Freedom of Speech

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Freedom of Speech

fschmidt
Administrator
I support free speech.  But before arguing why, I need to define what free speech is.

Free speech means the right to express your opinion.  It does not mean the right to say anything.  Free speech does not protect shouting "fire" in a crowded theater.  Free speech does not protect defamation.  Note that blasphemy is nothing more than defamation of religion, and therefore blasphemy is not protected by free speech.  America had the strongest support of free speech until recently, and at the time it had laws against blasphemy.

Free speech does not cover freedom of expression.  Free speech protects your right to express any opinion, but does not protect your right to express that opinion in any way.  It does not protect obscenity, for example.  I support free speech, not freedom of expression.

The new term "hate speech" directly conflicts with free speech.  Hate speech should be protected under free speech.  If someone hates a race or religion or even God, he should be free to say so.  It is his opinion.  The new hate speech laws are destroying free speech.

Now let's consider free speech from a religious perspective.  There is absolutely nothing in the Old Testament, the Quran, or in Hadith that supports censorship.  The current widespread Islamic view that censorship is justified is simply an innovation in religion.  It has no basis in the Quran or in the Sunnah of Muhammad.

Leaving aside religion, let's consider the general argument that censorship can be used to protect the public good.

Who enforces censorship?  Obviously those in power.  And what kind of people tend to be in power?  Not very nice people.  In fact corrupt people who will use censorship to hide their corrupt actions.  This is simply the practical reality.  The solution is to make free speech a clear right in the constitution as America did.  This requires that all opinions can be expressed.  Anything less is open to abuse by those in power.

But let's engage in the fantasy of good government.  Should an imaginary good government practice censorship?  Again my answer is no.  The reasoning given for censorship is to stop the spread of bad ideas.  But history shows that this doesn't work and in fact has the opposite effect.  When stupid ideas are freely expressed in a morally sound culture, these ideas are just considered stupid.  But when these ideas are suppressed, conspiracy theories develop and people take these stupid ideas more seriously.  For me the obvious example is Holocaust denial.  Holocaust denial is stupid but was freely allowed in America where it was never taken seriously.  In countries where this is outlawed, it is taken more seriously.  I remember when America was still a sane country in the 1980s.  Nazis were freely allowed to speak publicly and were given protection.  And they just made fools of themselves and no one took them seriously.  Free speech allows bad ideas to be exposed and countered.  When Hitler was rising to power in Germany, the German government actively attacked him which just gave him more sympathy among the people.  So in the end, censorship doesn't work.

And finally I would point to the two people most qualified in history to practice censorship.  These are Moses and Muhammad, both in positions of power and both with a good ability to distinguish right and wrong.  Yet neither one ever practiced censorship.  This should be a clear indication that censorship is not a good idea.  I don't understand how Muslims who claim to follow the Sunnah of Muhammad can support censorship when Muhammad never practiced it.

We live in a very degenerate time when no culture supports free speech.  Support for free speech can only arise in a culture that believes in the moral rights of people and believes that truth will generally prevail in free debate.  These beliefs can only come from a religious culture.  This is why free speech was supported in religious America after the American Revolution.  In secular culture, everyone wants all views contrary to their own to be silenced.  Today the West is secular, so it has absolutely no hope of ever again allowing free speech.  The best hope for free speech comes from Islam.  If Muslims would reject the intolerant innovations that bad Muslim rulers of the past added to Islam, and would return to the original Islam of the first few generations, then Muslims could restore free speech to the world.