A little something appeared in my Twitter feed that left me wondering if some people actually read the Constitution or if they’re just going with whatever version of it they’ve heard from their favorite pundit.
(Sorry, for a second there I thought I was a child being spoken to by an authority figure in the context of a situation wherein I was to be seen, but not heard; or what my dad called his “This is not a discussion. I speak, you listen, the end” lecture.)
The Twitter message refers to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution – one of the country’s most misunderstood amendments of late. It seems like a lot of people have recently taken the “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech” part of the amendment to mean “I get to say anything I want and you don’t get to say jack shit about it!” (Maniacal laughter optional)
The tweet’s author offers no details about how he was “not allowed to discuss or criticise,” but since he goes on to reflect such a gross misunderstanding of the amendment, one wonders if it was not so much that he was forbidden to speak, but that he instead found himself on the receiving end of his own medicine.
Freedom of speech means the right to express ourselves without fear of going to jail for what we’ve said. Freedom of speech is not the right to a feedback-free audience. If one desires the unconditional right to speak without consequence, one can of course seek out the position of dictator in any number of countries throughout the world. I hear the positions pay well and you get to scream “Fire!” whenever you want.
Just as freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion, freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from speech. If you say something, anything someone else disagrees with, doesn’t like, or feels offended or hurt by – well, guess what? You’re not constitutionally protected from getting a response you disagree with, don’t like or feel offended or hurt by, you big freaking baby.