“Free Speech Isn’t Free”

“The American law of free speech, he argues, assumes that the only function of law is to protect people against physical harm; it tolerates unlimited emotional harm. Rosenbaum cites recent studies (regrettably, without links) that show that “emotional harm is equal in intensity to that experienced by the body, and is even more long-lasting and traumatic.” Thus, the victims of hate speech, he argues, suffer as much as or more than victims of hate crime. “Why should speech be exempt from public welfare concerns when its social costs can be even more injurious [than that of physical injury]?”…
the argument isn’t complete without conceding something most speech advocates don’t like to admit: Free speech does do harm.
It does a lot of harm.
And while it may produce social good much of the time, there’s no guarantee — no “invisible hand” of the intellectual market — that ensures that on balance it does more good than harm. As Rauch says, it has produced a good result in the case of the gay-rights movement. But sometimes it doesn’t…
Free speech can’t be reaffirmed by drowning out its critics. It has to be defended as, in the words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, “an experiment, as all life is an experiment.””

I feel better, having read this.
I find most “free speech” arguments so knee-jerk and whiny and uncritical and so frustrating. I just look at them and feel like ‘this is a person who will not listen to me when I tell them that their actions are hurting me; this is a person who does not see my right to feel safe’.

And it’s probably a situation where whatever action it was (microagression training; removal of the confederate flag from the statehouse grounds; banning an online hate group) damaged a behavior that wasn’t harming the “free speech”-argument-person, and so they don’t experience or understand the stakes of the behavior continuing to occur. But, it’s a situation where the “free speech”-argument-person experiences harm that I don’t experience from what they perceive to be censorship.

I think we’re really tryna balance everyone’s sense of safety, and right now the outcome is based on whoever has more social currency at a given moment. There’s a place where everyone gets to feel safe, but getting there requires a lot of honest and vulnerable conversation all around and a value for respect and openness that is held as high as a value for free speech. So…

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