Because We Love Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Speech is not some magical thing: like all freedoms in politics, there’s got to be a justification for it. In the case of the US – on paper, at least – individual liberties are defined in terms of, “other than the things the state says you cannot do, you’re free.”  So, because the state has not legislated that I cannot dye my hair blue, I can dye my hair blue. Freedom of speech is specifically called out, though, as a positive freedom. It’s not that “because the state has not told you what you can’t talk about, you can talk about anything else” – it’s specifically stated:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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Left, Right, Left, Right, Left, Right [repeat]

I lose track of the number of times someone has called me a “leftist” because of my views on social justice, privacy, demilitarization, and opposition to weapons of mass destruction. And I have no idea how many times I’ve been referred to as a “right winger” because I own firearms and am generally suspicious of authority. But actually my suspicion of authority is suspicion of everyone, and it’s only authority that I worry about – and it all gets complicated. When I was in college and someone asked me to label myself, I sometimes would say “I am a radical righto-leftist.” That’s the sort of thing that seems funny when you’re a sophomore (hence the label: sophomoric) but, like most other labels, it wears out.

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