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Yes, EVERYBODY gets to talk

March 25, 2015

Yesterday, there was a guy standing on the sidewalk outside the high school, with a big gross [very political thing I disagree with] poster and handouts. I checked, it’s legal for him to do this. The sidewalk is public property, and not part of the high school grounds.

He left, or I’d’ve walked up, asked for a flier, torn it up, and asked for another. This is also legal.

I posted about this privately, and got on to free speech. I’m a fervent supporter of free speech. It’s within the limits of the law, so I think the guy absolutely should be allowed to do what he did. I also think [his particular soapbox] is ridiculous, disgusting, ill-informed, and inappropriate. These are no conflicting viewpoints here: anyone and everyone must be allowed to advertise their opinions. I just get to be loud and annoying back. Equal rights FTW!

A friend then commented that “I’m not sure the framers of the constitution meant this when they included this in our rights.” No, this is exactly what the framers of the constitution meant. Everyone, including those with horrific and/or stupid views, should get an equal chance to say what they want. Because, depending on who’s in power and what the popular ideas of the day are, OURS may be the “horrific and/or stupid” views. (Think: voting rights for women, civil rights for black people, marriage equality for homosexual folk, and so on.)

THIS IS WHAT FREE SPEECH IS FOR. You HAVE to let the assholes talk. HAVE TO. Or it doesn’t count.

There are limits*, of course. People generally misunderstand them. And there are caveats. But the limits and caveats have absolutely nothing** to do with the viewpoint of the person speaking; if the “Organization for Doing Good Things All The Time With a Big Smile” gets to march and display signs and hand out fliers, then the “Evil Association of Shitheads who Hate Large Groups of People” also get to do so, no matter how vile their thoughts are. IT MUST BE THIS WAY.

I, too, disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

-Jen

*Limits on freedom of speech include a few categories of speech; time, place, or manner restrictions; and the fact that the First Amendment is a protection against GOVERNMENT infringement on freedom of speech, which necessarily means that you don’t get to say or do whatever you want on private property, in a private arena, or with the expectation that anyone has to listen to you. 

**This is a generalization. There are a few things we could talk about as far as content restrictions, but I took ONE 1st amendment class in college, not several.

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