Free that speech?


Yesterday marked World Press Freedom Day, which got me thinking about several different angles on free speech.

First, I thought about the many situations around the world that would be worse without the necessary and often dangerous work of journalists. In places where leaders are disposed to be oppressive (and there seem to be more of those places all the time), one of the most important tools to wield is news coverage. In connection with World Press Freedom Day, the New York Times has taken down their paywall through May 5th, so if you’ve got some reading time, take advantage of it.

I also read two different articles involving issues of who is allowed to say what, one about a debut novel that generated a lot of pre-publication ranting regarding what commenters maintained were racist views, though some of those shouting the loudest had not actually read the book. An interesting wrinkle: apparently, a main theme of the book emphasizes the importance of protecting a group of marginalized people from mistreatment.

The other article was about a group of angry students gathering signatures on a petition to have a professor fired because they vehemently disagree with her views. Here’s a statement outlining the student perspective, and here’s a view on the other side of the argument.


MIddlebury College in Vermont, site of a nasty free-speech showdown in 2017.


Americans have been talking about freedom of speech for centuries now, and the issues surrounding it seem to be getting more and not less complicated. Or perhaps it’s just that more people are able to find a platform and a microphone and are able to SHOUT EVEN WHEN THEY’RE NOT MAKING ANY SOUND?

The current controversies give rise to two thoughts: First, while it would be nice to think that we hold the opinions we do because they are right, too often causality runs the other way—we believe those views are right because we hold them.

Second, we may find certain actions of others to be despicable, but we nevertheless manage to reinterpret or relabel the same action when it’s our turn to do it.

I’ve lined up two videos for you today. The first gives you about as much on the topic of free speech as can reasonably be expected in seven minutes.


The second briefly outlines some issues to do with free speech and the internet.


If you have ideas you want to share about free-speech issues, I look forward to hearing about them in the comments.



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