in defense of freedom of speech

what does that mean… freedom of speech. does it mean say what you want? does it mean say what you want within limits? within constructs and conventions?

or does it mean: say what’s on your mind. in the way it is in you to say…

is there something deeper here? freedom of speech brings me to ask you: what about freedom of ideas? doesn’t it start there? the way we think. how we think. and then expressing those thoughts and ideas.

it makes me wonder what we progressives really want… do we want a clash of ideas? a messy debate? or are we just plain folks, yearning for unity in our ideas?

do we have room for a poster like stu piddy? or lasthorseman? or pfiore8? pinche tejano… the blogosphere would be poorer without his ideas disrupting our brain rhythms.


and good god. what happens when a guy like stu piddy becomes mainstream? when what he’s been saying turns out to be right? that obama will be a big let down. that obama is just another corporatist jerk who sells it better.

how incredible can any idea be after these seven years of absolute crap in America? what have we learned? when we are still reactionary to outside ideas… challenging visions of others that don’t fit what we WANT to happen. and while we can’t really dismiss these outliers, we can blame it on their delivery. the way they say it. how they say it. why the fuck are they saying it?????????

yeah. because we want. i want. obama to be the next coming of Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Ghandhi.

but what if he’s not? what if he’s like Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid? What if he’s another Bill Clinton. Makes you feel good as he strips your freedoms by allowing, as Clinton did, a concentrated media and beginning a stepped up version of outsourcing our tax dollars…

but back to the point. the last seven plus years have been so incredibly outlandish that it seems absurd to the nth degree to marginalize anyone’s paranoid concerns about the next phase in country.

so here’s my perspective. as i left in a comment to Robyn. i am going to say what i say the way i say it. because, as i look back on what i’ve said, i think i’ve been fucking right. i’ve been bashed a bit… but, hey. i’m not going to back down. i say it again: change the game. change the board. change the rules. it is time for third or fifth parties. target the essential congressional seats in 2010 and Nancy Pelosi in 2008. get outside of DEMOCRAT… they will hold us prisoner to their empty promises… but but but find those in Washington, whoever they are and whatever party, who want to wrest control from the corporatists and get our country functioning again. stop the fucking outsourcing. kick the wingnuts off the school boards and the developers off planning boards. shop local and pay cash. we need to come up with armchair strategies and release the power of citizens to understand they have power in this play.

i’m not going away. so stu, pinche, Jay, Night Owl, Balzac, LastHorseMan, and all the other outliers… keep singing. i don’t always like your song choice, but i am so awfully glad you’re out there. On the fringes of conventional thought… seeing truth in a slightly different way.  

“Freedom of thought… is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom. With rare aberrations a pervasive recognition of this truth can be traced in our history, political and legal” (Palko v. Connecticut (1937) 302 U.S. 319, 326-27.)

Without freedom of thought, the First Amendment right to freedom of speech is moot, because you can only express what you can think. Constraining or censoring how a person thinks (cognitive censorship) is the most fundamental kind of censorship, and is contrary to some of our most cherished constitutional principles.


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    • pfiore8 on June 26, 2008 at 15:43


  1. I think we have room for every person you mentioned, including you.  And including me.

    I haven’t seen anyone shoved out.  Have you?

    What I have seen is opposing views and how all of us aren’t completely skillful in communicating from opposite sides.  And I include you in that number as well as myself.

    When there is opposition, there’s likely the thought on both sides that one is facing someone who’s trying to shut one down.  I’m beginning to believe that is not the case, though.  It’s just we are so conditioned to be polite to each other, nice to each other, go along to get along because after all, we are all against BushCo, etc.

    But if it’s just a case of self-censoring because someone’s afraid of being called the “thought police,” I think that’s just as wrong, being labeled like that is wrong, and no good communication comes from it.  Same with someone self-censoring because they’re trying to get along with everyone and they don’t want to rock the boat.

    So “constraining and censoring how a person thinks” — I haven’t seen that here.  I have seen arguments and opposing views.

    • Edger on June 26, 2008 at 16:29

    and self styled “liberals” or “progressives”, try to berate me for claiming to be “tolerant” while not having the “tolerance” to accept or put up with intolerance, hate speech and personal insults, all of which they claimed was their “right” as “freedom of speech”.

