don’t want to hear us because you know we’re right’ … and thats all they want to hear. It proves THEIR case to them because the only argument we’re giving is..’shut up nobody wants to hear you ..its all about me’. It shows our community is not open for any kind of debate at all with them and all we want is for them is to shut up keel over and die.

        Oh and one other thing …trust me .. they are not expecting us at all to turn the other cheek at all. Remember, they think we are an abomination and thats the only way they expect us to act. They are never shocked at some of the responses they get from us. They don’t expect anything good from us at all, and when we are nasty, it only feeds it more. So …know they don’t expect us to turn the other cheek.
        Anyway ..got to run. I have a little libertarian blog of my own with some my blah, blah blah on it. too Its in my profile if you ever have time to check it out. If you will be here regularly, I’ll be here regularly May be together we can help bring some traffic in

      • Karl,

        Thanks for the reply. I think that the crux of our disagreement hinges on the “why” factor. So, I’d like to address that.

        Yes, on occasion, I do tell people (particularly the whacky and dangerous Religious Right) to stuff it. But, when I do, it isn’t simply a demand for silence as an overbearing parent would give to a child. Rather, I expound on why their silence and restraint is called for. (Yes, that is my fault for not making clear earlier).

        I point out to them the high rates of drug use in the gay community.
        I point out the high rates of suicide among gay teens and youth.
        I discuss the dangerous rhetoric they are using, and how it doesn’t help a person “turn from a life of sin” so much as it makes a person begin to question his or her own worth as a human being.
        I very clearly make sure they know that they are free to believe as they wish, but that voicing their beliefs to an unwilling audience solves nothing. It makes their victim (and, yes, I mean victim) feel shame, anger, self-doubt, self-hatred, and isolation. All it does for the bible-thumping perpetrator is make them feel a momentary high that they are living up to some bizarre ideal set by their god.

        In the end, fighting back against those who would denigrate our very existence takes time, takes action, and takes the freedom our speech gives us to (hopefully) make them see how dangerous they are being.


      • GL

        Thats exactly what I’m talking about. In fact , if we want to see any change I think that we have an obligation to express to them exactly HOW the things they say bring damage to the lives of so many in our community. Their knowing all of those reasons which you spoke, are indeed key factors, if we ever want to have an real open debate. I think if we can get them to hear those reasons then we wouldn’t have to tell them to shut up or use caution when speaking at all … because then they’d have reason to and they’d begin to do it on their own. Unfortunately, most of our community is so angry because of how we’ve been treated that those kinds of logical discussions are not generally what’s coming out of most of our mouths.However it’s understandable.

        One other point I’d like to address: You spoke of their ..” voicing their beliefs to an unwilling audience”. I’m not sure if thats 100% what these people are doing. As a rule conservatives are generally only speaking to conservatives, and at the churches christians are talking to other christians. Both of those are willing audiences …people who generally support what they stand for. So I wouldn’t say that they’re voicing their beliefs to an unwilling audience. They don’t generally come to our “pride fest” to speak to us .. unless there’s some crazy’ walking around.

        When they publicly air their messages, its generally to show that they are supporting their own base. I don’t think they are doing it to send a message out to the gay community at all because they clearly already know its a message that we totally reject. If they don’t know that, they have to be deaf, blind and stupid. If in reaching out to their own base, we happen to hear it though, they know we’re going to get mad, and respond. We should get mad and they expect it. Thats why ,when Dan Cathy said what he said, conservatives and christians from all over went out to support the Chick-Fil-A establishment, (thats their willing audience).. Thats what open debate is all about.

        BUT, when Mayor Emmanuel, one lone person uses his political authority alone to stop a business from opening , because an “associate” in that business said something that the mayor thought was offensive, that closes the debate and ends the discussion because now only one group can speak out without being threatended . Thats not what our country is all about all. We ALL have the right to go back and forth to scream and holler at each other and make each other mad. There’s no rule against it. Its not illegal. This country has been doing that since its very existence. The moment someone says ” you have no RIGHT to do that”, its no longer the free country that we started off as. Thats what the mayor was saying when he made the decision to stop the Chick-Fil-A exspansion

        Even if Mr Cathy’s statement was offensive, it wasn’t illegal for him to say what he said. The mayor could have shook his finger at him , he could have left it alone when he said “their values are not Chicago’s values”. People would have been outraged but the mayor has a right to speak his mind. Nobody has said he’s wrong for doing that. However when he made the decision to use his authority to stop the expansion because Mr Cathy spoke out, thats where the line was crossed and Mr Cathy’s “freedom of speech” were violated.

      • Karl,

        I think at this point we are on a pointless roundabout of agreements on philosophy, and quibbling on semantics.

        So, to that end, I only have a couple of points.

        First, “an unwilling audience” does not have to be a national audience, or even publicized. It goes beyond getting on the radio, attending Christian events, or otherwise patting other like-minded bigots on the back for pretending to have a moral highground.

        An “unwilling audience” can be an audience of one. Sure, it happens on large scale (such as the “gays are a coming storm of evil…and immorality…and fabulous fashion” ads that ran in CA in response to the Prop 8 debate). But, it happens daily across this country on a small, intimate, and ultimately more damaging scale.

        It happens to the gay teenager who is prevented from taking his boyfriend to prom, because his school board thinks its immoral.

        It happens to the young lesbian who has bible verses crammed down her throat by ignorant parents when she comes out.

        It happens to gay and lesbian kids when they are forcefully sent, against their will, to “pray the gay away” Christian brainwashing centers. (See a post published here in a bit about that one).

        An “unwilling audience” can be any size, anywhere.

        Second, I also want you to understand that I, in no way, support the actions of people who would use political clout to stifle free speech or interfere in the free market. People like Rahm Emanuel (of Chicago), Edwin Lee (of San Francisco), and Thomas Menino (of Boston) need to tread lightly. They are fine if they come out against the statements made by a person like Dan Cathy. But, when they cross the line in to political thuggery, I will not support them.

      • Gl

        What you said was what I and many gays have experienced for the young part of our lives …so of course I understand and agree and those notes 100%.

  2. I meant …I agree ON those notes %100

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