An opinion piece in this past week’s Sunday New York Times, written by a staff writer for The New Yorker with an upcoming book, Anti Social: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation, called for us to question free speech. The headline provocatively said: Free Speech is Killing Us. I’m afraid the author’s well-intentioned piece poses the greatest danger to the America I love.
Though the writer is not saying the government should directly infringe on the First Amendment rights of all citizens, but he calls for things that could be done to educate and inspire others. For instance, he says Congress could fund a news literacy campaign or invest heavily in libraries or build up PBS to be a more robust version of the BBC. He also said, unwisely, that the government can fund a rival to Google and Facebook. Lastly, he wants to see Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act tinkered with. This rule absolves You Tube, Twitter, FB and the like from any liability as to what their members post and share on their sites.
The First Amendment has exceptions already for libel and defamation, incitement of violence, and child pornography bans. Further, people seek and act and speak respectfully and not recklessly or threateningly, but some push the limits, act out of fear, anger, or desperation, or speak with ignorance, malice or profit as their motivator.
Free speech is under fire. It always has been, always will be. Free speech simply cannot be compromised. It must be understood, promoted, and dealt with appropriately. We don’t want to see public bullying, the spreading of lies, or the use of our info superhighway to recruit militants, racists, and criminals. But we don’t want to start bending values, breaking rules, or violating the laws simply because some people do not behave well.
Free speech gets controlled by many forces. Think about it. Companies, private schools, and foreign governments can ignore free speech laws. The First Amendment narrowly focuses on things like how you can yell out the president sucks without fear of arrest or government retribution. But your employer can curtail what you say in the office, to clients, or even on your personal social media if it discusses the company. Schools can censor student newspapers and colleges ban speakers all of the time. Heck, in one’s own home, a strict parent can tell a child which speech and language is tolerated – and which isn’t.
Words have power. They can lead to love or hate, friendship or violence, growth or destruction. Words reflect people, ideas, values, experiences, and emotions. If we can’t respect each other while tolerating challenges to our way of life, we could fall into anarchy. But free speech must be our nation’s foundation and building block – not it’s wrecking ball.
“You can’t change the past. But you can ruin the present by worrying about the future.”
--The Decision Book
“Experience is the name everything gives to his mistakes.”
“Our origins are our future.”
“Any fool can criticize. And most fools do.”
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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent. This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.
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