Free Speech

Honestly, I have had it up to here with clickbait hot takes and hearing “why can’t you take a joke” from people who’ve never had to “take a joke” in their entire lives. Your life is not going to decrease in quality in any significant way by taking a moment to think about what might be good for other people — whether that moment is spent on a trigger warning or on acknowledging that, really, there’s nothing edgy and cool about throwing a tantrum over how you shouldn’t have to “be PC” because of free speech.

From hearing people talk (both in my day-to-day life and the murkey depths of the internet) it is some unreasonable burden to use language that doesn’t dehumanize other people. Lemme just say: if it is, you are doing a kinda shitty job of being a human being. They teach kindergarteners how to think about how other people feel. You can do it, too.

Which is not to say, even, that you are an inherently bad person. Coming from this with the angle of “white American observing other white Americans,” our national psyche is a lil fucked up sometimes, where I think people are taught this idea that “nothing is fair but also everything is, because if you work hard you can succeed, but the world sucks and you deserve what it gives you.” So this definitely can contribute to a desire to defend the status quo (which manifests as racism, income inequality, and rape culture, to name a few things). This desire can be especially strong if it has benefited you – your own privilege is not going to be apparent to you, due to the very nature of having it.

But you still need to cut it out.

At this point, a lot of people are gonna get crabby about free speech and how asking people to be politically correct is a threat to free speech. (Even though when you get down to it, political correctness is like, don’t call people racial slurs or stereotype them or justify discrimination/violence against them.)

Slow down please. Nobody is coming after free speech. Everybody here wants to keep the right to hold an open discourse, because it’s essential to a healthy democracy, even if our democracy is not very healthy at the moment.

The way free speech works is, you can say what you want, but people are going to say stuff back. People are going to decide whether or not they want to listen to you. What they say back and if they want to listen to you are things that depend on a lot of factors, like whether you’re articulate or funny or make people worry about if the world is gonna be ok. It makes no sense to say that “feminazis are squashing free speech” if they’re using it to talk about what they think is important.

Instead of getting worked up that people are taking away your free speech, pull your pants back up and realize that you might be wrong, that your “satirical” racist joke might not be funny, that it is in fact you who is being too sensitive about not having praise heaped on you for what you don’t realize is a tired and derivative shtick.

If people are signaling to you that they’re really really uncomfortable with what you’re saying, it’s worth considering that you just might be the equivalent of someone talking about their really grody pus/rash/secretions health issue to a stranger they cornered at a party. Like, you could still be right. But you could also be that person.

This kind of argument comes up a lot re: trigger warnings. I’m kind of baffled, honestly, that people think they’re this great threat to free speech – nobody is telling anybody to stop writing about graphic stuff. They’re literally just asking for a heads up about it.

It’s not “coddling” to be kind and respectful to people. I’ve seen the point made that it’s impossible to avoid triggers in day-to-day life, which is totally valid – the world can be unpredictable and cruel, but honestly, even though the world kinda sucks, refusing to take a minute to stop yourself from contributing to that suck-iness is not exactly helpful.

I don’t really agree that the internet and “real life” are all that different – having something graphic thrust into your face with no warning is shitty no matter what. This is why we all hate PETA, why protesting abortion clinics with big ol’ grody signs is a dick move. Please, please, if you’ve got an issue with a content warning on a piece of writing, tell me you’ve got an issue with MPAA ratings on movies. (Or should parents just suck it up and show their kids horror films and softcore porn, god forbid anyone get coddled?)

All in all, can we all chill the fuck out about the great spooky political correctness threat to free speech. Free speech isn’t going anywhere, and arguing that it is derails a whole host of other issues in the process.