Free speech is first and foremost the freedom to provoke. Sometimes, a raw expression of anger is the spark required to ignite a discussion. You sometimes have to say something that sounds extreme and uncomfortable even to yourself in order to create a conversation about something that isn’t openly discussed, or at least not honestly. However, when all you have to offer is provocation at the expense of substance, then your response to being given such a freedom reflects negatively on you. That’s the beauty of the gift that is the freedom of speech: it sheds the light on the innermost beliefs and convictions, and reveals through candid engagement the most deep-seated workings of a person’s character.
Unfortunately, in a system that feeds off of indulgence, designed to create an unhealthy relationship between individuals and their own pleasure, we become intentionally dishonest and provocative because we obssessively crave stimulation. We are rewarded for our mischief, our provocation and our irresponsibility with a drive that eludes us in moments of sobriety and advertence.
This brings us to another reason why freedom of speech is a fundamental right: the necessity of feedback. When our thoughts bottle up inside our minds, unable to be put into words, we cannot be held responsible for them because there is no one to challenge them. Political correctness, with its obsession with policing a racist’s language, fails to actually present them with a legitimate challenge. How do you stop a racist from being racist if you don’t allow them to put their racism on display? It’s a disservice to you, them, and society at large to censor racist ideas because it forces their authors to become dishonest, to speak in code, use intentionally misleading language, and gaslight you when you point out their methods and shortcomings.
Political correctness is when someone says “I want to preserve my heritage” when they actually meant to say “I want people who come from war-torn countries to die a painful death because they’re stupid and smelly”. The obsession over how someone says something instead of what is actually being said is the epitome of dishonesty. Sometimes, a person’s honest thoughts are disturbing to us, but we are actually better off knowing what they think than keeping them lurking in the dark unchecked. Leaving people like this without a legitimate challenge to their most delusional and disturbing ideas is a recipe for disaster – a disaster that is unfortunately already underway.
In a space where ideas are left unchallenged, in “safe spaces” and “echo chambers”, these ideas evolve into their ugliest, most repulsive and most hateful forms. Just take a look at some forums like incels.me, 4chan, 8chan, and other such sites. They offer everything required to allow someone to talk about their deepest, darkest and most twisted thoughts: anonymity and a lack of real consequences for their actions. In forums like this, you can say the most disgusting and most depraved things imagineable and the only reaction you will receive is approval or worse! It’s a blatant display of one-upmanship in escalating depravation. As such, it’s not surprising for them become fertile breeding grounds for violence either self-inflicted or towards others. Take for example Alik Minnassian, who shot and killed people after talking about an “incel rebellion” on social media. He’s basically saying he’s murdering people because he can’t get laid. It may sound like a ridiculous reason to kill people but because of his confinement to this echo chamber where his ideas are left not only unchallenged, but also endorsed, he was driven to murder. People need an outlet that allows them to be honest about their thoughts but they also need to be held responsible for them.
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