    Sure there are limits to what I consider “freedom of speech”. Drawn by common sense, I think.

    • Edger on June 26, 2008 at 16:30

    And good morning.

    • brobin on June 26, 2008 at 16:39

    It then means accepting the consequences of having said what you wanted to say, whether the consequences are good, bad or indifferent.

    I want people to say what they want to say.  Prior thought given to the statement before being blurted out might be a really good suggestion, but go for it!  Just be prepared for consequences.

    Thanks again, pf8.

    • Robyn on June 26, 2008 at 17:53

    …it is usually best if I stay away from discussions of freedom of speech since anything I say gets dismissed as self-serving.

    There is this thing about being the target of hate speech from time to time in ways that other people never are and will probably never comprehend that interferes with attempts at reaching any sort of understanding about the responsibilities inherent in exercising freedom of speech in a public arena.

  2. and I agree with you pifore8.  It’s the tolerance, the willingness to listen to other ideas that IMHO differentiate “liberals” or “progressives” from dogmatic “conservatives”.  If we aren’t willing to listen to new ideas, even ones we don’t agree with, we won’t ever think in new ways.

    Now, all that being said–if (as has happened) it becomes personal–when someone desides to make unsubstatiated, insulting, comments about people I know personally–well, I’ll have some very free speech of my own  to call BS… 😉

  3. group you identified as all being “outliers” but then that is the sleight of hand that typifies differing perceptions.

    I think Jay is just a little too smart for me to grasp at times but that is my problem not his! Stu…. well I guess at times being told I am stupid and deluded gets a touch boring. I disagree with his mantle as the self appointed “truth commission” seems like at times a very convenient way to just be an asshole. But whatever.

    But I am a calico and at times all of you humans seem like a bunch who have a basic need for an “in” and an “out” group and it is hard to figure the “who is in and who is out” part.

  4. if I am ever in the “in group” in any social web of entanglement either the players are as cracked as I am or the Apocalypse is coming soon.

  5. …second, well, I think this is a massive conflation of issues.

    The primary issue in “Freedom of speech” as a concept in law is the first clause: “Congress shall make no law abridging…”  That is what the issue is about in the larger sense – that we are free from government interference in what we say.  The power of the state to control or favor certain speech is what is at stake, not the private tastes of individuals, nor the rights of business owners (such as budhy and the site hosts) to favor or prohibit certain speeches from their property.

    Beyond that, the question regarding posters such as myself is only tangentially related.  Of course, the site has the right to prohibit anyone for any reason.  But it is undeniable that the site is pretty permissive of speech.  What isn’t clear, and what is the issue, is whether or not people are open to having their minds changed.  And I think that issue depends both on who the individual talking is, and the subject.

  6. i’m not going away. so stu, pinche, Jay, Night Owl, Balzac, LastHorseMan, and all the other outliers… keep singing. i don’t always like your song choice, but i am so awfully glad you’re out there. On the fringes of conventional thought… seeing truth in a slightly different way.  


    Tell you the truth, I consider most of my opinions fairly mainstream. The difference I think is that I may not be as afraid as some other people to say exactly what I’m thinking.

    Sometimes it gets me into trouble. But hey, in this world you have to fight for your right to say what you want.

  7. I am “in” but I am in favor of talking animals and public beer fountains so my standards are not evenly distributed.

    • kj on June 27, 2008 at 06:28

    • geomoo on June 27, 2008 at 20:43

    Thanks to that ranter Jay for pointing out the conflation of issues that is this thread.  Well, here’s what I would like to focus on.

    I have hidden probably four comments in my life.  I think in most cases that was because they were malicious, intentionally hurtful comments directed at a vulnerable person.  Otherwise, I’m free to read or ignore what anyone posts and that’s just fine with me.

    But this is not a newspaper in that the conversation is two-way.  If I am engaged with another person in discussion, I expect a little more than simple freedom of expression.  For example, I don’t like being called a fool.  I don’t like having my words willfully twisted.  I don’t like being inaccurately characterized in a self-serving manner.  These preferences of mine are miles away from the issue of freedom of speech, as Jay pointed out so well above.

