Abusing “Free Speech”

 

Freedom of speech is one of America’s most hallowed traditions, but it is becoming a dangerous one.

Like any freedom, it must have limits.

We are not free to do any number of things – murder, robbery, assault – even trespassing on a neighbor’s lot. Why should speech be different?

Free speech has been reined in to some extent. There are laws against libel and slander, for example. And there are penalties for issuing threats or inciting violence.

But with the advent of “social media,” new issues have arisen. I think it is quite wrong, for example, to allow anonymous comments. If you don’t have the guts to use your name, you should shut up.

But that’s just me. Even here on this blog, anonymous comments are permitted. Why? Because it’s such a common practice, I suppose.

As I look around, I see free speech being abused in gross and irresponsible ways. And it can be not only hurtful and damaging but also dangerous.

,Especially in politics,redress seems almost inaccessible.

Libel against a “public figure” is almost impossible to prove. The courts have let the most scurrilous attacks – oral or written – go unpunished. And the definition of “public figure’ has been broadened to include private citizens who thrust themselves into the limelight.

In my opinion, that is regrettable. I think you should at least make sure  you are telling the truth before smearing someone else, even a public official or activist.

So when I read and hear the garbage spewing out of “social media” and “conspiracy theorists,” I think it’s time for serious re-examination of  “freedom of speech.”

The tide of abuse is already keeping decent people from getting involved in public life. Our democracy is increasingly being entrusted to thick-skinned scalawags who have no reputation worth worrying about.

More on free speech

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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