1. Al Dente says

    For all too many people, free speech runs in one direction. They’re free to say whatever they want and everyone else is supposed to listen to them in silence.

  2. says

    This comic makes an important point, but it also conflates the First Amendment’s protection of free speech with the principle of free speech. The First Amendment is just a legal mechanism designed to protect the principle, but it’s the principle that’s important. The First Amendment only applies to the government, sure, and it doesn’t shield you from criticism. But ask yourself, why not? Because to do so would be to violate the principle of free speech. The reason why the principle is important is because we (both individually and collectively) benefit from the open exchange of ideas.

    Let’s take the example of Dawkins whingeing about feeling silenced, or whatever he said in that interview. xkcd says “That’s not a First Amendment issue.” True, it is not. But it is a free speech issue, and that matters more. Dawkins is implicitly arguing for a protected space in which certain ideas (or certain individuals, or what have you) are not criticized. That is antithetical to the principle of free speech, and as Christopher Hitchens argued so forcefully, that harms us all. I have learned a lot about feminism by listening to people criticize Dawkins (and Hitchens, for that matter). I hace personally benefited from the kinds of criticism Dawkins is so upset by, and I think (hope) that these criticisms also contribute, in some small way, to social progress in a broader sense. I think that’s more important than the jurisdictional limitations of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

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