As our country grew, the places that we were able to gather and speak freely were many, and changed over time–all while preserving the ability to speak freely. That is no longer true.
Declaring support for free speech means nothing if all that means is support for speech you can tolerate. Supporting free speech means something only when you support speech you personally find intolerable. “I Disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death Your right to say it.” Voltaire, French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher.
Understanding issues like this is part of our overall Revolution 2.0™ goal of creating better lives for ourselves, our communities and for America.
That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode. Please listen or watch on YouTube, like, subscribe, and comment.
N.B. This is a summary, acting as a signpost, pointing you to this episode on both the new Revolution 2.0™ YouTube channel, and where you enjoy your podcasts, e.g., Apple, Google and Spotify.
Now go there…:).
Let’s continue with a review of the First Amendment to the Constitution. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Note the five parts to the clearly stated Amendment. Regarding free speech, the First Amendment protects pornography, jihadist propaganda, harassing insults and more from government prohibition.
Where people used to gather to speak and to listen continuously changes. In decades past, politicians and others would draw crowds and speak from on top of a tree stump, giving rise to the descriptive phrase, “Stump Speech.” Town Halls, and open areas, e.g., the Boston Commons, were also used. What was consistently true is that everyone was fully recognizable, as in no one hid their identity, and they were allowed to speak freely, unless illegal force was used against them. Harry Truman defeated Tom Dewey in the 1948 presidential race by campaigning from the back of a railroad car when the train made its various stops. Today, privately owned Twitter is the place where people gather to be heard and to listen.
But private sites can regulate speech under current law. The issue is that privately owned sites like Twitter are now the de facto public square and must stop regulating, censoring, speech. “I think it’s very important for there to be an inclusive arena for free speech,” says Elon Musk. “Twitter has become kind of the de facto town square, so it’s really important that people have both the reality and perception that they’re able to speak freely within the bounds of the law. If government will not guarantee free speech, then someone must.”
Twitter has been credibly accused of censoring speech, primarily speech on the right. They often explain their censorship by claiming that the offender was either posting misinformation or had indulged in hate speech. Their defenders often say, “Well, this is a private company, if you don’t like the censorship, then go get your own Twitter.” I can hear Elon saying, “Hold my beer.” He offered $43B to do exactly that, buy Twitter, at greater than a 50% premium over the price of the stock before he started acquiring shares. Each and every shareholder would receive a huge premium over the current stock price.
The left is lining up against the sale to Mr. Musk, and the right is clearly for it. Why? It appears that the left believes that only moderated and censored speech should be allowed. They are clearly working to sway the national conversion by allowing all of what they agree with, and little of what they do not agree with, to appear on their Twitter. The marketplace of ideas, where so-called misinformation is met in that marketplace with what is claimed to be the correct information, has no place at Twitter. That must change. And Musk will change it.
So, does his support for online free speech, his belief in the marketplace of ideas, mean that Mr. Musk is right of center. Not at all. His political contributions have been equally split between the two parties. Nothing that I have read or watched quoting or interviewing Musk indicates any left or right leanings. But does his support for free speech mean that he leans right? I hope not. Free speech should be a fundamental concept supported and defended by everyone.
What about the argument that rich people should not be able to own major channels of communications, running the risk that they will be able to control the flow of information because of their money? Well, Jeff Bezos, worth close to a couple hundred billion, owns the Washington Post, one of the major newspapers in the US, and perhaps the world. The very people who gasp in horror at the thought of Elon Musk owning Twitter, are fine with Mr. Bezos owning the Washington Post.
Finally, is Mr. Musk, clearly a capitalist and the richest man in the world, simply trying to make a few billion more by owning Twitter? Let’s hear from the man himself. “This is not a way to make money,” Musk told TED chief Chris Anderson. “My strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization.”
What a great place to end.
We all have the personal responsibility to vigorously defend free speech, especially speech that we disagree with, even speech we find offensive. Defending only speech we find acceptable means nothing. Defending speech we violently disagree with means everything. Speaking of personal responsibility, this principle does not stand alone; the two main and interdependent principles at Revolution 2.0 are:
1. Personal Responsibility; take it, teach it and,
2. Be Your Brother’s Keeper. The answer to the biblical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is a ringing, unequivocal “Yes.” There is no other answer.
Where do you stand? What are you going to do? Remember, it does not matter where you stand if you don’t do anything. You can start by subscribing to these episodes, and encouraging others to subscribe with you.
As always, whatever you do, do it in love. Without love, anything we do is empty. 1 Corinthians 16:1.
As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the episodes with comments or questions about this episode or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me on Twitter, @willluden, Facebook, facebook.com/will.luden, and LinkedIn, www.linkedin.com/in/willluden/. And you can subscribe on your favorite device through Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and wherever you listen to podcasts.
This is Will Luden. We’ll talk again soon.