Serious consequences of messing with the First Amendment

From a Nation article titled “The Messy Business of Free Speech by Tara LaMarche that points to the problem of messing with the First Amendment for what really are humane purpose but which really endangers the critically important principles upon which our concept of free speech for a democratic nation is based.  If anyone is denied freedom of speech than a precedent is established that endangers free speech itself.  That some are harmed by the right of others to say things that are hurtful is a rather terrible thing.  But the proper answer to the problems that come with a principled notion of free speech is to deal with the hurt and the hurtful and not with abandonment of the idea of free speech for all.  If it comes to be understood that some are, even for good reason, not free to speak, then there must be somebody or some body responsible for determining who can and who cannot speak and such a mechanism, whoever creates it, whoever operates it, undermines both the principle of free speech and that most important element of constitutional democracy that it is principle that guides rule, that those who rule are ruled by principle so that the freedom of all is maintained.

The principle of free speech for all is not so easy to abide but creating a real democracy is not at all an easy or always a pleasant task.  Real democracy should, must make all who participate uncomfortable at times and the freedom of speech provision should not be adjusted or abandoned for the sake of comfort.  People of a democracy must get used to discomfort and if they ever begin to legislate for it, they are doomed to tyranny


“The Soul of the First Amendment makes all the standard absolutist arguments that any possible gain from regulation of speech is outweighed by its harms (arguments I happen to agree with, despite my concern about the real wounds that speech can sometimes wield, since I have yet to encounter a regulatory scheme that wouldn’t backfire against political, racial, and religious minorities in a world in which bureaucrats and prosecutors would be making the decisions about what passes), but as it does so it also reveals a considerable deficiency in how free speech is viewed today.”

By lafered

Retired professor of education concerned with thoughtfulness

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