The Chilling of Free Speech Has Consequences

Lately, particularly over the latest kerfuffle in science fiction, but even before that, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend amid my progressive acquaintances.

They will sometimes go so far as to mutter about how the First Amendment should not protect people who say this or that – you know what I mean – usually speech they don’t like under various guises: racism, sexism, and other things ending in “ism” such as any flavor of conservatism and libertarianism (they’re oddly okay with communism. Go figure.  I like to abbreviate this to “we’d like the First Amendment to exclude things that make us upset,” which might be unkind, but is certainly truthful).

But lately a smug and idiotic saying has shown up in those circles: “You’re allowed to say whatever you want to, so long as you take the consequences.”


Apparently, they’d like to align themselves with places like, oh, the Islamic republics, Cuba, and North Korea, where you are also allowed to say whatever you want to as long as you take the consequences.

I see some of you starting to quibble. And yeah, it’s an undeniable fact that speech has consequences, but what should those consequences be? How proportional should they be to the speech? Should they be so overwhelming that they – de facto – negate free speech?

Look, the logical and inevitable consequence of free speech is to have your own free speech challenged. If I climb onto a podium and state that the Earth is flat and the universe is made of turtles, I should expect my free speech to be argued with.

And that’s perfectly logical. Sure, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but not everyone is entitled to their own facts, and obvious lies should be challenged.

Then there’s the other immediate reaction. In older, more sane days, saying something about a guy’s mother might get you punched in the mouth. Or it might get double said about your mother. Nowadays it’s more likely to involve lawyers or a call for safe spaces.

I’m even willing to concede getting punched might be a logical consequence of free speech. (And a saner one than safe spaces.)

But if you say something about some guy’s mother and the guy shoots you, we can all agree it’s out of control, particularly if the guy doesn’t get punished for it.

In the same way, when I was discussing this with one of my friends, he pointed out another area in which you take consequences: when you work for a company and say something that damages the company, you should be fired, or at least demoted.

I am willing to allow that if what you said is directly related to the company.

If you work for Widgets Incorporated and take to Twitter to say WI’s widgets are pretty awful, yep, firing or other sanctions should be on the line. If you take to Twitter to say Widgets Amalgamated are superior to WI, you should be fired or at least demoted. Likewise, if you take to Twitter and say the department over which you preside will not in the future be hiring any d*mn whites/blacks/purple people or will treat those already hired like “the slackers they are,” yep, you should be fired/demoted/taken out of your position of responsibility.

A case in point was the neonatal nurse who recently took to social media to tell white mothers to stop having sons because they’re the cause of all the world’s problems. If you’re a white or even vaguely white-ish mother, you’re not going to feel safe with your baby boy in the care of that idiot, and so, yes, her free speech should have consequences.

In the same way, all the celebrities calling for the murder of the president should at least have an interview with men from some official agency to determine if they’re general purpose crazy or crazy with intent and malice, as well as ability.

This is not the same as your taking to Twitter to say something mean about Obama or even Obama’s wife, and having people track you down, determine where you work, then mob your company with phone calls to make sure you’re fired.

What I mean is, if you’re on social media representing or easily associated with your company and your free speech involves something that could potentially impact the company – say, “I think no one should eat meat” and you work for a burger joint – they are absolutely right to fire you, and that’s a direct consequence of your speech. (And a great reason to think before you open your mouth.)

But if you’re on social media as a private individual (even if your work status isn’t hard to find) and you say something like “I don’t think people who have themselves mutilated to look like cats are sane” and you work for… oh, a burger joint, mobbing your place of employment with demands that you be fired is not only excessive and wrong, it is attempting to shut down your free speech.

I run a politick-ish blog.  My blog is political in the sense that if what I feel like talking about at the time is politics, I do. The politics usually run the spectrum from mildly conservative to libertarian. I have more commenters commenting under pseudonyms than commenting under their own names. Their jobs run the gamut from academia to journalism, from medicine to tech. And all of them would lose their employment if it were known they comment on a conservative-ish blog, or that they harbor “to the right of Lenin” opinions.

eeeThat, to any leftists reading this, is not, in fact, a reasonable consequence of “free speech.” That is, in fact, that “chilling effect” that your side is so fond of claiming apropos of nothing.

If you never had to second guess yourself in a professional situation before you refer to current events for fear you’ll give away your political affiliation, you must be suffering from liberal privilege.

The left’s tendency to take disproportional and insane revenge for speech they don’t like has turned us into a nation of double-thinkers. At least half the nation and perhaps more (how much more? I don’t know and neither does the left because they don’t permit such people to admit to their affiliation) goes around pretending to be something they’re not. The deeper in the political closet – trust me, I lived there for years – the more these “sleepers” will look for a way to strike out: a way that can’t be traced.

I thought the left would get the point when Donald Trump was elected. But apparently, this is not something they can do.  Instead, they think doubling down and punishing more people for wrong-bad-evil thought that is expressed in words, will win them the unanimous approval of the populace.

It’s like they’ve forgotten logic and debate and think instead that if they hear nothing but their own opinions repeated at them all around, they are universally triumphant.

If they continue this way, they’ll get far worse than Trump – who has turned out to be much better than I expected – but there is no way we can tell them that. Not without being blocked from jobs, contracts, and professional conferences.

So I’ll just say this: the chilling of free speech has consequences.

One of the consequences is that you have no idea how many people are getting sick and tired of your despotism.