marjaerwin: (Default)
marjaerwin ([personal profile] marjaerwin) wrote2017-04-25 07:36 pm
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Freedom of Speech and Open Discussion

[Revised Version]


Both are good things.

Each is a different thing.


Freedom of speech is the right to speak your mind without fear of punishment.

Governments and death squads have often violated this. Telecom monopolies can also violate this. Other corporations have too much power, but don’t usually have the same ways to violate this.

Unfortunately, American society still doesn't respect this for whistleblowers exposing government secrets, didn't for anti-war organizers condemning the draft (Schenk) didn't for union organizers until the government tried to use anti-Union and anti-left laws against the right (Brandenburg v. Ohio), and still doesn't for people laughing at Jeff Sessions.

Freedom of speech often extends to protesting against someone else’s speech.

Freedom of speech doesn’t generally extend to death threats, defamation, or fighting words. It is debatable whether it should extend to outing people, or deliberately forcing people to relive trauma. But any legal restrictions are more likely to protect the rulers and police spies than to protect the rest of the people.


Open discussion is the good practice of creating space for informed discussion of different viewpoints.

Unfortunately, American society gives a bigger mic to people with more power, or more money.

Furthermore, the limits of language give a bigger audience to people with more widespread experiences. Consider the stereotypical problem of a sighted person trying to explain color to a blind-from-birth person. It's not so different for a photosensitive sighted person trying to explain strobe symptoms to a non-photosensitive sighted person. Descriptions such as violence, and endangerment, may be taken as hyperbole, metaphor, or balderdash. Metaphors may also be taken as descriptions. I'm not sure it's easier for those of us who experience pain and loss of balance and direction at low frequencies to explain these to someone who experiences seizures at high frequencies either, or vice-versa.

A lot of times, on an issue-by-issue basis, it would make sense to give the biggest mic to people who are more affected by an issue, or are more knowledgable about it. But who decides? I wouldn’t trust any power structure to decide. Freedom of speech helps keep governmental power structures from deciding for the rest of us.

At the same time, death threats, defamation, outing people, or deliberately forcing people to relive trauma, can all keep people from speaking up. These undermine open discourse, and can violate freedom of speech. If individual platforms and individual groups adopt their own standards, these could protect people's ability to speak and participate.