The Gross National Debt

Friday, November 14, 2014

Adding consternation to confusion ... or the other way 'round

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What is freedom of speech? Really.

Do you have the unfettered right to say any anything you want to, any time you want to, wherever you want to under any circumstances?

No. You can't yell "FIRE!" in a crowded movie theater. It is ok to yell "MOVIE!" in a crowded firehouse. You can't incite people to riot, agitate for the violent overthrow of the US government (which I have issues with) and a few more things.

A lot of people think they have the unfettered right, in the US anyway, to say whatever they want to in letters to the editor, posts on social media and so forth.

You don't.

Freedom of speech prevents the government from shutting your piehole, except in some very narrow circumstances.

It does not mean you get to have your say when someone else is footing the bill.

That, like much of what I right (that is not a typo), doesn't make sense.

Try this: Freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns the press.

Let's make this practical, if a bit personal.

I run a newspaper. I publish letters to the editor. Am I obligated to print your letter to the editor?

No.

You disagree? Please show me in the Constitution, a state or federal law which requires a private company to let you have your say. I can show you many laws, including court decisions, which say you can't have your say on my time.

In short, if I'm paying for it, I decide what gets to be said. If you pay, you get to decide.

You don't like it? Start your own newspaper. Government can't stop you, nor can I use the law to stop you..

Free speech is a big issue on Facebook. Lots of people think they can say whatever they wish on FB and FB can't make them stop.

Not true.

FB is paying the bills and FB gets to decide what is said. If you don't like it, you can start your own social media and set the rules to please you. FB, being a private company, has no obligation to support or enable your right to free speech.

On the other side of this coin, and this is what confuses people the most, free speech is the right to keep your damfool mouth shut. You can't be forced to speak.

That's why FB can shut down discussion groups. That's why I don't have to publish your letter to the editor.

Free speech is a block on government, period.

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