“Free” Speech

This past week has shown both the best of America, and certainly some of the worst of America. After a company’s owner, declared his support of traditional marriage (a statement in the affirmative), he saw his words twisted and warped into some sort of negative, hate-tinged rant, against homosexuals. Dan Cathy, owner of Chick-Fil-A restaurants, then faced the possibility of boycotts of his restaurants, vandalism, and a staged “kiss-in” demonstration by disgruntled proponents of gay marriage. What Cathy got, however, was massive support by champions of free speech, who giving his statement a moment’s reading, determined correctly, that it was completely innocent, and devoid of any sort of hatred.

Free Speech

Free speech isn’t necessarily free…

Opponents of free speech, many times would see it restricted, to promote and spread their own spun narratives. The danger in this, is that both the restriction and the flagrant misuse of free speech, has heavy consequence. In the age of citizen press on the Internet, credibility can be scarce, and trust in a source can be mistakenly given. Herein lies the little understood and often-ignored fact that “free” speech, is not free at all. There are at least two main ways that free speech can be paid for:

  • Credibility
  • Capital (both monetary and political)

Concerning credibility, the most glaring example at the moment is the mainstream media. As the Internet’s citizen media grew, and on site sources for events began to coordinate and corroborate events that differed from the media’s accounts, it confirmed suspected media biases. The old media’s reports of Tea Party and right-wing violence, black Congressmen being spat on and called epithets, and reporters’ attempts to educate guests on issues like Critical Race Theory, all had the eroding effect on what little credibility the networks may have still had. As if numerous mayors of cities, like Boston and San Francisco, had not eroded what little credibility that they had left, last week said that they were fine with banning certain restaurants from their cities, based solely on the owner’s personal views. Let’s be clear on this point: when Dan Cathy talked about supporting traditional marriage, he was speaking for Dan Cathy, not Chick-Fil-A restaurants. So the mayors’ knee-jerk reactions are to prevent restaurants (and all the associated jobs and benefits) from building in their cities – this, with an economy in terrible shape.

With capital being the method a person pays for their baseless rhetoric, people like Barack Obama and Harry Reid have consistently spent what political capital they have built up. Obama had a huge groundswell, and a maniacally energized party after the 2008 presidential election, and he has spent his entire term thus far, spending that political capital – by forcing healthcare bills that had less than 1/2 of the public’s support, by touting his “success” at turning the economy around, and by beginning to make good on his promise to bankrupt the American coal power industry. Obama also lost a fair amount of face, when he engaged in the speculation of what happened in the case of mistaken identity of Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge Police (They “acted stupidly” as you may recall…)

Harry Reid

He ‘heard it from a nameless guy somewhere…’

Until last week, there was no story or rumors of Harry Reid and children. Until he claimed he had a source that said Mitt Romney had not paid taxes in ten years – then, to illustrate the absurdity of the “I heard it from a guy, whose name I can not say” Reid engaged in, there grew a hash-tag and rumors about his “illicit acts” – the sources for the acts, of course, also being “a guy who people had heard it from”. Mitt Romney, for his part seemed very diplomatic about it (daring Reid to “put up or shut up”). So far, a rumor designed to make Mitt Romney look bad, has actually had an opposite effect, and with his retort, it showed him as passionate and strong, while Reid looks like a gossipy rumor-monger.

In another case of a person’s mouth leading to their ruin, a customer visiting a Chick-Fil-A restaurant in Arizona, filmed the entire event. Adam Smith thought he would visit the restaurant, take one of their free waters, then berate a drive-through window employee. The next step he took was apparently to post the smarmy event on Youtube, and receive praise for acting as he did. However, condemnation for his brusque manner, and targeting a minimum wage worker, was swift. It was learned that in short order, Smith had been fired from his CFO job at Vante and may lose his adjunct position at a college he teaches at.

In Reid’s and Obama’s cases, the speech that they have chosen to use, has directly led to the lowest ratings of Congress and poor presidential approval ratings. The point of these many examples should be obvious by now – there is no such thing as “free” speech. Everything a person says is carefully interpreted and digested by people around us. If there happen to be cameras around to catch the exact words, they can either be a tremendous savior, or a terrible sentence for the speaker.

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