Trigger Warning: Hate Speech, Abuse
To make the introduction short, I’m sick and tired of people screaming “Free Speech!” when you call them out for abuse or hate speech. I’m fed up with entitled, privileged people immediately accusing you of “censorship” when you tell them that what they say is hurtful, dehumanizing, and therefore unacceptable. And I’m so fucking done with people giving platforms to these kinds of assholes under the banner of protecting Human Rights.
Free Speech is a very specific kind of right that many people completely misunderstand or intentionally misrepresent, often to push their own oppressive agenda or to escape eating up to the consequences of their actions. And this is despite the fact that Free Speech is actually a very simple right that can completely and sufficiently be defined in a single sentence:
Free Speech is your right not to be interfered with in expression by the government.
Notice the emphasis? That’s because it’s important. The right to Free Speech exists to prevent your government to stop you from criticizing it. It exists to make it possible to have free and unhindered political discourse without fear of governmental repression. That is literally all that Free Speech is. Nothing more, nothing less.
Now let’s focus on what Free Speech isn’t:
Free Speech is not your right to abuse people and get away with it. Free Speech is not your right to harass people and then complain about people telling you to fuck off. Free Speech is not your right to demand a soapbox, and not your right to have an audience that listens to you. Free Speech does not mean there are no consequences to what you say. Free Speech does not make you immune to scrutiny and criticism. Free Speech is not your ticket to be an asshole and not get called out for it. Free Speech does not mean you’re allowed to say anything anywhere to anyone.
Likewise, censorship simply means the restriction of Free Speech. As I have explained above, that means censorship only happens when the government stops you from expressing yourself.
Calling people out on harassment is not censorship, that’s called being a decent human being. Not giving hate speech a platform by kicking out the people who espouse it (or outright denying them entry) is not censorship. Telling white supremacists and Nazis to fuck off is not censorship. Blocking people on social media is not censorship. No, not even when it’s done with shared blocklists. Not wanting to listen to sexist, racist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, or elitist bullshit is not censorship. Demanding that all of the above happens, everywhere, is not censorship, either.
In a decent society, hate speech and abuse do not exist. There’s no need for them to have a platform, anywhere. If you demand that they be given one, you support them, and if you support hate speech and abuse, you’re a shitty excuse for a human being – so do not complain that people will treat you like one.