Op-Ed by Joe Jarvis
Freedom of speech is up there with guns for rights that Americans hold sacred. The political elite has to get creative when they try to take these rights away, lest the backlash makes them lose ground rather than gain it.
By and large, that has been the case with guns; every time talk starts about restrictive gun control, gun sales soar. Most people realize banning guns would not be feasible, and even if it was, it would not reduce crime but rather leave people vulnerable. And it is encouraging to see many also realize that the prime reason for gun ownership is to prevent genocide, especially perpetrated by the government.
Then there is a cultural meme that seems so obvious I hardly mention it, yet it deserves the spotlight every now and then.
Free speech is being conflated with hate speech in true 1984 doublespeak. There was a time when it was obvious to anyone with a brain that the limits of free speech do not stop when speech becomes offensive. It was once so cherished that people like Voltaire and Evelyn Beatrice Hall expressed that even when they disagree with what someone says, it would still be worth it to defend to the death their right to say it.
That is a pretty profound commitment to free speech which supports principles over politics. But today rival political factions delight in their opponents being punished for their use of free speech. Oh, but of course it isn’t “free speech” they want to be banned, it is “hate speech.”
The left has always been particularly good at changing the meaning of words over time, a prime example being the word liberal which should mean freedom but now means everything I don’t like should be banned.
The Mayor of Portland, Oregon is one of these extremists who tried to revoke permits for a free speech rally. Apparently, he missed the irony; Mayor Ted Wheeler said he was only trying to ban “hate speech” that incites violence. He tried to connect a stabbing on a train in Portland with pro-Trump “hate speech.”
The stabbings that killed two men who tried to intervene to stop a man harassing a woman wearing a hijab do seem to be inspired by anti-Muslim sentiments. But the crime was murder, not “hate speech.” Too many illegal things are pre-crimes or victimless crimes; they are illegal because people worry that they will lead to an actual crime with a victim.
But as soon as you cross that line into banning pre-crime, there is no limit. As soon as the government gets to define what constitutes “hate speech” and what could possibly lead to a crime, there is absolutely no limit on the amount of power they can accumulate.
More easily connected to inciting violence is the incident where a man shot members of the Republican Congressional baseball team. He was clearly motivated by the hateful and violent rhetoric of the left. And yet still, the left should absolutely be allowed to continue spewing their vitriolic talking points. Kathy Griffin pretending to be ISIS is distasteful, not criminal. The line is when words cross into actions, and violent actions are already illegal, it will not help to ban things that some claim lead to violent actions.
Even if the government could identify all the paths that lead to becoming violent, it still would not be appropriate to make those pre-crimes illegal. But, of course, the government does not have an all seeing omniscient eye which can accurately identify all speech and actions which lead to violence. Instead, they will decide what actions and words they want to ban, and then make up some way that those things could lead to violence.
In this case, the Mayor tried to connect a stabbing to pro-Trump free speech protestors. In other cases, Theresa May tried to conflate Internet freedom with terrorism. They say cash and cryptos are only for drug dealers, and that privacy means you have something to hide. At every turn, perfectly normal behaviors are classified as risk factors leading to illegal behaviors, and therefore worthy of regulation.
It is absurd to claim that free speech doesn’t protect “hate speech,”unpopular opinions, or even violent rhetoric. This country was founded by revolution. Clearly, the founders did not envision the limit to that speech to be when someone has their feelz hurt.
They didn’t even want it to be limited to non-violent speech. The founding fathers advocated taking up arms to protect their lives, liberty, and property from an oppressive government. The speech they used roused the people to violence in righteous resistance to tyranny.
The very fact that protesters must get permits to demonstrate shows that the right to protest or peaceably assemble has already been dismantled.
I have the right to speak my mind, no matter who agrees, and no matter if they want to label it violent speech, hate speech, or revolutionary speech.
We are well past the point of begging and groveling to the government to allow us to speak freely. If you must beg to exercise a right, it is not a right you have. We have some problems in this country, and I will use my freedom to call them out.
Violence is wrong except in defense, even when the perpetrator has a fancy costume, a shiny badge, or a government salary. I think it is appropriate to kill police who break into your home without a warrant because it is a natural human right to protect yourself against unjust force.
I think working for the IRS makes you a thief, and the agents deserve to be caged until they work off their debt to those they have robbed.
I think people have the right to break off from larger political bodies until they have found governing consensus among their voluntary groups, even if that means reducing the government to the size of a sovereign individual.
People may not agree with what I say, but if they seek to stop me by threat of force from speaking my mind, they are the violent ones, who must use the government’s guns to get their way. And that is the ultimate irony, that those who call for the banning of free speech because it causes violence have just one way to enforce their ban; through the violence of the State.