Freedom of speech is a right, but not an absolute right

In light of what’s going on in Brazil & other countries, people need to make a real effort to understand what freedom of speech really is. It’s NOT an ABSOLUTE RIGHT. If you are lying, manipulating, and deceiving others, you must be held accountable.

On the same token, if you’re unfairly taking away someone’s dignity with your lies, or if you are oppressing a group of people, you must be held accountable. E.g., racism and Nazism are not valid “opinions”, they are very real threats to people’s lives and they are based on lies.

The idea that we should be able to say “whatever we want”, propagated by people like Glenn Greenwald & Elon Musk reveals a fundamental gap in their understanding of how freedom of speech should work. This tells me learning philosophy at school is fundamental! Do they simply misunderstand the concept, or do they manipulate it?

Does that mean I should not offend others, I should not say what’s on my mind? It depends! If an adult wishes to offend a child, I think it’s easy to see there are limits to what one can say to a child without harming their very sense of being and being profoundly unfair. But what about other adults?

There are limits to what one can say, but note that I was specifically talking about LIES & DECEIT. If someone wishes to accuse anyone of being corrupt, for instance, they’d better have evidence. It’s not an acceptable strategy to destroy a political opponent if you KNOW it’s a lie.

But in today’s world, people’s “gut feelings” have become facts, and their biases and bigotry are seen as “their truth”. This is not acceptable. Truth is the foundation of a healthy public sphere, of healthy political debate and a cornerstone of democracy.

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash


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