    There is no such thing as freedom of discussion. If one party to a discussion isn’t listening, then I have no interest in continuing my ignored role in the interaction.  I don’t need to silence them here on the magical blogosphere, because I can simply ignore them.  And I also feel free to name their behavior and/or to stop taking them seriously.  I guess you could call that my self-ratified freedom of discussion.

    And if someone is insulting, they deserve whatever insults come back at them–another aspect to my personal freedom of discussion amendment.  These matters are very different from freedom of expression.

    And a word on groupthink.  Sadly, I believe it is a human trait based on long evolution.  It is endemic, here and elsewhere.  I appreciate that we do our best to counter these tendencies, but I see them here as everywhere.  Anyone who has ever tried to take on common wisdom will be acutely aware of the difficulty posed by groupthink.  Sometimes people are being fearful and think they are only being logical.  And, sorry to say, freeing oneself from the tendency is considerably tougher than imagining oneself to be above it.  It requires intimate familiarity with the inner forces which drive our own behavior and constrain our own thought.

    Terrific discussion.  Very stimulating.  I’m very sorry I was late to the party.

  8. I would add only a couple of comments:

    One, the observation (I’ve heard attributed to more than one person) that granting freedom of speech only to the ideas you agree with is not freedom of speech. I guess this is basic and obvious, but possibly hard to live by. Good for people to remember this every so often.

    The other is our notion of where rights come from. People seem to have the idea that rights are granted — by the law, by the Constitution, by those with power. To me, people are born with rights, and when this is codified into law, it is just a recognition of the fact of inalienable rights. Rights are neither given nor taken away — they are part of the human being. There is also the confusion of the power to do something with the right to do something. Someone with power — a government official, the owner of a medium of communication — may have the power to limit free speech, but to my mind they will never have the right to. I see people conflating these two routinely.

  9. There are distinctive divisions.

    It’s the Zionists, it’s the reptillian aliens, it’s the Freemasons or Satan’s third son walking the earth right now. Who am I with?  I don’t even know that.  It is said that battle is a fluid situation and surely we are all in battle.

    But who after all is the “enemy”. is one place people can go for the most mainstream of topics ignored by mainstream media.  The lists go back for years as does my belief that all throughout human history elite scumbags have always been elite scumbags.  I look upon most average Americans as a misinformed thirteen year olds.

    The very constructs built into our “society” prevent meaningful and constructive change.  They want the US gone.

    • geomoo on June 28, 2008 at 02:04

    Something about an earlier thread made me think of that, so I’m just throwing it in randomly here, having recently been reminded of that song by Edger.  In fact, I’ll do what Edger did.  Why ain’t exactly clear.

  10. Amazing thread, it took 2 cups of coffee and squinting to get through it all.

    That said, as an outsider, I didn’t see it nearly as flamey as those deeply involved with eachother did.

    Of course, coming from mlw originally, those guys know how to flame…. no one here even told anyone “fuck you, you asshole motherfucker” or any thing 🙂


    But I did find myself nodding agreement at most of the comments, in one way or another and it took a while to figure out who was disagreeing with whom, because from way over here at my keyboard, it looked like you were all saying the same things from a slightly different angle when ya pull the personal out of it. Everyone made points I could agree with, everyone had points I wasn’t so sure about.

    (Maybe blogging is inherently bad, like locking 15 best friend 12 year olds in the same room, eventually they will find something to fight about out of boredom or the need to self-affirm by creating a hierarchy of who is “righter” than anyone else.)

    I know its happened to me, and I don’t dig it when I go there. I have created a rule for myself: If I cannot make someone see my POV in three posts… (and I make a real effort to be clear as I can in those three posts) then I never will. Its 3 and done when I disagree with someone.

    But it always comes down to this on blogs.

    People want free speech for themselves, and not so much for others. Many, many use it as an excuse to argue, or a way to settle personal vendettas.

    So when does disagreement become harassment, and argument just vindictive torture in a small way?

    I too, have made the claim, “If you hate me that bad, or think my writing sucks, don’t read me” and been accused of “not being able to take criticism.” But is 27 comments saying “You suck” free speech or bullying behavior?

    Must I, in the name of Free Speech take verbal abuse?

    Tone, tone, tone.

    It always breaks down, and I have no idea what to do about it.

    I really applaud all of you for trying like hell, though.

    This is a smart group of people.

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